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BLM Memo May Clear Up Monumental Confusion

October 5, 2009

LEWISTOWN, Mont. - A new memo from the Bureau of Land Management could end confusion over how the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, and monuments around the country, should be managed. It's a controversy in Montana currently in federal court because conservation groups took issue with the agency's approach in managing the Missouri Breaks - management they saw as contrary to the proclamation that created the monument.

Hugo Tureck with the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument hopes the guidance clears up conflicts.

"It sets out a firm commitment for managing these lands -- commitment not just to multiple-use, but to the proclamation. We always have felt strongly that the proclamation was never followed."

The Missouri Breaks proclamation notes the area's diverse biological, geological and historical objects of interest and how it is largely unchanged in the 200 years since Lewis and Clark traveled through the area. Tureck says allowing new back-country airstrips in the monument, which the BLM has cleared and conservation groups do not like, does not match the proclamation goal of keeping the area unchanged. Supporters of the airstrips say they increase public access and enjoyment of the monument.

Tureck says the beauty of the proclamation is that it recognizes traditional uses of the land as part of preservation, such as livestock grazing - even though some people with grazing leases have felt threatened.

"We weren't trying lock ranchers out, we weren't trying to stop multiple-use -- as long the multiple-use recognized the specialness of this area, which is stated very clearly in the proclamation."

The memo, "Planning for Special Designations within the National System of Public Lands," is available at

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT