BLM Approves American Prairie Reserve Bison Grazing Proposal

0

The Bureau of Land Management on Thursday approved American Prairie Reserve’s application for grazing leases on 63,000 acres of BLM-administered land in Phillips County. The application process, which dates back to 2018, has generated strong public interest, largely due to the animals included in the grazing leases: bison.

The app has become a lightning rod for bison opinions and the RPA, which aims to conserve grassland species by acquiring large private plots and connecting them to tracts of public land, creating “the largest reserve wildlife of this type in the lower 48 states. “This vision is largely funded by private investment. According to the latest financial statements available on its website, the APR had $77 million in net assets in 2020.

BLM received 2,700 comments on its environmental analysis of APR’s proposal, which included renewing two existing leases and adding four more. APR proposed changing the seasonal grazing schedule on some plots and adding electrified wire to some fences, along with other fence modifications. A the allotment will be grazed by APR’s bison and cattle owned by another tenant. The others will be concessions reserved for bison.

“After excluding public contributions from local communities, it’s no surprise that President Biden’s Office of Land Management approves this sweeping proposal which is another step toward moving the Northeast’s livestock industry. of Montana and replacing it with a large outdoor zoo.”

Attorney General of Montana, Austin Knudsen

Industry groups and lawmakers who have expressed their frustrations with the RPA have put up swift and vigorous opposition to the endorsement, with at least three Republican lawmakers predicting continued opposition to the decision.

Governor Greg Gianforte asked if BLM had “statutory authority” to pass the proposal in an emailed statement. In a TweeterSenator Steve Daines called the endorsement “completely unreasonable” and the Biden administration representative “ignoring the contributions of [Montana] breeders. Daines said he will work with Gianforte’s office in the coming weeks to review the decision.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen also criticized BLM’s approval process in an emailed statement.

“After excluding public contributions from local communities, it’s no surprise that President Biden’s Office of Land Management approves this sweeping proposal which is another step toward moving the Northeast’s livestock industry. of Montana and replacing it with a large outdoor zoo,” Knudsen said. .

Part of the criticism alluded to by Gianforte, Daines and Knudsen relates to frustration with the transition of land adjacent to the RPA from agricultural production to more conservation or recreational uses. “Save the Cowboy, Stop the APR” signs have become common in Phillips County, and agriculture industry groups like the Montana Public Lands Council allege BLM has demonstrated “preferential treatment to this specific permit.”

BLM’s 48-page decision record refers to the live thread that underlies so much interest in the lease decision: the relative scarcity of bison grazing on the agency-managed plots. But he noted bison grazing is permitted on other BLM allotments, both in-state and out-of-state. BLM administers leases in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming where bison grazing is permitted.

“Although the proposal to allow grazing of domestic native livestock conflicts with the views and opinions expressed by some users of public lands, these adverse views on the proposal itself do not constitute a scientific controversy, a disagreement about the nature of the effects, or fail to provide evidence that the project does not comply with BLM’s legal and regulatory requirements,” the decision record states.

The decision also addresses how BLM anticipates bison grazing will interact with other flora and fauna, which was one of the few concerns reported by the Montana Stockgrowers Association, including “impacts on the rangeland health, riparian areas and socio-economic impacts on rural communities. and the livestock industry.

“This decision is based on sound science, complies with all local, state and federal laws, and recognizes the important ways bison grazing has and will continue to improve range health.”

Alison Fox, CEO of American Prairie Reserve

The agency referenced differing grazing habits between bison and cattle in the decision, arguing that since bison tend to graze in patches, their presence in the landscape supports “an uneven distribution of vegetation that encourages growth. diversity of plant species by allowing herbaceous plants [flowering plants] blossom. »

“Species such as the Greater Sage-Grouse will benefit from an increase in native herbaceous plants,” the document continues. “Since bison tend to spend less time and forage at greater distances from water, improvements in riparian vegetation and riparian function will also be observed. This will improve habitat conditions for aquatic and riparian wildlife, such as amphibians and riparian birds, by increasing the availability of habitat features, such as canopy and nesting sites, due to the increased diversity and abundance of riparian vegetation.

The application process began in 2018, when BLM launched a public review of APR’s proposal. Last July, BLM released an environmental assessment and collected public feedback over a 90-day period. He then released a proposed grazing decision in March, which he said incorporated “several revisions” to his earlier analysis.

APR outlined the process leading up to BLM’s decision in an emailed statement regarding the final decision.

“After four years of extensive analysis and public comment, we are extremely pleased that the BLM has approved this grazing app,” said APR CEO Alison Fox. “This decision is based on sound science, complies with all local, state and federal laws, and recognizes the important ways bison grazing has and will continue to improve range health.”

“American Prairie relies on voluntary land acquisition, cooperation and private management – ​​not regulation, taxpayer dollars or federal land acquisitions. All who respect the property rights of landowners should support this promising new model of conservation.

Jonathan Wood, vice president of law and policy at the Property and Environmental Research Center.

According to the group, approval of the application will allow APR to expand its bison herd from about 200 animals to about 1,000 animals over the next three years. “By comparison,” the email continues, “the majority of land in American Prairie is leased to local cattle ranchers and supports over 10,000 head of cattle.”

In an emailed statement, Jonathan Wood, vice president of law and policy at the Bozeman-based Property and Environmental Research Center, fought for the APR and its guiding model.

“It’s not only the right decision legally, but it’s also the right way to approach conservation. American Prairie relies on voluntary land acquisition, cooperation, and private management — not regulation, taxpayer dollars, or federal land acquisitions,” Wood said. “All who respect the property rights of landowners should support this promising new model of conservation.”

Under BLM rules, any applicant, permittee, tenant or other person “whose interest is adversely affected by the final decision” can appeal the decision within 30 days of July 28.

latest stories

Disputed race in SD 39 highlights state hospital and Republican supermajority

The unexpected death in May of State Sen. Mark Sweeney, D-Philipsburg, has created an open seat and contested race to fill the late lawmaker’s two-year term in a historically Democratic district that presents an attractive target for Republicans. state this circuit.

New study from Montana highlights first-hand experiences with mental health and addiction services

A new report commissioned by the state Department of Public Health and Human Services details first-person experiences with Montana’s behavioral health crisis system, based on interviews with 26 former patients, members family, health care providers, administrators and law enforcement.

Court strikes down new ballot distribution law

A Montana District Court judge ruled on Wednesday that a new law barring the distribution of ballots to minors who will turn 18 on Election Day violates the state Constitution – resolving an issue in an ongoing legal challenge of four electoral laws adopted by the 2021 legislature.

Share.

Comments are closed.