Breaking news: Montana House opposes national monument plan
The Montana House of Representatives Saturday overwhelmingly stood behind opponents of the proposed national monument in northeast Montana.
In a preliminary move, the House voted 76-23 to tell Congress and President Barack Obama that Montanans don't want any national monuments in the state without the approval of the governor and Legislature. Final action is expected Monday.
State Reps. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, Kris Hansen, R-Havre, and Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, voted for the resolution, designated as HJ 4.
It now goes to the Senate where Warburton said she is "nearly 100 percent certain it will pass."
The resolution doesn't require Gov. Brian Schweitzer's signature.
Nearly 2,000 people attended a meeting in Malta last year about the monument. Nearly all were opposed to the idea of setting aside 2.5 million acres as a monument, where development would be curbed.
Officials of the Bureau of Land Management insisted that there is no plan to designate the area as a national monument, but they also refused to rule it out.
State legislators who support Saturday's resolution contend that the designation of monuments has been abused. They insist it was never intended to set aside large tracts of lands as preserves.
State Sen. Jim Peterson, R-Billings, said he envisions monuments as small tracts of land that mark a particular historical event.
He said he has taken pictures of family members at a marker designating the northernmost stop on Lewis & Clark's journey to the Pacific, but he can't imagine a monument of 2.5 million acres.
Warburton,who spoke in favor of the anti-monument resolution, said it is clear Montanans aren't interested in any such designation.
After the House session, Warburton said she is not reassured by BLM's insistence that the monument proposal is off the front burner.
She noted that President Bill Clinton designated the Missouri Breaks monument on his last day in office, after more than two years of debate and haggling.
She fears that pressure from environmentalists may convince BLM and Obama to move forward with the proposal.
"Maybe 5,000 New Yorkers think that it would be a great idea from their point of view," she said.
"I don't think they have any concept of how much land is involved or the impact it would have on the communities up here and on food production."