GREAT FALLS TRIBUNE 6-24-17 Will Trump Undo Monument?

Jun 24, 2017

by Karl Puckett , kpuckett@greatfallstribune.com

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LEWISTOWN -- Dave Mari ticks off national monuments that presidents have created using the Antiquities Act: Devils Tower, Grand Canyon, Mount Olympus in Olympia National Park, Big Hole National Monument (now a National Battlefield).

He’s in a small airplane flown by EcoFlight pilot Bruce Gordon and heading north from this central Montana community toward Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks, another national monument created by President Bill Clinton in 2001.

“If it weren’t for the Antiquities Act, I don’t know if we would have these on our list of national jewels,” Mari says.

In April, President Donald Trump said the Antiquities Act had been abused in recent decades to set aside vast acreages of federal land without enough input from states and local residents. He ordered a review of monuments of more than 100,000 acres created since 1996.

That review includes the 378,000-acre Upper Missouri River Breaks monument Clinton created 16 years ago.

“What we’re doing now is like deja vu,” Mari said.

Mari was the head of the Lewistown field office of the Bureau of Land Management at the time.

 

Dave Mari flies over the Upper Missouri River Breaks

Dave Mari flies over the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. He was head of the Bureau of Land Management's Lewistown field office at the time the monument was created. He's opposed to any changes in the monument size. "The idea was to preserve working landscapes," he says. (Photo: Karl Puckett)

 

Today, he’s opposed to changes in the boundary.

Time may have passed, but Montanans still have mixed feelings about the monument.

Tourism may be up generally, but Frank Carr doesn’t attribute the increase to the creation of the monument.

He owns the Winifred Café and Tavern, where a "It's a Friendly Place" sign greets customers.

“If they take it away, it ain’t going to change anything either,” Carr adds.

From Winifred, the monument can be reached on a gravel road that leads to the McClelland Stafford Ferry, where vehicles are ferried across the river. Drivers call the operator from a phone in a box on the river bank.

 

Frank Carr, owner of the Winifred tavern and cafe,

Frank Carr, owner of the Winifred tavern and cafe, checks the special sign Friday. Making the Upper Missouri Breaks area a monument didn't make it any more special, in his view. (Photo: Karl Puckett)

 

 

A photo on the wall of Carr's tavern shows men surrounding a bighorn sheep shot in the Breaks.

“I don’t like it,” says waitress Brenda Hann of the monument.

The Big Sandy resident has a home that falls within the boundary, she says. She’s glad Trump called for the monument review.

A lot of farmers and ranchers fought it the first time around, she said.

Cattle grazing is allowed within the boundaries of

Cattle grazing is allowed within the boundaries of the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. (Photo: Karl Puckett)

 

On Friday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock weighed in.

In a letter to Zinke, he strongly recommended that there be no change in the size or designation of the monument.

“Overall the effects of the 2001 designation are positive,” Bullock said. “Ranching remains much as it did before the designation. Existing and valid oil and gas leases remain. And public recreational use has greatly increased.”

Bullock called the monument an iconic landscape with significant historical and cultural importance to Native American tribes, the state and even the country. Lewis and Clark traveled through the Breaks and marveled at the geology and wildlife they encountered.

 

A sign marks the beginning of the monument north of

A sign marks the beginning of the monument north of Winifred. (Photo: Karl Puckett)

 

Today, the area continues to offer a world-class, once-in-a-lifetime public lands hunting opportunity for mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep, Bullock added, attracting more than 130,000 visitors a year, providing an annual influx of about $10 million to the local economy.

The BLM has issued 23 commercial permits to outfitters that provide river trips through the Breaks, the governor said. And gateway communities such as Fort Benton and Lewistown, he added, see direct benefits from the increased use.

“Designations should be made in accordance with the requirements and original objectives of the act and appropriately balance the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities,” Trump’s order to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reads.

In his statement on the review at the time, Zinke noted that the president had the singular authority under the Antiquities Act to create monuments. There's no requirement for public input before the designation of a monument, he said.

“The Antiquities Act is the exception,” Zinke said. “Again, we don’t have to go through legislative process; the president determines it, and it does not have to go through NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act)."

The administration, he said, had heard complaints from members of Congress and states, he said. In some cases, the designation of the monuments may have resulted in job loss and reduced wages and less public access, Zinke said. That prompted the review, which will give states and local communities a meaningful voice in the process, he said. The public comment deadline is July 10.

“I just can’t imagine gutting the Antiquities Act that was used to establish these areas,” says Mari, the former head of the BLM field office in Lewistown, which manages the Breaks area.

The claim that the Breaks monument was created without public input has always bothered him, Mari said.

“That ignores all the public participation,” he said.

The process leading up to creation of the monument began about two years before the actual designation and included hearings and visits from then Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, he said.

It all started when Babbitt asked state BLM offices in the West whether to recommend what warranted a special designation. Up until that time, Mari said, other land management agencies looked upon the BLM as an ugly stepsister. But Babbitt noted that the BLM managed some really nice lands.

 

The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument near

The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument near the Stafford-McClelland ferry crossing. (Photo: Karl Puckett)

 

 

 

“Babbitt, I think, was trying to give the agency a different objective,” Mari said.

Mari calls various claims that have been used in opposition to the monument over the years —- that grazing could be affected, there was insufficient public participation and private property in the monument will be condemned — “straw men.”

Grazing is allowed within the monument.

After the Bush administration took office in 2001, another review of the monument was ordered by then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Judy Martz, Montana governor at the time, formed a committee to offer input.

The committee recommended that the boundaries of the monument be reduced to coincide with the 125,000-acre Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River, which Congress created in 1976.

Norton never acted on that recommendation.

Today, some opponents are calling for the monument to be reduced to the wild and scenic boundary.

Mari says the western portion of the monument basically already is “bank-to-bank” and follows the wild and scenic designation.

Further east, upland areas management by the BLM were included in the monument,  and those lands include important habitat for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, turkey and grassland birds, he said. Just having the monument from canyon rim to canyon rim is “pretty artificial” because the entire drainage is integral, Mari said.

In addition, he adds, the monument includes several wilderness study areas. Those areas are waiting action from Congress. If Congress chooses not to designate them as wilderness, at least they will be protected by the monument designation, he said.

“That was part of the logic of including the WSAs as well,” Mari said.

On Friday, Mari, who now is a member of Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument, a not-for-profit that advocates on its behalf, flew over the area with Mary Frieze of Lewistown, a member of the BLM Central Resource Advisory Council, and two members of the media.

“This is the best stretch of the Missouri River if you want to see what it was like when Lewis and Clark came through,” Mari said.

Little has changed except for the cattle now grazing in the area and the absence of bison, wolves and grizzly bears.

“This is so cool,” Frieze said as the plane flew over the ribbon of river snaking through the sharply rising and falling “breaks” lands.

 

The Trump administration's Interior Department is reviewing

The Trump administration's Interior Department is reviewing national monuments including the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument north of Lewistown. (Photo: Karl Puckett)

 

In May, the Interior Department suspended the resource advisory councils that advise the BLM. It's made up of citizens who apply for the positions to represent different public land interests such as recreation, energy, ranching and outfitting.

Frieze called suspension of the committees “ironic at best,” and “devious at worst" —ironic considering gathering more public input on the monuments was one of the reasons given for the review, and the committees are a means of getting input.

Frieze still thinks members of the Central Montana council should be allowed to offer input on the monument review.

“It’s such an emotional issue,” she says. “It’s beyond reason.”

On the ground, the view is different.

 

Sarah Kinkelarr was checking fence in the Dog Creek

Sarah Kinkelarr was checking fence in the Dog Creek area 25 miles north of Winifred Friday. Some of the land she ranches with her husband falls within the monument. She welcomes the Trump administration's review of the monument. (Photo: Karl Puckett)

 

 

 

Sarah Kinkelarr is checking fence on the edge of the monument north of Winifred.

There’s no paved road for 25 miles.

“We make it a priority to take care of the land because it’s our livelihood,” she says.

She and her husband raise cattle here and about a third of the land is leased from the BLM with most of that falling within the monument.

Kinkelarr is hopeful Trump’s review of the monument will lead to changes. The monument, she says, “makes a lot of hoops for us to jump through.” As an example, she cites a reservoir they would like to build.

“But it’s going to be three years of government red tape, and we might not be able to do it because it’s in the monument,” she says.

Because of the area’s monument status, she’s also concerned that bison might be placed in the area. She’s not opposed to bison per se, she said, but notes that the soils along the river are fragile.

“I’m really concerned they won’t be managed,” she said.

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