MISSOULA, Mont. (CN) – Environmentalists say the Bureau of Land Management is allowing too much grazing and development on the Upper Missouri River Breaks Monument, some of the wildest and most scenic country in the Great Plains.
The Montana Wilderness Association claims the BLM approved too much drilling, grazing and recreational development, without adequate environmental assessment. The Upper Missouri Breaks has been largely untouched since 1805, according to the federal complaint.
The Wilderness Association objects that the BLM’s December 2008 plan authorizes six airstrips for private planes, off-road vehicle use for oil and gas lessees and livestock managers, and motor boat use for the entire 149 mile stretch of the Upper Missouri River.
Animal damage control is granted for livestock overseers who have problem predators, but the plan fails to address the affects of grazing on the sensitive riparian areas and cottonwood galleries, according to the complaint.
The Monument contains segments of the Lewis and Clark and Nez Pierce Trails, and countless animals and plants essential to the health of the overall habitat. Lewis and Clark described the beauty and uniqueness of the area in their journals.
President Clinton established the Monument on 375,000 acres in January 2001, under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
The Association seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Its lead counsel is Matthew Bishop with the Western Environmental Law Center of Helena.