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Saving the Missouri Breaks National Monument

The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.

The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument covers about 375,000 acres of BLM-administered public land in central Montana.

Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management

What's at Stake

The spider web of thousands of miles of trails and routes for motorized vehicles would have damaged the objects whose protection motivated the Monument's creation—spectacular landscapes, archaeological, geological, cultural, historic, and scenic resources.

Case Overview

President Clinton created the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana in 2001 to protect wildlife, as well as the spectacular landscapes, archaeological, geological, cultural, historic, and scenic resources within the Monument. Instead of extending to the National Monument the especially protective management to which it is legally entitled, the Bureau of Land Management adopted a resource management plan that treats the monument as if it is indistinguishable from general multiple-use BLM lands. This is perhaps most evident in BLM's designation of a spider web of thousands of miles of trails and routes for motorized vehicles that BLM admits will damage the objects whose protection motivated the Monument's creation. BLM also authorizes six airstrips within the monument and extensive motorized boat use along the Missouri River as it passes through the Monument. Moreover, BLM failed to identify, let alone protect, the enormous collection of archaeological and cultural artifacts within the monument.

Earthjustice challenged the management plan, and in 2013 the court of appeals ordered the BLM to inventory the Monument for historic and cultural resources so that the agency can protect these unique and valuable monument resources.

Case Updates

July 21, 2011 | Blog Post

Obama's Monumental No-Show

Late in his administration, Bill Clinton attempted to build a conservation legacy worthy of Teddy Roosevelt by designating more than a dozen national monuments across the West.

George W. Bush tried to undo that legacy.

And President Barack Obama, to his dis-credit, has allowed the Bush-adopted, monument-undercutting status quo to remain, despite being the "hope-y, change-y" candidate in 2008.

But a little more background.

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