BILLINGS — There will be no end-of-term national monument designations by President Barack Obama, the White House said Sunday, reaffirming earlier assurances that one isn’t planned.
The assurance, the second of its kind this year, comes days after Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., raised the monument issue again Friday in a letter to Obama.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last March said there were no plans to designate new national monuments in Montana. But that assurance from a member of Obama’s cabinet was an empty promise, Rehberg said in his Friday letter to the president.
“It’s not up to the Secretary Salazar or those of the Department of Interior to designate national monuments. The only person whose promises matter is you,” Rehberg wrote.
Montana’s lone congressman then asked for Obama’s “unequivocal promise not to misuse the authority granted under the Antiquities Act to designate any new national monuments in Montana at the end of your first term in office.”
The White House said the president’s position and the Interior secretary’s were the same.
“Secretary Salazar’s statement represents the administration’s position,” said Clark Stevens, White House assistant press secretary.
In the past, national monument designations have been made by a president at term’s end. President Bill Clinton, during his final days, created the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument on gave 377,000 acres of public land in northcentral Montana. Sportsmen and ranchers who used the land for hunting and grazing balked at the designation.
Earlier this year, a leaked document from the Interior Department identified 14 potential monument sites. There were two Montana locations on the list, the Bitter Creek Prairie north of Tampico and the Montana Glaciated Plains, also located in the extreme north-central part of the state.
Earlier, Rehberg tried to make state approval of national monuments a requirement. He did so in the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, which passed the House last spring. However the Senate didn’t include the requirement in its version of the bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who Rehberg is challenging this election. The Senate version passed last month.