By Tim Leeds
Gary Slagel of the Bureau of Land Management said managing the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is a different task for the bureau.
"This is all new to us," said Slagel, who manages the monument out of the Lewistown field office of the BLM.
The Breaks were proclaimed a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 by President Clinton in January. Usually the National Park Service manages national monuments.
"It's been challenging, it's been interesting and it's going to be a challenge down the road," Slagel added.
Hugo Tureck was the chair of the Resource Advisory Council when it held hearings to find out what Montanans wanted done to protect the area. He said last week the dominant theme in the testimony was that most Montanans wanted the area protected and they wanted the traditional uses of the area to continue. The BLM, which administered most of the federal land in the area before it was designated a monument, was the natural choice to administer the monument, he added.
Tureck said the RAC, which needed 100 percent consensus on recommendations it made, sent 20 recommendations to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, which were then used to create Clinton's proclamation and the interim management plan put in place by the BLM.
Slagel said the next step will be to devise a permanent resource management plan. That will take at least three years to create, he said. "And that's assuming we get funding to start the next fiscal year," he added.
The process will include collecting public comment to find out how people want the monument managed, Slagel said. He added he anticipates holding public meetings in Lewistown, Chinook, Havre and Great Falls to collect the public input, and that meetings might even be held as far away as Helena and Billings.