Public commentary period closes July 10 for national monuments review

EBS STAFF

President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13792 on April 26, directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the designation of select national monuments created after Jan. 1, 1996, which includes the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana, as well as Idaho’s Craters of the Moon. As a part of this review, the Interior Department seeks public comment on specific national monument designations. Written comments must be submitted by July 10.

Executive Order 13792 covers land designated or expanded as a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906. This act was signed by Theodore Roosevelt and gives the President the authority to create national monuments in order to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features.

With more than 120 national monuments designated since 1906, Interior Secretary Zinke is directed to review those designations since 1996 that cover more than 100,000 acres, expansions of more than 100,000 acres, or where a designation was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders, as determined by Zinke.

Public comment is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act. According to a May press release from the Office of the Secretary, Zinke and Trump believe local input is critical to federal and land management.

Written comments can be made online at regulations.gov by entering DOI-2017-0002 in the search bar and clicking “search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20240. Comments must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on July 10.

Traffic study findings presented at July 18 meeting

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The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, with funding support from Gallatin County, Madison County and Big Sky Resort Tax, hired Bozeman planning and design firm Sanderson Stewart to complete a transportation study to evaluate traffic safety and operations along the Highway 64 corridor between Highway 191 and Big Sky Resort to assist with planning and prioritizing projects. The study commenced Feb. 1.

Sanderson Stewart will present their findings, along with future traffic projections at a public meeting on Tuesday, July 18. The presentation will include an overview of results from the analysis of existing conditions and will highlight key intersections that warrant turn lanes based on established traffic standards. The update will also include an overview of crash data, next steps in the analysis, and collaboration opportunities between counties, state and the local community to address issues.

A copy of the study’s draft report will be available at bigskychamber.com beginning Friday, July 7 for community review and commentary. The final Big Sky Transportation Plan will be based on information gathered from residents, businesses, Gallatin County, Madison County and the Montana Department of Transportation via the public meeting and direct stakeholder engagement.

The Big Sky transportation study public meeting will be held Tuesday, July 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Big Sky Water & Sewer District conference room located at 561 Little Coyote Road. Visit bigskychamber.com or call (406) 995-3000 for more information.

July is Montana Open Land Month

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This July marks the third year of Montana Open Land Month, an initiative launched in 2015 to celebrate and recognize Montana’s outdoor heritage.

“I think there will be many different ways people celebrate—a solo hike in the mountains, a gathering to celebrate our community food system, and other potential celebrations that people have set up that I don’t even know about,” said Kate Wright, the founding director of Open Land Month.

“We just think it’s important that people just stop and pause and take a look around them and just appreciate the tremendous opportunities we have in Montana thanks to open land,” said Glenn Marx, the executive director of the Montana Association of Land Trusts.

“As human beings, [we] tend to take things for granted and we tend to lose what we take for granted. We should not take the value of open land for Montana,” Marx said. “Open land really does define the essence of Montana and the character of Montanans.”

People who are interested in participating have a variety of other ways of doing so, including watching “On the Shoulders of Giants,” a 21-minute film about the history of land conservation in Montana, and answering a one-question online survey: “What does open land mean to you?” Couples preparing to exchange vows can also register with Weddings for Open Land, which allows their guests to make a donation to a fund managed by the Montana Association of Land Trusts in lieu of a gift.

Visit openlandmt.org and weddingsforopenland.org for more information.

June climbing up despite voluntary ban at Devils Tower

DEVILS TOWER, Wyo. (AP) – The number of people who climb an unusual rock formation in northeast Wyoming during June is on the rise despite the concerns of American Indian tribes who hold the place sacred.

Devils Tower is nearly 900 feet tall from base to summit. Devils Tower National Monument was the first U.S. national monument and many know the volcanic feature for its role in the 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Devils Tower is a popular target for climbers but also culturally significant to at least 25 tribes in the region. In the mid-1990s, climbers, the tribes and National Park Service officials agreed to a compromise that put the tower voluntarily off-limits to climbing during June.

The number of people climbing Devils Tower in June fell from 1,200 to just 167 in June 1995. Lately the number is back up, reaching 373 in June 2016, Wyoming Public Radio reported.

A steady increase in June climbing over the past five years isn’t tied to the growing number of people visiting Devils Tower, Monument Superintendent Tim Reid said.

“It’s safe to say that largely, the bulk of June climbing is done by relatively local or regional climbers who for whatever reasons find it personally acceptable to climb in June,” Reid said.

It’s painful when climbers ignore the closure, said Waylon Black Crow Senior as he chaperoned Lakota youth from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“We see them climbing up there,” said Black Crow. “And all we can do is watch.”

Recent June climbers included commercial guide and lodge owner Frank Sanders, who said he knew not everyone agreed with his decision to climb then.

“The tower’s not for one person, or one group of people, or one month, or one day, or one week,” said Sanders. “It’s for all of us.”