Friday, September 17, 2010

No plan for monument,BLM chief tells crowd

The director of the Bureau of Land Management told a packed forum in northeastern Montana that there are no plans for presidential monument declarations in the region, but it did little to ease the fears of ranchers and many others that the federal government may sweep in and bar them from the land. Bob Abbey acknowledged to the crowd that he cannot rule out future discussions about land protections. However, he promised more than 1,500 people that descended from the area on the small town of Malta for the forum that local comment would be key to any future decisions. “Folks, there is no plan for a national monument in Montana. I want you to know that,” Abbey said. “I want to get the message right out front. There is no proposal for a national monument in Montana.” Ranchers, oil men and others have been very suspicious of federal plans since leaked memos revealed the Obama administration was considering 14 sites in nine states for possible presidential monument declarations. That included 2.5 million acres of northeastern Montana prairie land proposed as a possible bison range. Also included in the memo were sites in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Washington. Even after Abbey’s clarification that no plans are in the works, the large crowd remained unconvinced. “I know you said you don’t have any monument plans, but what does Obama have for plans?” said rancher Nick Schultz of Grass Range...more

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