Earlier this week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke offered welcome news to Montanans and all Americans when he announced he would recommend to keep the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument intact as is, an iconic landscape critical to fish and game and cherished by hunters, anglers and others.
The importance of America’s public lands, including our national monuments, to our fish and wildlife populations, economic health and hunting and fishing traditions cannot be overstated. The secretary’s willingness to listen to a majority of Montanans and Americans in determining the fate of the Breaks is appreciated – and has not gone unnoticed. Yet we the American people must continue to speak up in support of the other monuments subject to the administration’s review.
National monument proposals, including the Upper Missouri River Breaks, are forged through a locally driven process in collaboration with all public landowners, including recreationists, farmers, ranchers and business owners, as well as sportsmen and women. After a monument is established, local stakeholders remain intimately involved in shaping the lands’ management. This customizable approach leaves plenty of room to uphold a wide range of interests as well as a multiple-use approach to the monument’s administration – all while permanently conserving our most irreplaceable landscapes.
Regardless of where you come from or the size of your paycheck, America’s monuments are open and accessible to all. In other countries, hunting and fishing is reserved for landowners and the wealthy. But not here. And certainly not in Montana, where we’re surrounded by American-owned public lands, available for everyone’s enjoyment.
Hunters and anglers in particular care about our national monuments, which conserve some of our most spectacular places across the West and in some cases boast world-class hunting and fishing. The current administration should heed the will of the American people and keep these public lands just as they are. An attack on one monument is attack on all. The Missouri Breaks may be safe, but others, including Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico and Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, remain in jeopardy.
American citizens – including members of Congress, who in 1906 advanced the federal Antiquities Act to the desk of President Theodore Roosevelt for passage into law – decided long ago that national monument designations should stand the test of time. It was Roosevelt who invoked the Act to designate the nation’s first national monuments, including the Grand Canyon. Roosevelt, like all our presidents until now, understood that national monuments are national treasures, representing some of the best parts of our nation’s outdoor legacy.
We can’t let special interests threaten our public lands, including our national monuments. If we let our guard down now, we risk sending a signal that our public lands are here for the taking, up for sale to the highest bidder. This isn’t the America I know and love. We need to leave these lands intact, not undermine important and hard fought protections.
As a fellow Montanan, Secretary Zinke understands and respects the importance of our public lands and waters and what these places mean to the outdoor traditions enjoyed by generations of hunters and anglers. As public landowners, Montanans and all Americans must come together now to continue to speak up for our national monuments and to remind the secretary that now is the time for him to join us in defending and conserving these places – in perpetuity. That’s something Theodore Roosevelt would be proud of. To do otherwise is frankly, un-American.
Ryan Busse, board chair
Montana chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Angler