No changes to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
That was the decision announced Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who said the central-Montana landmark is no longer under review for possible modification or removal from protected status.
“The review of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument has concluded and I’m recommending to the president that no changes be made,” Zinke said. “The monument is one of the only free-flowing areas of the Missouri that remains as Lewis and Clark saw it more than 200 years ago.”
President Donald Trump in April directed Zinke to study 27 national monuments created since 1996 to gauge whether their size, boundaries and scope conform to parameters in the Antiquities Act.
Last month, Zinke said he would recommend making no change to both the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho and the Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington.
However, he has recommended that Trump reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. That state’s Republican leadership lobbied hard for the reduction.
While advocates welcomed the news that Zinke would keep the Missouri River Breaks intact, the debate has morphed into a larger issue on public lands.
“We appreciate that Upper Missouri River Breaks is safe for the time being, but that won’t be the case if Secretary Zinke recommends shrinking or revoking any national monument under review,” said Nicolle Fugure, a member of Hold Our Ground and owner of Missouri River Outfitters in Fort Benton.
“Doing that to one or more monuments could set a terrible precedent that puts our entire public lands heritage at risk and threatens businesses like mine that depend on public lands.”