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Missouri Breaks Plan Creates New Vision for the Monument

January 5, 2009

Lewistown, MT – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released its long-awaited resource management plan for the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. The plan is much different from what a local citizens' group envisioned, however.

Friends of the Missouri River Breaks coordinator Mary Jones says the BLM plan includes six new backcountry airstrips, clears the way for more roads and allows motorized traffic along every single mile of the Missouri River --even though it is designated as "wild and scenic" -- although some old roads will be closed to improve wildlife habitat.

The monument was created to "preserve and protect," but that mission is not being honored with this plan, Jones says.

"This should be an area that's elevated to a little higher conservation management than just the regular BLM land."

The plan has been six years in the making. More than 80 percent of the public comments stated a desire to keep the Missouri Breaks "quiet, pristine and primitive," according to Jones, but the final BLM plan doesn't reflect that public opinion.

Jones also claims one of the top public concerns about the Missouri Breaks Monument -- the species of trees that Lewis and Clark documented along the Missouri River -- isn't even addressed in the plan.

"Most comments were concerned about the regeneration of cottonwoods on the Missouri River, and there's no plan to work on getting that riparian area into shape again."

Those who support the plan, however, say the new airstrips, roads and motorized options will increase access to the monument; however, the BLM has not allowed similar facilities in any other national monument.

Jones says her group will work with the BLM, despite disappointment, as the management plan is implemented.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT