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Last Day for Public Comments on National Monuments Review

The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is a popular destination for hikers. (Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Mgmt.)
The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is a popular destination for hikers. (Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Mgmt.)
July 10, 2017

HELENA, Mont. -- Today is the last day for the public to comment on the fate of 26 national monuments under review by the U.S. Interior Department.

The list includes Montana's Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, created in 2001. Since then, the research group Headwaters Economics has found locals see benefits from it.

Real personal incomes near the monument have increased by nearly 20 percent. Chris Mehl, policy director at Headwaters Economics, said monument status protects a natural resource, which is good for recreational activities - there are plenty of those at the Missouri Breaks.

"Great opportunities for fishing, a weekend getaway with the family for canoeing, hiking opportunities,” Mehl said of the area. "It also contains some incredible elk hunting - prize trophy level animals in the fall, in the Bullwhacker area. So, it's the whole gamut of outdoor activities."

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered the review to examine whether the monuments were designated with enough public input and to reconsider their size.

Comments are being taken on the national monuments review process at regulations.gov. According to the website, more than 1 million comments have poured in since May.

Opponents of Montana's national monument claim it has negatively affected ranchers and oil and gas developers. But Mehl said everything has been maintained on monument land as it was in 2001.

"For the Missouri Breaks monument, basically everything continues. There's still grazing on the monument; there are existing fossil fuel leases that continue on the monument,” he said. "So, the declaration for the Missouri Breaks monument, like many national monuments, mostly locked things in place."

In June, Zinke recommended shrinking the Bears Ears' National Monument in Utah. The Interior Department says it will issue recommendations for other monuments at the end of August.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT