MALTA, Mont. (September 15, 2021) – Tonight, the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), Montana Public Lands Council (MPLC), and the Montana Association of State Grazing Districts (MASGD) provided verbal comments regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) draft environmental assessment (EA) on American Prairie Reserve’s (APR) change application for bison.
In recent years, the organizations have raised a variety of concerns with the APR’s request to BLM to change the class of livestock from cattle to bison, change the authorized seasons-of-use, and the removal of interior fences and have shared disappointment in the BLM’s draft EA and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
“Regarding Alternative B, we feel additional vetting and analysis should be done by [the BLM],” said Lesley Robinson, MSGA’s Second Vice President. “Our organizations have consistently provided comments regarding our concerns with APR’s proposals and our concern over the impacts to the rangeland health, riparian areas, and socioeconomic impacts to the livestock industry.”
The proposed change by the APR is a significant change that could have serious repercussions on BLM grazing throughout the West. Some of those significant changes include; changing the class of livestock from cattle to cattle and/or bison, modifications to their season-of-use and construction and/or removal of range improvement projects, and adjustments to allotments (such as combining pastures) and administrative actions (such as issuing ten-year grazing permits).
“The APR has made a point to share their goal of an American Serengetti. This can be easily found on their website. This American Serengeti goal is not achievable with just these six allotments. It requires a greater plan and footprint,” stated Raylee Honeycutt, MSGA’s Director of Natural Resources. “Because their mission is public and accessible, we feel this should play a role in the analysis and decision.”
In the comments MSGA, MPLC and MASGD also asked that equality be in place across all permittees. If Alternative B is to be selected in the decision without an EIS being done, the BLM should retroactively review and reconsider previous requests from cattle permittees who have asked for similar grazing changes, grazing date changes or fence removals requests.
MSGA would like to thank Attorney General Austin Knudsen for facilitating the in-person meeting and allowing ranchers and members of the community who are impacted by this issue to be heard.
The deadline for public comments is September 28, 2021. In addition to the verbal comments shared at tonight’s session, MSGA, MPLC and MASGD will be submitting formal, written comments. MSGA, MPLC and MASGD encourage Montana ranchers to submit comments of their own utilizing MSGA’s Take Action webpage that can be found at www.mtbeef.org.
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