Sunday, May 7, 2017

Jim Posewitz LTE Billings Gazette

President Donald Trump ordered a review of National Monuments to see if they can be reduced or eliminated. When it comes to disposing of public lands there is apparently no hole too small to crawl through. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is already on his knees and the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is the target.
Montana people have been protecting the area for over a half century. In the 1960s they rejected a Corps of Engineers plan to build two dams. One below the Judith River would have flooded the valley and “breaks” backing water into the lower Marias and Teton river bottoms while topping the community of Loma. The other would flood the rest of the river from Fort Benton to Morony Dam.
Montanans resisted because of the historical, ecological and recreational values of that last stretch of wild river bottom and “breaks” habitat. Our U.S. senators stood with the people and the dam builders were rejected. Those senators were Mike Mansfield and Lee Metcalf and they were in office when the Missouri was designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1976. The mantle of protection was strengthened when President Bill Clinton elevated it to National Monument status in 2001.
Today, groups like the Friends of the Missouri River Breaks clear debris and restore cottonwood forests compromised by livestock grazing. When they plant trees their boots are in the mud and on the ground. Now the Trump/Zinke team, consistent with their political ideology to privatize whatever they can, will drag us through a costly review to see whether Montanans for the last half century were on target or not. It’s time to fight back!

Jim Posewitz

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