Spreading a Loved One’s Ashes in Montana? Here Are the Rules
Everything seems to be getting more expensive, including death. Life's final expense can vary state-to-state, but according to Bankrate.com the average cost for a funeral and burial service in the United States is around $7,640. If you want to include a vault in a cemetery, prices can climb up to $9,000. You can have a loved one's remains cremated for under $500.
Cremation is becoming a popular option.
According to the Cremation Association of North America, scholars believe that humans have been using cremation since around 3000 B.C. The first crematory in the US was opened in 1876 in Pennsylvania. As of 2019, there were over 3,000 crematories in the US and over 1.5 million bodies are cremated annually. Nationally, about half of the people who die are cremated. In Montana, it's closer to 75%.
So, where can you spread a loved one's ashes in Montana?
Short answer: just about anywhere you want. I mean... if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to see it, right? But you're no scofflaw and would surely never do anything illegal. There are minimal regulations regarding the spreading of ashes in Big Sky Country. The MSU Extension Office provides an excellent resource regarding the details of cremation HERE. Some of the FAQs about where you are allowed to spread ashes include:
- Private Land. Scattering cremated remains on land a person owned prior to death is legal in Montana.
- City Land. Spreading ashes in city parks, lands, and lakes is generally legal in most Montana towns. The same applies to County owned property. However, I spoke with a representative from Dahl Funeral in Billings, who said they typically tell their clients to avoid spreading ashes in city parks.
- School Trust Land. You must contact the Montana DNRC and pay a $25 application fee with the State, plus an additional fee to whatever district office manages the school trust land you wish to spread ashes on. Call Helena at 406- 444-2074.
- State Rivers or Lakes. No permit is required.
- State Lands and Parks. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission does not allow the spreading of remains or burials on state land unless authorized by the Commission. Petitions can be made to request permission, which may be given if there are specific family ties to the property.
- BLM Lands. No permission is required.
- National Forests. No regulations.
- National Parks. Each national park in Montana will have its own regulations regarding the spreading of ashes. You should contact the superintendent of the park beforehand.
- From an airplane. As long as there is no hazard to persons or property you can drop ashes from the sky in Montana.
- Tribal Trust Lands. Non-tribal members should seek authority from the appropriate tribal council before attempting to scatter the ashes of human remains on tribal lands.
Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park
There are some special requirements for those wishing to spread ashes in two of our nation's most famous parks. In Yellowstone, you must call the Visitor Services Office at (307) 344-2107 and give the exact area where ashes will be scattered, as well as the date and time the activity will take place. Glacier is similar. They provide a form letter requesting that the Special Use Permit Office (406-888-7800) be notified of the exact area where the cremated human remains were dispersed and the day and time the scattering took place.
Both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks require that ashes be spread in undeveloped areas only. Away from locations such as roads, trails, buildings, parking lots, boat ramps, swimming beaches, campgrounds, lakes, and so on.