Missoulian: Salazar tells Tester Interior has no plans to create national monument in Montana

HELENA — In an exchange with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his agency has no plans to create a new national monument in Montana or buy up private land in the Missouri Breaks area east of Fort Benton.

“There have been no directions from the White House that we move forward on monument designation,” Salazar told Tester at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Interior Subcommittee.

The exchange stems from publicity last week over an Interior Department internal memo on potential monument designations and acquisitions, part of which was leaked last week.

The leaked memo had a list of areas in the West that “may be good candidates for National Monument designation under the Antiquities Act,” which allows the president to establish national monuments.

“However,” the memo continued, “further evaluations should be completed prior to any final decision, including an assessment of public and congressional support.”

Among the areas on the list is the Northern Montana Prairie, an area of grasslands in northeast Montana that the memo said could be connected with Canada’s Grasslands National Park, which is on the Montana-Saskatchewan border north of Glasgow.

A portion of the memo also mentioned a proposal to buy up private land along the wild and scenic Missouri River east of Fort Benton, to preserve the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.


U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., denounced the memo last week, saying it laid out a plan “to federalize potentially millions of acres of private lands in Montana” and calling it a “naked abuse of power.”

Rehberg introduced a bill to exempt Montana from the Antiquities Act, asked Salazar to release all pages of the memo, and asked for a variety of department documents and communications on discussions about monument designation.

Tester, a Democrat, asked Salazar about the monument designation and any plans to buy up land along the Missouri River.

Salazar said he knew of no such plan to purchase Missouri River land, and that before any monument designations or land purchases occur, the administration would have a “conversation and a dialogue” with people locally and across the country.

Read the whole article >>