EUREKA — Montana Governor Greg Gianforte is determined to see the U.S. reopen its border with Canada after hearing of economic hardships and emotional separation.
MTN News was with the governor on Thursday in Lincoln County, a community fractured by COVID precautions.
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It's been a long 18-months since COVID-19 closed the border to normal traffic. And while Canada is once again allowing Americans to cross, with extensive requirements, only "essential travel" is coming south.
Eureka area residents told Gov. Gianforte they're missing the "essential" cross-border culture so central to life in the Tobacco Valley.
"A lot of them become my friends. They're good people. They're not Canadians,” said Abayance Marina manager Larry Stewart. “They're people who have become part of our community."
"I'm not really sure what the reason is. I don't know that we're stopping some great influx of COVID. I think the Southern Border's open right?” I don't think that we have the mass infection along the border down there. So, what's the rationale for having this border shut?" - Realtor Mike Lancaster
While Eureka is busy, business owners say it's not what they would normally expect in August, with some seeing a 40% or more drop in revenue. Especially with events like the Libby car show being much smaller this month.
"And with the 150 cars comes the 300-to-400 people filling up the restaurants. And they hit Eureka on their way down, Eureka on their way back up. So, it's a huge impact,” Lincoln County Sheriff Darren Short.
Families told Gov. Gianforte how they haven't seen Canadian relatives in all this time, missing life events, and love.
"It's probably the hardest thing besides losing my father. For everyone,” said Bradny Carvey.
"To have a line drawn down through the middle of your family,” Gov. Gianforte said.
“Yeah,” Carvey responded.
"Well, we heard tragic stories today of husbands and wives split across the border. Grandchildren who haven't seen their grandpa in over 18 months,” Gov. Gianforte said.
“And I have a really clear message. Joe Biden, open this gate. We need to get families back together, communities back together, and we want to see our Canadian friends,” he continued.
While the Canadian opening on Aug. 9 has helped somewhat business owners told MTN News they're still struggling, especially because this relief is coming so late in the year.
"Not only is this tragic for the families that are split across the border, but economically it's devastating. And Canadians that have homes down here are now starting to put them on the market and sell them because they can't get down to enjoy Montana." - Gov. Greg Gianforte
The governor promised to help provide better access to the COVID-19 rapid tests that can help Montanans met a requirement for border crossing.
"I'll continue to keep pressure on the U-S side to make that happen. And your stories are going to help me do that,” Gov. Gianforte told residents.
"There's no reason why this border crossing is closed. It's time to open it up. It can be done safely, and it needs to be done now,” he concluded.