The Interior Department’s National Park Service announced Monday it will open up more than 200,000 acres of national forest, state parks and other lands for the first time in decades, setting up the agency to be a major player in managing and conserving public lands.
The move follows a Trump administration push to reduce the federal government’s role in managing land and natural resources.
“This action marks an important step toward the vision of our future, which is to be able to manage, protect, and manage the country’s most important assets in an accountable way, in a way that is transparent and consistent with the Constitution,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement.
Zinke’s move comes amid an ongoing fight over how to manage the lands the agency oversees, with environmental groups and Republican lawmakers demanding greater federal control over what goes on.
Montana’s parks are some of the most pristine in the country.
Montana is the only state to have two national parks, one on the eastern end of the state and one on its southern border.
The western part of the park is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while the eastern part is managed and managed by Parks and Recreation.
The agency oversees land in the Great Basin, but not in Montana.
“The parks in the U-M system are great places to be,” Zinke told reporters.
“They have a lot of potential for recreation, they have a great population of tourists and they have great recreational opportunities.”
The announcement came after Trump’s administration announced plans to slash the federal share of the Interior Department budget by nearly a third, to about 14 percent.
Zinkes announcement comes amid a broader effort by the Trump administration to shrink the role of the federal Bureau of Land Management in public lands management.
The cuts are expected to affect millions of acres of land across the country, according to a report released by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
The U.N. has also warned of “disastrous consequences” from the cuts, which will lead to the loss of some of America’s most spectacular national parks.
Zinks proposal to reopen more than 150,000 square miles of wilderness and national forest lands was met with cheers from environmentalists and some of their allies.
“It is now time for the Trump Administration to begin taking our nation’s public lands back, and the Trump Corps has a great opportunity to do just that,” said Lisa Olson, the co-founder of the Wilderness Society, in an emailed statement.
“In the next six months, we will be calling on the Trump Administrations Department of the Environment to return millions of public lands and waters back to the people of America, and to return our lands and waterways to a place where they belong.”
The Interior Secretary’s announcement comes as the U,N.
is currently considering the elimination of the countrys only protected area in the Western Interior.
The designation, which allows only native species to be present, is the first step to allowing logging, mining, grazing, and other activities to take place on the land, but critics say the designation is also an excuse for the federal agency to protect private land and extract valuable mineral rights from those lands.
Zinkis plan would also eliminate the last major protection for the state parks, the Rocky Mountains National Park, which was designated as a national monument in 2017 by President Donald Trump.
The Trump administration has previously said the designation could be revoked if it is found to be detrimental to the national park system, which provides the public with access to national parks for recreation.
Zinki’s move will also open up the public lands for hunting and fishing, with Montana’s recreational hunters and fishermen being allowed to hunt up to 500 pounds of game a year.
The state of Montana currently has only 4.6 million acres of open space.
Zinets plan would allow hunting to take off on state lands, and some experts believe the Trumps move will create more opportunities for hunters and anglers to experience Montana’s rich wildlife.
“Montana is a great place to live and enjoy,” said David Karp, a Montana-based outdoorsman who works for the Wilderness Committee, a conservation group.
“That’s why I am very pleased that this announcement will be made, as we will now have a new opportunity to make Montana’s outdoor recreation opportunities even better.”