When it comes to the different regions of the United States, figuring out which states belong in which region can be a little confusing. And frankly, there seems to be a lot of debate about what states are considered the Midwest.
So, it’s reasonable to wonder…
Is Montana in the Midwest?
The State of Montana is not included in the Midwest region of the United States. As someone that has lived in the mountain west area of the United States, we consider Montana a part of our region. This makes sense when you consider where Montana is located, along with the fact that much of the state is covered by the Rocky Mountains.
To provide further insight on the question, we will look at a few different ways that the United States is divided into regions, the reasoning behind these groupings, and where Montana fits in each.
Where Does Montana Fall in the United States
There are a number of ways that the United States is divided into regions and divisions. Some are officially designated under Federal Government agencies, some are unofficial groupings of states, based on cultural, agricultural, weather or land feature similarities.
US Census Bureau
This is probably the most reliable way to determine the region that Montana belongs to. The US Census Bureau first used regional partitions in the 1850s. The original regions were based on major river drainage systems.
Today, the US Census Bureau divides the United States into four statistical regions. These statistical regions were established in 1950. This classification system is the most commonly used and referenced.
Montana, is part of the US Census Bureau’s Region 4, or the West Region. Other states that are included in this region are: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.
Standard Federal Regions
In 1974, the Federal Office of Management and Budget developed its own regions that were to be used by all Federal executive agencies.
Under this method, Montana is part of Region VIII, which also includes Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Perhaps this is where some of the confusion about Montana comes from. Half of the states in this method of grouping are in the Midwest region according to the Census Bureau.
So, let’s look at another way that the states are regionalized, because I’m in need of some additional information to clarify this question.
The National Park Service
Let’s try this one next. The National Park Service has divided the US into seven regions. Each region is managed by a central office, and the National Parks in each region have similar ecosystems and management needs.
The National Park Service places Montana in the Intermountain region, along with Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Other Ways that the US is divided into Regions
Ok, so we now know that the federal government loves to divide the country into regions. But government management isn’t the only reason the US is divided.
How about time zones? Montana follows Mountain Standard Time, along with Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and about half of Idaho.
Or, historically speaking, the Western US, is the portion of the United States that was once considered the American Frontier and was heavily explored and settled after the start of the 1800s.
Geography vs. Mindset and Culture
For those of us that live in the West or in the Rocky Mountains, there is often the idea that West and Midwest are geographically separated by the Continental Divide. The Continental Divide also gives rise to a different mindset and way of life that came with early settlers who risked life and limb to cross the Rocky Mountains.
“The West” is a rough place with wide-open spaces, roaming cattle, and small towns. “The West” also brings images of John Wayne movies filled with cowboys on horses riding off into the sunset.
Montana is one of the last places in the United States where you can find “The West” and for many people, this is the most important reason that Montana is West, and not Midwest.
If you would like to learn more about the history of geographic regions in the United States, the US Census Bureau is a great resource. Their history pages are filled with great information.
After looking at many ways that the United States is divided into regions, I can say with certainty that Montana is not part of the Midwest.
However, if you’re looking for a definitive answer to the question, I think you can rely on the long-standing opinion of the US Census Bureau, which tells us that Montana is part of the West.\