President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Highway Beautification Act into public law on October 22, 1965. The first section of the law sets forth program objectives. "The erection and maintenance of outdoor advertising signs, displays, and devices in areas adjacent to the Interstate and Primary highway system should be controlled in order to protect the public investment on such highways, and to promote the safety and recreation value of public travel, and to preserve natural beauty."

To comply with the Federal Highway Beatification Act (Title 23, United States Code), the Montana Legislature passed the Outdoor Advertising Act, effective June 21, 1971. The statutes are supplemented by administrative rules promulgated by the Highway (now Transportation) Commission. The administrative rules are contained in Sections 18.6.201 through 18.6.270, Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM).

The Department of Transportation has the responsibility for the regulation and control of outdoor advertising along the National Highway System (NHS) or the Primary Highway System, as those systems are defined in Section 60-2-125, MCA. The Department assigned the Right-of-Way Bureau the overall administration of the program with regard to developing and administering policies and procedures. Within the Right-of-Way Bureau, it is the responsibility of the Outdoor Advertising Coordinator to perform these functions. Activities including recommendation of permit issuance, surveillance and initiating the removal of unlawful signs.

The outdoor advertising program involves the regulation and control of the location, size, spacing, lighting and maintenance of signs and devices along the state's NHS system and remaining primary system not included in the NHS. The program involves:

  • The review, approval or rejection of sign permit applications.
  • Removal of lawfully erected signs which do not conform with established standards for location, spacing, size, lighting or other criteria, subject to availability of federal funds for such purposes.
  • The inventory of all affected routes to determine sign owners' compliance with regulations of the program.
  • The removal of any signs unlawfully erected or maintained.