Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Northeast Montana looking forward to business boost from Canadian border reopening

The Biden administration says fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S. at border crossings with Canada regardless of the reason for travel for the first time since March 2020.

Sheridan County, nestled in Montana’s northeast corner, depends on Canadians, says Sheridan County News Editor Joe Nistler. The county’s seat, Plentywood, is just two hours away from Regina, Saskatchewan — and it felt the effects of the border closure.

"We get a lot of traffic on a normal year from Regina. They’re passing through on their way to Billings or Arizona or where ever," Nistler says. "That loss is just incredible."

At a roundtable last year in Plentywood with Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale, residents estimated the border closure cost the community about $10,000 per day in things like groceries, tires, furniture — even dental services.

Nistler says Plentywood does have promotions geared to lure Canadians back, like the "Toonie Loonie" at the local motel: stay for two nights on a weekend, get the second night for one Canadian loonie. More people in the motel means more business for nearby restaurants and bars.

Nistler says his community has a good working relationship with its northern neighbors.

"There are more people here who know about the Saskatchewan Roughriders than the Denver Broncos. We have a lot of people who have a choice between going to the Bobcats or the Saskatchewan Roughriders or the North Dakota State Bison," Nistler says.

He says the decision to go to the game in Canada or stay in the U.S. is sometimes decided by a coin toss.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.