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Upper Missouri Breaks Scrutinized, Public Gets Chance to Weigh In

The public comment period for the review process of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument lasts until July 10. (Bob Wick/BLM)
The public comment period for the review process of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument lasts until July 10. (Bob Wick/BLM)
May 30, 2017

BOZEMAN, Mont. – The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument protects an area with a lot of history, including the first Native Americans and Lewis and Clark's expedition west.

A review process from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is scrutinizing the area’s borders, and the public has an opportunity to tell the agency its thoughts on the Missouri Breaks, as well as other national monuments designated or expanded since 1996.

To date, the website hosting comments has received more than 100,000 comments.

Josh Olsen, co-founder and program director of Montana Wilderness School, hopes the Missouri Breaks stays protected so he can continue bringing students there.

"It's one of our best classrooms in terms of connecting students to wild landscapes in Montana, connecting elements of the first peoples that were here, also wildlife populations, and then the importance of public lands and access to public lands," he states.

President Bill Clinton designated the Missouri Breaks a national monument in 2001. The public can comment on the national monuments review process until July 10 at the website

The process has evoked some fears from Montanans that the monument might change.

Erica Lighthiser is a campaign organizer for Montana Mountain Mamas in Livingston. When she heard the Missouri Breaks was under review, she decided to plan a trip for her family.

"When I heard it was under review, we thought, 'Oh geez, we have no time to lose,’” she relates. “’We better get up there and check it out just in case it goes away or it changes.'"

Olsen worries a review process could open the Missouri Breaks to oil and gas development that could be detrimental to the environment and jeopardize its history. He says Montanans could find a fracking site where Lewis and Clark once camped.

"We won't be able to go back, you know, and I think that's the uncertainty of considering these changes,” he states. “That's partly where we have to think. We have to think about what potentially could be lost."


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT