A new grassroots conservation group is growing in Helena.

The Sleeping Giant Citizens Council recently voted to form as an affiliate of the Northern Plains Resource Council, which organizes Montana citizens to protect water quality, family farms and ranches, and the quality of life that distinguish the Treasure State.

Roxa French Reller, the council chairman, said when she moved to Helena two years ago she brought an agriculture background with her, as well as the desire to get involved in a citizens group that would look into some issues affecting people here.

"Northern Plains has quite a few members here and strong support in Lewis and Clark and Jefferson counties, so it seemed like a good idea to create a chapter here," Reller said on Monday, adding that about 100 people are members of the Sleeping Giant council.

The Sleeping Giant affiliate plans to focus initial efforts on supporting the energy-efficiency in schools campaign; growth issues in Lewis and Clark and Jefferson counties; water quality; clean, renewable energy; and agricultural issues.

Reller said the council hasn't had much of an opportunity to formulate ideas as to how they'll pursue these types of issues. They only formalized their organization on Oct. 9.

But she adds that proposed 2009 legislation would create a fund to pay for energy-efficient retrofitting of Montana's public schools.

"We might help find funding for the schools, or we might look at transportation needs of schools," Reller said. "We need to have a strategy and apply logic in how we approach these complicated problems.

"Right now, our many points of view are scattered all over; we really haven't had the opportunity to sit down and develop consensus on some of the other issues."

The group will be aided by Matt Leow, a Northern Plains field organizer who is based in Missoula but will aid the Sleeping Giant Citizens Council.

"My job is just to assist the members in carrying out the work they want to do," Leow said.

The organization has an office at 432 No. Last Chance Gulch in Helena.

Sleeping Giant is one of 11 affiliates of Northern Plains, which was founded in 1972 by ranchers in southeastern Montana.

Reller said she also hopes to be active during the upcoming legislative sessions, but she's not sure what her role will be just yet.

For more information, contact Reller at 431-5650; Leow at 406/396-1766 or at matt@northernplains.org For more information about Northern Plains Resource Council, visit their Web site at www.northernplains.org.

Eve Byron: 447-4076


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