Montana population to pass 1 millionIf Big Sky Country felt a bit more crowded Tuesday, it could be because state officials are estimating that Montana’s population has surpassed 1 million people for the first time.
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — If Big Sky Country felt a bit more crowded Tuesday, it could be because state officials are estimating that Montana’s population has surpassed 1 million people for the first time.
Montana Census and Economic Information Center officials believe the state passed the million-person mark sometime between November and December, Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s office said Tuesday.
If true, then that leaves just Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming as states having fewer than 1 million people.
Schweitzer said reaching the milestone is a reflection of the state’s high quality of life and good business environment. More people moving to the state means higher salaries and better jobs, though he said he wouldn’t want the state to turn into a California or Colorado.
“I kind of like it that a traffic jam here is when two vehicles pull up to a four-way stop and point to each other to go first,” Schweitzer said.
The estimate is based on growth trends between the 2000 and 2010 Census counts, along with recent population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and two other independent analyses, according to the governor’s office.
The 2010 Census put Montana’s population at 989,415, a 9.7 percent increase from 2000.
Some residents may lament that Montana has crossed the 1 million mark, seeing it as proof that the state has left its frontier days far behind. But there are still a lot of empty spaces, with just six people per square mile, compared to a national average of nearly 80.
The largest city, Billings, is the only one to have more than 100,000 residents.
To mark the milestone, Schweitzer said he will start a scholarship fund for children who were born in the state between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. The “One in a Million” fund will help pay for those children to study math or science at a Montana university of college, he said.