Greg Gianforte Mike Cuffe
Gov. Greg Gianforte, flanked by state Sen. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, speaks at a town hall in Eureka on Thursday, June 9, 2023. Credit: Justin Franz / MTFP

EUREKA — Gov. Greg Gianforte kicked off a tour of all 56 Montana counties in the far northwest corner of the state this week, hosting a town hall meeting in Eureka Thursday night just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. 

During the event, Gianforte touted his recent legislative accomplishments to a welcoming crowd of about 100 people. The event capped off a busy day for the governor that started with a tour of a specialty foods producer in Superior before he continued to Plains, Libby and Eureka, checking off three of the state’s 56 counties. 

While attendees munched on appetizers on the patio of a local bar and grill, Gianforte gave a brief overview of the recently concluded legislative session. He highlighted bills that dole out rebates on income and property taxes, reform the business exemption tax and pay off state debt. 

While those successes were politely received by the crowd, it was Senate Bill 203 and Senate Bill 419 that got the biggest rounds of applause. SB 203 prohibits foreign adversaries — including China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela — from acquiring agricultural land or property near military bases, while SB 419 bans the social media app TikTok from operating in the state because of its ties with China. The latter has drawn multiple court challenges in recent weeks, but Gianforte told the crowd he is confident all of the bills he signed this session will withstand any legal challenges. 

Greg Gianforte Mike Cuffe
Gov. Greg Gianforte, joined by state Sen. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka (seated in foreground) speaks at a town hall in Eureka on Thursday, June 9, 2023. Credit: Justin Franz / MTFP

“We accomplished a lot during this session, and there is a lot to be proud of,” Gianforte said. 

But the bulk of Gianforte’s remarks before a question-and-answer period focused on the timber industry and specifically Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Republican Eureka Sen. Mike Cuffe, which changes how private timberland is taxed. Cuffe said the point of the bill is to maintain timberland for future production. Though Gianforte signed the bill in May, he held a ceremonial signing Thursday in Eureka while sitting next to Cuffe. 

Besides promoting SB 3, Gianforte talked up a recent visit with U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore where he encouraged the federal official to allow more timber to be harvested on USFS land. Gianforte said additional harvests are necessary to deal with what he called a “forest health crisis” in which overgrown forests are burning in intense wildfires. That message was particularly well-received in Lincoln County, where the federal government is the largest landowner and the timber industry has seen a steep decline in recent decades. 

After the ceremonial bill signing, Gianforte opened the floor for questions. Local residents asked about charter schools and legal challenges to recently passed legislation. With the Canadian border just a few miles to the north — it was possible to see the mountains of British Columbia from the venue’s patio — at least one attendee asked about security on the southern border with Mexico. 

Cuffe, who has represented the north end of Lincoln County in the Legislature for more than a decade, said after the event that he was grateful to Gianforte for kicking off his 56-country tour in an often-overlooked corner of the state. 

“This is huge, and you can tell people love him here,” Cuffe said. “Governors have traditionally not spent a lot of time in Lincoln County.”

Gianforte was expected to visit three more counties on Friday, including Flathead, Lake and Missoula. The governor’s staff said they expect to visit every county by the end of the summer. Gianforte said this will be the sixth year in a row that he has visited all of the state’s 56 counties, with three tours as a congressman and now three as governor. 

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Justin Franz is a freelance writer, photographer and editor based in Whitefish. Originally from Maine, he is a graduate of the University of Montana's School of Journalism and worked for the Flathead Beacon for nine years. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Seattle Times and New York Times. Find him at or follow him on Twitter.