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Rehberg: Memo confirms ‘worst-case scenario’ on monuments

 

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U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said Tuesday that review of the rest of a Department of Interior memo, part of which was leaked in February, confirms his worst fears.

"The new pages make a disturbing case for bypassing Congress with a unilateral Presidential designation of National Monuments," Rehberg said in a release. "This was the worst-case scenario, and it's no longer hypothetical."

Rehberg has criticized the department since some of the memo was leaked for making secretive plans to designate some 13 million acres of land in 11 states, including Montana, as monuments. He posted the full memo on his congressional website Tuesday.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has said the memo was a brainstorming session for planning purposes only, and that any monument designation would involve full public input.

Rehberg's statement comes a day after a statement from the office of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in which his spokesman said Tester was pleased that it showed an emphasis on public involvement and input, which supported what Salazar told Tester in Senate committee hearings.

The memo, which Tester put online Monday, discusses several avenues the Interior Department could use over a 25-year period to consolidate fragmented landholdings and finalize appropriate designations for federally owned land while working with federal, state and tribal agencies and governments to "preserve our celebrated assets and guarantee that our treasured landscapes will be conserved for the enjoyment of future generations."

The memo says that the Bureau of Land Management estimates that about 35 million acres of its land should be considered for new or heightened conservation designations.

That could include congressional action, the president declaring national monuments, or through using land-use planning processes to better manage land not eligible for monument designation, the memo says.

Rehberg said the rest of the memo — of which he has been requesting the release since the leak of part of the memo in February — shows the reason for the delay in its release.

"While I'm glad the Department of Interior has finally released these pages, I can certainly understand why they wanted to keep them a secret," he said. "A single sentence acknowledging the benefit of public input won't appease Montanans when the rest of the document lays out plans to circumvent that input if it doesn't fall in line with the pre-constructed plans of unelected Washington bureaucrats."

Rehberg has scheduled a panel discussion of monument designation Friday in Lewistown.

 
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