Monday, August 23, 2010

Montana meeting shows monument opposition mounting

Mistrust of the purported plans by the Interior Department to create a grasslands national monument — possibly with bison — on Montana's open plains was expressed by speaker after speaker at a meeting here Friday. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg, a Republican, said. "I don't trust 'em." The meeting drew just more than 200 people, who filled the bleachers in the gymnasium. They heard speeches from a panel of county commissioners and people with ranching interests, who said they oppose a monument designation and urged the crowd to get informed — and ready for battle. Seven of the eight people on Rehberg's panel spoke against the idea, but Sean Gerrity, president of the American Prairie Foundation, withheld judgment. APF runs a growing private grassland preserve in northeastern Montana, where genetically pure bison roam. Martha Kauffman, Bozeman-based managing director of the Northern Great Plains Program for WWF, said the group isn't in collusion with government land managers, as some people have suggested. Kauffman told the crowd that Western Montana has received most of the conservation focus in Montana, while the eastern part of the state is overlooked. "We like it that way," somebody in the crowd shouted...more

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