Photo by Tony Bynum
What's at Stake
In April 2017 President Trump signed an executive order instructing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review dozens of national monuments with an eye towards either shrinking the monuments or eliminating them altogether. The Upper Missouri River Breaks is subject to this review.
Monument protection of the Breaks ensures that future generations will enjoy the same opportunity we now have to experience some of the best big game hunting in the world; to view tipi rings, rock art, and other artifacts that go back thousands of years; and to camp and hike in the same riverside spots that Lewis and Clark did in 1802. That protection could, however, come to an end if monument designation is stripped from this landscape.
The Antiquities Act, the tool used to protect the Upper Missouri River Breaks and Pompeys Pillar, is also at risk. Some lawmakers, including Montana Senator Steve Daines, have already sponsored legislation to gut this 1906 law.
A central pillar of Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy, the Antiquities Act gives U.S. presidents the authority to designate monuments – that is, to set aside and safeguard public lands with outstanding natural, cultural, historical, and scientific value to the people of this country. Over the past 110 years, 16 presidents – eight Democrats and eight Republicans – have used the Antiquities Act to designate 157 national monuments.