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Montana is the 4th largest in area, the 7th least populous, and the 3rd sparsely populated of the 50 U.S. states. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller island ranges are found throughout the state. In total, 77 named ranges are part of the Rocky Mountains. The eastern half of Montana is characterized by western prairie terrain and badlands.
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Montana is a state in the northwestern region of the United States. The state’s name is derived from the Spanish word montaña (mountain). Montana has several nicknames, although none official, including “Big Sky Country” and “The Treasure State”, and slogans that include “Land of the Shining Mountains” and more recently “The Last Best Place”.
The economy is primarily based on agriculture, including ranching and cereal grain farming. Other significant economic activities include oil, gas, coal and hard rock mining, lumber, and the fastest-growing sector, tourism. The health care, service, and government sectors also are significant to the state’s economy. Millions of tourists annually visit Glacier National Park, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Yellowstone National Park.
The name Montana comes from the Spanish word Montaña and the Latin word Montana, meaning “mountain”, or more broadly, “mountainous country”. Montaña del Norte was the name given by early Spanish explorers to the entire mountainous region of the west. The name Montana was added to a bill by the United States House Committee on Territories, which was chaired at the time by Rep. James Ashley of Ohio, for the territory that would become Idaho Territory. The name was changed by Representatives Henry Wilson (Massachusetts) and Benjamin F. Harding (Oregon), who complained Montana had “no meaning”. When Ashley presented a bill to establish a temporary government in 1864 for a new territory to be carved out of Idaho, he again chose Montana Territory. This time Rep. Samuel Cox, also of Ohio, objected to the name. Cox complained that the name was a misnomer given most of the territory was not mountainous and that a Native American name would be more appropriate than a Spanish one. Other names such as Shoshone were suggested, but it was decided that the Committee on Territories could name it whatever they wanted, so the original name of Montana was adopted.
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Montana is home to 152,940 miles of roadway, with 70,000 of those miles being highways. The state has five mainline interstate highways, composing 1,198.8 miles of interstate highway system. The longest interstate in the state is Interstate 90 at over 550 miles long, stretching across the state from Mullan, ID to Ranchester, WY. The shortest interstate in the state of Montana is Interstate 315. I-315 is also labeled the second shortest interstate in the country, stretching only 0.83 miles as the interchange with I-15 to Fox Farm Road. The other three mainline highways are I-15 (Idaho state line to Alberta, Canada), I-94 (Billings, MT to Canada-US border in Port Huron, Michigan), and I-115 (connects I-15/I-90 in Butte). Montana also has 48 primary state highways and 11 U.S. highways. The state is home to a lot of wildlife, and U.S. Highway 93 has become known as the most common spot for animal collisions. Other important roadways in Montana include the thirteen road crossings in the northern section of the state that are used to enter Canada.