HELENA — The federal response to flying objects isn’t a typical subject for the Montana Legislature. But after a suspected spy balloon was spotted over Billings earlier this month and the U.S. government announced they shot down three more objects in recent days – including one believed to have been reported over Havre on Saturday – state lawmakers say they have been getting questions from their constituents.
Rep. Paul Tuss, D-Havre, was back in the area Saturday for an event with the Hi-Line Arts Council, when news broke that federal authorities had issued flight restrictions around Havre because of “Department of Defense activities.”
“I was at that event when our phones started to pop with regard to the news that the airspace over Havre in northern Montana had been closed,” he said. “So there were a lot of curious folks about what was happening.”
Airspace reopened within an hour. NORAD reported they had sent fighter aircraft to investigate a “radar anomaly” in the area, but they hadn’t been able to find an object. Later, on Sunday, the federal government reported shooting down an object over Lake Huron in Michigan, and that that object was likely the one that was reported in Montana the previous day.
Tuss said that area of the state sees a lot of federal activity because of its location near the Canadian border. He said most of the residents he’s talked to aren’t afraid, but they do want more information about what happened.
“People don't consider themselves or their families unsafe, but particularly given the news in the last week about all the various balloons and other flying objects that seem to be over the United States, there's just a curiosity about what's happening,” said Tuss.
Sen. Ken Bogner, R-Miles City, the Senate president pro tem, said Monday that he’s reached out to Montana congressional staff to try to get more information on the latest incidents. Bogner has sponsored Senate Bill 203, which would crack down on “foreign adversaries” purchasing land in Montana. He’s pointed to incidents like the suspected spy balloon as a symbol of why the bill is needed.
Tuss said he believed the federal government handled the Havre incident the right way, but people in northern Montana will be looking for more specific answers going forward.
“It would be nice for the federal government – once they know what these objects are that are coming from all over the world, it seems like – letting folks know about, are they weather balloons or is there something more serious to them?” he said.