Last week, President Trump signed a troubling executive order that would impact Montana’s public lands and big game habitat. He has tasked former Montana Congressman-now-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke with reviewing every large national monument designation made since 1996. Secretary Zinke is to accomplish this duty in 120 days.
In Montana, the monument most likely to be targeted for political reasons is the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, which was added to the Department of Interior’s National Monument system in 2001. This ecosystem is primarily managed as public lands – for all to enjoy. If you hunt and fish, you have likely heard of its critical role as habitat for Montana’s pallid sturgeon and its robust elk and trophy bighorn populations which draw sportsmen from around the country.
As a Montana entrepreneur, I say without hesitation that the integrity of our public lands like the Breaks is an important economic asset and a significant factor in why I am here doing business in Montana. Our public lands allow me to attract and retain talent and grow my business effectively. The Upper Missouri River Breaks represent a piece of Montana’s public lands as a national monument, and should be left to hold that designation.
We hope Secretary Zinke will not abandon his roots or his backyard. Nearly one third of Montana’s acreage is public land. President Trump’s schedule for reviewing national monuments does not seem sufficient to allow for adequate public input from the people who are most impacted by any land-use designation changes.
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We hope Zinke remembers that Montanans are overwhelmingly opposed to efforts that will roll back protections for our public lands – our national monuments included.