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HELENA - The Montana Environmental Information Center, one of the state's most effective environmental groups, has launched an internal study of its operations and is considering changing its name, among other things.

Jim Jensen, executive director of the Helena-based group known as MEIC, said the organization has no plans to change the issues it gets involved in.

But MEIC is turning 35 years old this year, he said, and leaders thought it was time to re-evaluate how the group communicates with the public, how it prioritizes its efforts and money and whether it is as effective as it could be.

The group has hired a Seattle consultant to study MEIC and make recommendations. Part of that will include looking again at the group's name, which, Jensen said, people sometimes confuse with a government agency.

MEIC is perhaps best known for its efforts on hard-rock mining, where the Jensen and the group were instrumental in pushing and defending existing Montana's ban on cyanide heap leach mining. The group is also involved in air pollution, water quality, energy and global-warming debates.

Jensen said the group has tried to strike a balance between the traditional advocacy group activities of "litigating, lobbying and agitating," but said that the ongoing review may show that they should spend more money litigating, as an example, or working on grass-roots organizing.

He also said the review will help MEIC better use technology to communicate with the public, particularly younger people.

Many environmental and advocacy groups are going through similar self-studies. Most of those groups were started in the 1960s and '70s, Jensen said, and their members are predominantly over 40 years old and aging. That, combined with an expected slowdown in philanthropic giving, has pushed some groups to find new ways of reaching more people.

The group's 13-member board will make the final decision on what, if any, changes will be made.

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