TAKE ACTION

WHY PUBLIC COMMENTS ARE IMPORTANT – MSGA encourages its members to engage in the public comment process. This is an opportunity for you to be involved in the decision-making process happening within federal and state agencies, to offer your thoughts on alternative ways for an agency to accomplish what it is proposing, to offer your comments on the agency’s analysis of the environmental effects of the proposed action, and possible mitigation of potential harmful effects of such actions.

Check below to view current public comment opportunities.

SUMMARY OF BLM’S DRAFT EA ON AMERICAN PRAIRIE RESERVE CHANGE APPLICATION FOR BISON

ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

American Prairie Reserve (APR) has submitted a proposal asking the BLM to modify their grazing permits. APR is seeking changes in the class of livestock from cattle to cattle and/or bison and modifications to their season-of-use and construction and/or removal of range improvement projects. The project also includes adjustments to allotments (such as combining pastures) and administrative actions (such as issuing ten-year grazing permits). Comments regarding this environmental assessment should address the APR proposed alternative, Alternative B.

IN ALTERNATIVE B, APR IS REQUESTING TO:

  1. Change the class of livestock from cattle to bison
  2. Change in authorized seasons-of-use
  3. Change to remove interior fencing and manage their private lands along with the public lands as one common pasture. This includes construction, reconstruction and/or removal of some fences and adjustments to allotments.
  4. Action from BLM to issue a ten-year grazing permits

BACKGROUND

On Sept. 24, 2019, the American Prairie Reserve (APR) submitted a proposal (an update to their earlier proposal submitted on Nov. 20, 2017) to modify certain terms and conditions of seven BLM-administered grazing permits held by the APR. APR’s original proposal sought permit changes for 18 BLM grazing allotments located in four counties. The APR’s updated proposal reduced the number of BLM allotments involved and requested and is only in Phillips County. 

Based on APR’s amended proposal and public input received during the scoping period, the BLM prepared a draft EA and FONSI for the following seven BLM allotments managed by its Malta Field Office: Telegraph Creek, Box Elder, Flat Creek, White Rock, East Dry Fork, French Coulee and Garey Coulee.

The public comment period will run from July 1 through September 28, 2021. The BLM encourages public review and comment on the Draft EA and FONSI by visiting the BLM’s ePlanning website at https://eplanning.blm.gov. Search using the NEPA number: DOI-BLM-MT-L010-2018-0007-EA. 

POINTS TO CONSIDER

  1. Is BLM making a special exception for this application due to the animals being bison?
  2. Bison are not included in the definition of livestock allowed to graze on federal land (see 43 CFR 4100.05-5). The Federal Grazing Regulations permit bison to graze on federal land only with a more-limited Special Use Permit. Should bison be allowed under this current proposal?
  3. Should there be consideration that APR’s bison are a conservation herd and not a commercial herd.
  4. How would BLM treat an application requesting removal of fences and season long grazing for cattle or sheep?
  5. If BLM approves this application, this is a precedent for similar applications to approve cattle allotment requests.
  6. A range management principle in general is – increase fencing (cross fences) and you increase carrying capacity because you have more control over the livestock’s movements. So the reverse should be true – decrease or remove fences and you lose carrying capacity because the animals will concentrate in their favorite or the best areas. 
  7. How will range monitoring be completed and documented to meet range standards?
  8. APR states that it has implemented a wildlife-friendly bison fence that does not inhibit wildlife movements, so is there a need to remove interior fencing?
  9. Has BLM considered a comprehensive approach to APR’s plan for bison restoration?
  10. Is an EA adequate or should an EIS have been completed?
  11. What are the socioeconomic effects the alternative will have on the local community?
  12. APR pays Department of Livestock per capita fees on the bison they own, classifying them as domestic livestock.

TAKE ACTION

Public comments may also be submitted electronically or by U.S. Postal Service:

Submit comments electronically here: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/103543/595/8002333/comment

Or mail your comments to:
BLM Malta Field Office
Re: APR Grazing Proposal
501 South 2nd Street East
Malta, MT 59538.

The public comment period has been extended, and individuals can submit comments electronically through September 28, 2021. 

For any other comments or questions, please contact Jay Bodner or Raylee Honeycutt at the MSGA office at 442-3420 or email at [email protected] or [email protected]

Comment at: https://www.regulations.gov/document/FWS-HQ-MB-2020-0023-0003 

Deadline: Oct 29, 2021

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced they are opening a public comment period on how the agency can improve the permitting process for incidental take of bald and golden eagles. The USFWS is required to manage a take permitting process that is consistent with their goals of recovery and sustained populations, but ranchers know the permitting process is likely due for some significant reconsideration. The permitting process was last revised in 2016, and is still an often-discussed as a significant challenge for producers, particularly during calving and lambing season. The 45-day public comment period will elapse on October 29, 2021.

The USFWS is seeking comments on a few specific questions:

  1. Are there specific protocols, processes, requirements, or other aspects of the current permitting process for incidental take of eagles that hinder permit application, processing, or implementation?
  2. What additional guidance, protocols, analyses, tools, or other efficiencies could the Service develop that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for, implementing, and conducting monitoring associated with long-term permits for incidental take of eagles under existing regulations? What are the estimated costs of the suggested additional efficiencies, and how do those costs compare to industry’s current practices?
  3. What targeted revisions could be made to existing regulations consistent with the overall permitting framework and PEIS that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for and processing long-term permits for incidental take of eagles?
  4. Are there potential new regulatory approaches to authorizing incidental take under the Eagle Act, particularly for projects that can be shown in advance to have minimal impacts on eagles, that would reduce the time and/or cost associated with applying for and operating under long-term permits for incidental take of eagles?
  5. The Service are seeking data to estimate the current industry costs on pre-application/pre-construction surveys for eagles, monitoring requirements of the permit itself, including paying for required third party monitors, and compensatory mitigation. Further, they are seeking data on how costs will change if additional efficiencies are implemented. They are also requesting the submission of data regarding the number and type of small businesses affected, the scale and nature of economic effects in the current permitting process, and how costs would change for small businesses if additional efficiencies are implemented.

Comments will be able to be submitted on the regulations.gov website, under Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2020-0023. Comments will be accepted online only – not by email or fax.  

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN SUBMITTING COMMENTS:

  1. Craft a “Substantive” Comment – a substantive comment is one that: 
    • Questions the accuracy, methodology or assumptions used in the analysis;
    • Presents new information or reasonable alternatives not analyzed; or
    • Causes changes or revisions.
  1. Support Your Point – This can be personal observations, experience or cited sources. 
  2. Avoid Vague Statements – Specifics help the agency to consider and evaluate the issue you have identified. 
  3. Provide Detail – Describe the issue, what can be done, the specific location, what resources are involved, etc. 
  4. Present Solutions – Include a potential fix to the problem you have identified. 

ABOUT THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT

The National Environmental Policy Act “… is intended to help public officials make decisions that are based on the understanding of environmental consequences…” (40 CFR 1501 (c).) To achieve this, the EIS considers the effects of agency actions on social, economic and natural resources within the planning area. Citizens, such as yourself, often have valuable information about places and resources they consider important and the potential effects proposed agency actions may have on those places and resources.

COMMENT EXAMPLES

Examples of Substantive Comments  Examples of Non-Substantive Comments
Example 1:
“While we understand the desire to increase access to public land for recreational opportunities, we feel it is important to work with agencies and recreation groups to find acceptable solutions for all stakeholders. Additional recreation use results in added operational expenses for permittees, including weed management or fence repair. We recommend the inclusion of a statement that the Council will foster collaborative efforts to address conflicts and help reduce the costs for permittees.”Example 2:
“In short, the description of a species’ habitat must not be used as justification for the Services to regulate themselves into a position of authority across broad swaths of lands and waters where the agencies would otherwise have no authority.”
Example 1:

Simply disagreeing with a proposed action.

“I do not support Alternative B.”

Example 2:

Simply stating an opinion.

“Protect our resources!”

Example 3:

Commenting on items outside the scope or proposal.

“Please extend your office hours for those who work between 8-5pm Monday-Friday.”