Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited his hometown in Whitefish today to address the Western Governors Association.
Secretary Zinke is currently running a review of more than two dozen of the country’s largest National Monuments, including Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks, to determine whether the Monument designations should be revoked or reduced in size.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Zinke said the Missouri Breaks is not on his list of Monuments to visit, adding, "It is my likely recommendation to leave the Missouri Breaks as is, in the case of the Missouri breaks, I think it's settled to a degree and I'd rather not open up a wound that's been healed."
The Missouri Breaks in the only National Monument in Montana on the list for review.
In front of the governors, he talked about the importance of collaboration in land and resource management, and emphasized the role of public lands in building America’s energy independence.
"It is better to produce energy here under reasonable regulations than watch it be produced overseas with none," Zinke said.
Just a few blocks away, nearly 100 protesters — who hadn’t heard about Zinke’s likely determination — brandished signs that read “Save the Breaks” and “Keep public lands in public hands.”
Addressing the crowd, Debo Powers, president of the North Fork Preservation Association, said the review is a sign that public lands are under attack, and questioned Zinke’s self-styling as a Teddy Roosevelt Republican.
"You lied to us. You absolutely lied to us," Powers said of Zinke.
Three men did show up to support Secretary Zinke’s review of the monuments, saying they’d like to see more development on public lands and bikes allowed in Wilderness areas.