In 2011, I moved from the Portland area to Missoula, Montana to earn my first Master’s in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. Almost immediately on arriving in Missoula, I set to work putting together a new grassroots organization to oppose new coal mining and coal exports in Montana. This originally student-led group became Blue Skies Campaign, which evolved into an organization with hundreds of student and non-student members. Blue Skies used traditional grassroots organizing methods as well as tactics like nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience to demonstrate public opposition to Arch Coal’s proposed Otter Creek Coal Mine and other coal industry projects in Montana. Over the course of four years, Blue Skies organized rallies with hundreds of people, held the largest climate-related civil disobedience action in Montana history (a sit-in at the State Capitol building), peacefully blockaded coal trains, and put pressure on public officials.
In 2015, the Otter Creek Coal Mine –which would have been located in Southeast Montana and would have been one of the largest coal strip mines in North America– was officially canceled by Arch Coal.