The Northern Great Plains is North America’s largest intact grassland and is an important grassland globally. The region spans 5 U.S. States (Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska) and 2 Canadian Provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan). Its rivers and streams include some of the longest reaches of free-flowing rivers in North America. It consists of mixed-grass prairie and sagebrush steppe and uniquely American wildlife including burrowing owls, sage grouse, swift foxes, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, bison and black-footed ferrets, among others.
In 1976, Congress designated 149 miles of the Missouri River corridor in Central Montana as a component of the National Wild and Scenic River. Following this designation, the river slowly gained in popularity with canoers. Over time the river and its surroundings began to be recognized as a national treasure, containing the best preserved examples of Central Montana Prairie Ecosystems, as well as containing the premier segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, and providing habitat to important wildlife populations - some threatened and endangered.
President Clinton designated the area as a national monument on January 17, 2001.
Following the designation, the BLM embarked on a process to develop a management plan for this special western landscape. The process has taken many years, and finally in January of 2009, a finalized management plan was adopted. However, the BLM’s “multiple use” management plan involved propositions to create 9 new airstrips in the Monument, over 400 miles of new roads, allowing speedboats throughout the entire stretch of the River (including the “wild” segments); proposing oil and gas development; and sanctioning continued livestock grazing throughout the Monument and within the fragile riparian areas. Four years later, on July 31st, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected BLM’s management plans. BLM has been ordered to reevaluate the impact that their plan could have on this valuable wildlife area with such strong cultural and historic qualities.
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