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The U.S. Postal Service needs to work toward balancing its books while fulfilling its mission of delivering mail to homes, businesses, hospitals and schools throughout the United States, including in our rural areas. Recently, under the banner of fiscal responsibility, the USPS has targeted more than 650 post offices for closure, including 85 in Montana — all in small, rural communities.

No one suggests the Postal Service shouldn’t tighten its belt. In fact, it should consider eliminating post offices where it makes sense, in places where alternate delivery options are readily available and affordable or where other post offices exist within a short distance.

Unfortunately, the closure list the USPS made public has all the signs of being developed within the urban-centric confines of Washington, D.C., with little input from rural America. Fully 12 communities in a five-county region of northern Montana have been targeted as places where a postal presence is no longer needed, according to the Postal Service. From Loma to Zortman and from Highwood to Hingham, residents of these communities, and the surrounding area, would no longer have access in their community to the services of a post office.

Closing these facilities would mean not just the loss of a postal presence in the impacted community, but in most cases a drive of dozens of miles to a post office. Given the rural nature of these areas, including their elderly population, difficult road conditions, lack of public transportation, harsh weather conditions and no affordable alternate delivery options, rural Montana is the big loser under this plan.

Additionally, this plan would mean 85 abandoned buildings in areas that can hardly afford that type of blight. These communities are made up of people who care deeply about where they live. They are men and women who work hard every day to invest in their region, volunteer in their community and who simply want their rural lifestyle to be available for their children and grandchildren. No one’s looking for a handout, just a fair shake and a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. Rural Montanans, like their urban counterparts, deserve the assurance that bills can continue to get paid on time, prescription drugs make it to where they’re supposed to go and a birthday card mailed to a loved one across town or across the nation won’t be a thing of the past.

It’s time to stand up for rural Montana and our small towns and urge Congress to reject the plan by the U.S. Postal Service that will hurt our residents and leave our communities behind.

Lesley Robinson is a Republican county commissioner from Phillips County and Vic Miller is a Democratic county commissioner from Blaine County.

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