Letter to Interior Secretary Zinke,
Citizens for Balanced Use is based in Gallatin Gateway Montana. We are a 501 (c) 3 organization that advocates for multiple use recreation, active forest management, and responsible resource development on our federally managed public lands. Our membership includes over 6500 active members and 68 supporting organizations representing over 100,000 people in Montana and the North West.
The creation of large areas of National Monuments has severely impacted agriculture operations both in Montana and other areas of the U.S. The limits placed on our ability to manage these lands is burdensome under the National Monument designation and in some cases has prevented operators to efficiently and effectively manage both their private property and any federal leased property they may hold.
National Monuments also restrict the people's ability to access and develop many of our natural resources which are both critical to agricultural operations, to businesses and also our national security. The loss of jobs is of great concern to the people in Montana. High unemployment in many counties of Montana has contributed to our drug problem and high suicide rate. Montana is currently 49th in the nation for per-capita income.
Citizens for Balanced Use supports your efforts to review these past Monument designations for both their size and if the designations were even appropriate at all. The Missouri Breaks National Monument is one such case where then President Clinton, in the last days of his presidency designated the Missouri Breaks National Monument without evaluating the economic and social impact this designation would have on the people of Montana. This Monument contained private land and the Monument designation adversely affected many property owners in the area. This Monument designation should be removed or at the very least reduced in size to exclude all private property and federal leased property.
Citizens for Balanced Use is gathering signatures from the people that these monuments directly affect.
I am aware that you have received a letter from the Wilderness Society and signed by close to 450 so-called organizations https://wilderness.org/press-release/letter-president-450-organizations-oppose-any-efforts-remove-or-decrease-protections-any-national condemning President's Trump's directive to you for review of these monuments. Please understand these 450 groups and organizations DO NOT represent the people directly affected by the Monument designations. These are the who's who of environmental organizations, many of which are a single individual masquerading as an organization.
I hope you continue to pursue the review and validity of these past designations and we hope you would consider the release of many of these areas back to multiple use activity. Over 40 percent of Montana is currently managed by the federal government and these areas are important to Montana for jobs and productive resource development. The lock it up actions by our federal land management agencies are a hardship on all of Montana.
The final report of the HJ 13 study brought to the Environmental Quality Council during the 2015 Montana Legislature interim showed the Forest Service and BLM have blocked, closed, and obliterated over 23,000 miles of roads in the last 20 years on the land they manage in Montana.
The closures of more roads, trails, and access continue today. Lack of access and poor management of these lands has resulted in more and more catastrophic fires and threats to lives and private property. Fuel loads and unhealthy forests are putting our watersheds at risk and designated Monuments further restrict proper land management activity.
These lands are public lands and the public, all the public, should be able to access and enjoy these lands.