Sec. Zinke Formally Recommends Keeping Missouri River Breaks National Monument as Is
Thanks to Montanans holding their ground, the Breaks remains protected
We can take a big sigh of relief.
Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke made his formal recommendation to keep Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument as it is. One of Montana’s most historic and treasured landscapes had been under a review that could have resulted in the monument being shrunk or eliminated altogether.
Thanks to the comments you sent and calls you made to Sec. Zinke and to our congressional delegation, Sec. Zinke got the message: Montanans will not tolerate any meddling with our national monuments.
“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,” Sec. Zinke said in a statement.
Of course, the Breaks should never have been subject to this review in the first place. Montanans determined nearly 20 years ago that this place deserved to be protected, and for good reason.
As Hold Our Ground spokesperson Shane Doyle put it: “For over 10,000 years, people have been coming to the Missouri River Breaks for the same reason: to be inspired, to learn from the land. My tribe and others have fasted, prayed, and hunted there, and there are ample artifacts protected by the monument that evoke that history. If the Breaks loses monument protection, we could also lose touch with that history, with the story of how Montanans – Native American and European American – became who we are today.”
We can celebrate yesterday’s decision, but we must remain vigilant. There are still 25 other national monuments across the country under review, and if the federal government shrinks or eliminates any one of them, it could set a precedent that puts all 157 national monuments in jeopardy, including the three we have in Montana – the Breaks, Pompeys Pillar, and Little Bighorn Battlefield.
Sec. Zinke got the message: Montanans will not tolerate any meddling with our national monuments.
And there is legislation in Congress today, co-sponsored by Senator Steve Daines, that would cripple the Antiquities Act – the legislation that enables presidents to designate national monuments. Over the past 110 years, 16 presidents – eight Democrats and eight Republicans – have used the Antiquities Act to designate 157 national monuments. Even after thousands of Montanans stood up for the Missouri Breask this summer, we expect Sen. Daines to continue his attack on this legislation that President Theodore Roosevelt signed in 1906. For 111 years, the Antiquities Act has been a central pillar of our public lands heritage, and any blow to this legislation would be devastating to our way of life and the many public lands that tell our story as Montanans and allow us to engage in our outdoor way of life.
Just last week, we learned that the outdoor recreation economy in Montana now generates $7.1 billion in consumer spending, supports 71,000 jobs, and accounts for $286 in state and local tax revenue. Outdoor recreation is now the biggest sector of our state’s economy. It’s clear now that our economy depends on outdoor recreation, depends on preserving the public lands that enable outdoor recreation.
But at the end of the day, you can’t put a price tag on places like the Missouri Breaks, Pompeys Pillar, and the Little Bighorn Battlefield. These are places that ground us in who we are. As Montanans, we can’t afford to lose them.
- John Todd, MWA conservation director