A leaked plan by the federal government to remove protections on some national monuments is being criticized by Montana sportsmen as a top down distraction that takes power away from local community planning and sets dangerous new precedent for other protected monuments in the west.
The report, uncovered by the Washington Post on Sunday, shows the U.S. Department of Interior has recommended redrawing boundaries and altering the management of at least ten national monuments across the country.
In response to the report, the president of Montana Wildlife Federation, Bill Geer, called the entire process a distraction from local community planning.
“Instead of trying to redraw national monuments from the top down, we should be working with local communities to develop smart management plans. We know that approach works, because it is what we’ve done here in Montana at the Missouri Breaks. This entire review process and now these recommendations have just been a needless distraction from the real work of working together to protect public access, wildlife habitat, and multiple use public land management.”
While the report doesn’t propose eliminating any national monuments in Montana, Dave Chadwick, Executive Director of MWF, said it sets a ‘dangerous precedent’ that calls into question the future of other protected areas across the West.
“While we are glad to see the Interior Department recognize the importance of hunting and fishing on national monuments, this plan includes many recommendations that are at best unnecessary. Top-down edicts to shut down some national monuments set a dangerous precedent that will forever leave our Breaks and other national monuments vulnerable to the political winds in Washington. This plan ultimately imperils the public access to public land that is so important to hunters and anglers,” Chadwick said.
The Montana Wildlife Federation is specifically concerned these recommendations create an atmosphere where future administrations could continue to attempt to shrink public lands or manage them from the top down. If the Department of Interior can roll back monument protections in Bears Ears National Monument, nothing prevents future administration from undertaking the same to other places, including the Missouri River Breaks.
Prior to today’s recommendations the Department of the Interior received 2.8 million public comments. Independent analysis has found more than 99 percent of the electronic comments received express support for protecting monuments and maintaining them at their current sizes.
In August, the Montana Wildlife Federation joined eight other other western state wildlife federations and the National Wildlife Federation in calling on Secretary Zinke to uphold the protection of wildlife and habitat by recommending no changes to any national monuments.
The Montana Wildlife Federation also produced a response to a new a new hunting and fishing plan proposed last week by the Department of Interior.