Enviros Go Nuts For Monument Review As Zinke Visits Montana

REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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Environmentalists are launching a media campaign targeting Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the Western Governors Association (WGA) as the WGA’s annual conference in Whitefish, Mont., begins Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Environmental groups are running ads on billboards and local television stations and holding rallies, urging Zinke to leave Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument untouched by President Donald Trump’s order to review the designations of 27 national monuments, according to the Associated Press.

Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock supported the campaign, writing a letter pressuring Zinke to leave the monument in place, according to a press release.

Former President Bill Clinton created the 586-square-mile monument in 2001 using the American Antiquities Act of 1906, according to NPR.

Ranchers and other landowners in favor of reducing the 590-square-mile monument wanted to organize a counter protest to the media campaign. They couldn’t find time off work to compete with funding and organization of the environmental groups, however.

“We’re haying, we’re still spraying weeds, we’re still doing farm work,” Montana Rancher Ron Poertner told the Associated Press. “To say, ‘Let’s take a bus and do some counter-protesting,’ there’s no way.”

One Montana rancher has been against the designation’s scope since the beginning, NPR reports.

“We cuss the county commissioners, we cuss the state legislature, we cuss the governor, and we reserve our, most of our cussing for the federal government,” rancher Matt Knox told NPR. “The original intent [of the American Antiquities Act] was not to set aside huge swaths of land.”

The campaign in Montana wont be the first time Zinke has faced pressure during his monument review tour. A group of 500 protesters picketed Zinke when he traveled to Utah in May to review the Bears Ears National Monument.

After meeting with local and Native American tribal leaders, however, Zinke recommended scaling back the monument.

“I spent a lot of time on the ground in Utah, talking with people and understanding the natural and cultural significance of the area. There is no doubt that it is drop-dead gorgeous country and that it merits some degree of protection, but designating a monument that — including state land — encompasses almost 1.5 million-acres where multiple-use management is hindered or prohibited is not the best use of the land and is not in accordance with the intention of the Antiquities Act,” Zinke said in a press release.

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