We all know that Montana has changed drastically in the last three years. But even though this is a given, I still find myself fascinated by evidence of the changes, or data to support the changes we all see and feel every day.  

That’s why the graphic made by this Montanan made such an impression on me (and many other people, if you’ve already seen it). The Montana Arts Council posted to their Facebook page about Cody McCracken, a Montana, who created a Montana map of counties. That alone is not the interesting part. He depicted the counties as they would be represented by our license plates—as they should be now. 

How Montana License Plates Were Designated 

As he points out in his tweet, Montana created license plates based on the population size of the county. That meant that Butte, being the largest city in Silver Bow County at the time, has a “1” at the front of the number, followed by a combination of letters and numbers. Other major Montana cities have the following designations: Great Falls is “2”, Billings is “3”, Missoula is “4” and Helena is “5.” 

How Montana License Plates Should Be Designated 

The graphic that McCracken created shows what numbers each county should be based on their current population. Let’s just say, there are a lot of changes.  

Our major cities above with their new designations are:  

Butte: 8 

Great Falls: 5 

Billings: 1 

Missoula: 3 

Helena: 6 

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The Dramatic Changes in the Population Size of Montana Counties 

But what is more surprising is his second graphic—where he demonstrates which counties saw the most change, whether they were adding residents, or losing them.  

Some of the counties with the most change show rankings moving from 49 to 11 (Park) or 9 to 48 (Powder River).  

This graphic could be used in a lot of ways, but maybe the most useful is if you’re looking to live an even more “Montana” lifestyle, meaning, one with smaller towns and fewer people, this graphic will certainly give you an idea of where to go.  

h/t Montana Arts Council on Facebook 

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LOOK: See how much gasoline cost the year you started driving

To find out more about how has the price of gas changed throughout the years, Stacker ran the numbers on the cost of a gallon of gasoline for each of the last 84 years. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (released in April 2020), we analyzed the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline from 1976 to 2020 along with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for unleaded regular gasoline from 1937 to 1976, including the absolute and inflation-adjusted prices for each year.

Read on to explore the cost of gas over time and rediscover just how much a gallon was when you first started driving.