GREAT FALLS – The director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has accepted an invitation to speak in eastern Montana in response to concerns that the agency is planning to protect more land in the West.
BLM Director Bob Abbey will speak in Malta on Sept. 16, Phillips County Chairwoman Lesley Robinson said. BLM spokesman Greg Albright confirmed Abbey’s plans.
“I think it’s great,” Robinson said. “We don’t get a lot of people from D.C. coming to eastern Montana to see what we feel about an issue.”
The Phillips County Commission extended the invitation because residents of Phillips and Valley counties are concerned about additional land in northeastern Montana being protected, Robinson said.
In February, portions of an internal BLM memo were released in which the agency identified up to 13 million acres that President Barack Obama could designate as new national monuments. That included 2.5 million acres of grasslands in northeastern Montana for a new bison range.
The document set off criticism from members of the Western Congressional Caucus, including Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana, who accused the Obama administration of trying to make a land grab.
The Interior Department has said the memo was for planning purposes only and no proposals or decisions would be made without public input.
Rehberg has put together a panel discussion in Lewistown on Friday to discuss what he described as the Interior Department’s “clandestine plans” to protect more land in Montana through a national monument declaration.
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