A packed house on the Hi Line as “an estimated 1,500 people packed the gymnasium’s bleachers, many donning green ribbons on their arms as a sign of solidarity in opposition to a new national monument designation in Montana,” The Great Falls Tribune reports.
Montana residents, concerned over leaked documents detailing efforts to establish a new national monument designation, loaded onto busses and travelled hundreds of miles to state their opposition to the monument in a meeting with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey. The AP reports that Abbey stated:
“Folks, there is no plan for a national monument in Montana. I want you to know that,” Abbey said. “I want to get the message right out front. There is no proposal for a national monument in Montana.”
Of course, Montanans have heard that line before, and are very aware of the fact that a national monument can be created simply through the act of an Executive Order signed by the President, without Congressional approval. Bottom line: until Abbey and Montana’s US Senators sign onto legislation exempting Montana from the Antiquities Act, their so-called “assurances” ring hollow.
Rancher Greg Oxarart raised the crowd to a loud ovation by declaring that Eastern Montana doesn’t want any more land protections but thinks that Washington, D.C., will figure out a way to do it anyway.
“I don’t believe this monument deal is dead. You are a smooth talker,” Oxarart said. “I don’t know if it’s something in the air or water or what, but we send perfectly smart people back there and they come up with stupid ideas.”
The double speak coming out of Administration officials on this issue seems pretty clear. Here’s what Abbey told The Great Falls Tribune:
At the same time, Abbey added, grasslands contain unique values “and we need to be smart” in managing them. He also called the idea of establishing a national bison range an “intriguing idea” worthy of discussion but that the BLM has no plans to do it at this time.
He doesn’t know whether the areas mentioned will end up being protected and, if they are, via what means, through congressional action or presidential proclamation, he said. Existing land-management processes allow for public input, he said.
“I do think we need to be sensitive to how these grasslands are managed,” he said.
Once again, we hear Administration officials saying- “no plans for monuments”- knowing full well that a simple signature from the president can make it all happen, public support or no public support.
Here is coverage of the event from KRTV (CBS) in Great Falls.