One of our National Monuments is facing an existential crisis, and we need all Montanans to make their voices heard. On April 26th, 2017 President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order titled, “Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act” this order calls for the “review” of specific national monuments across the country. Secretary of the Interior, former Montana congressman, Ryan Zinke will oversee this review which will conclude on August 25th of this year. The review will specifically look at all national monuments designated after 1996 that encompass more than 100,000 acres, and, although our great state is home to three national monuments, only the the Upper Missouri River Breaks fits both of those criteria.
The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, designated in 2001 by President Bill Clinton, is one of Montana’s most pristine pieces of public land. Located southwest of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the monument covers 149 miles of the Upper Missouri River and is important for both its cultural and ecological significance. Offering world class elk and bighorn sheep hunting, abundant hiking and biking trails, and views that will take your breath away, the Breaks stands in a league of its own. Passing through in 1805, Captain Meriwether Lewis described the majesty,
The hills and river cliffs which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance. The bluffs of the river rise to the hight of from 2 to 300 feet and in most places nearly perpendicular; they are formed of remarkable white sandstone which is sufficiently soft to give way readily to the impression of water . . .
Today, the breaks are at risk. The coordinated attack to sell off our public lands has a major ally in the White House and now we are seeing their efforts come to fruition. We know the goal of this review is to downsize or totally sell of as many monuments as possible and we cannot let that happen here. This is why MontPIRG is holding our ground. Our Summer Canvass launched in June with the goal of flooding Secretary Zinke’s office with petition signatures. Our team will travel throughout the state knocking doors and making the case to keep the national monument designation for the Breaks. By August 25th, MontPIRG will have knocked nearly 20,000 doors and collected 3,500 signatures asking Secretary Zinke to leave this place alone. We know that the people of Montana overwhelmingly support our monuments; we just need to get that message across to Washington.