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Bison on state land: Montana waiting on appeal

The state of Montana is waiting to make a decision on whether or not it will allow the American Prairie to graze bison on state parcels that lie within the Flat Creek BLM Allotment and the Whiterock BLM Allotment. In an October 27, 2022 letter to the American Prairie, the state of Montana reported its intent to hold off on the decision.

Each of those allotments include one gridlocked state section, said Montana Department of Natural Resources Communications Director Cassie Wandersee.

“We are holding off on making the decision of whether or not we are going to permit bison to graze on state parcels until the BLM environmental assessment is deemed sufficient,” she said.



The state of Montana, the Montana Stockgrowers and two grazing districts challenged the American Prairie’s environmental assessment, and the appeal is still active.

When the challenges to American Prairie’s request to graze bison on BLM allotments are completed, the state will make a determination on whether or not to allow bison to graze on those particular state sections.



The state of Montana has approved the AP to graze bison on state sections in other locations in the state, according to the letter.

Wandersee does not know if the state sections are fenced separately from the BLM land.

The letter to the American Prairie does say that the AP is not authorized to graze bison and may not proceed with construction, medication, or electrification of fence on state Lease Nos 8171 and 9361. The AP does remain authorized to continue to graze on two other sections, says the letter from Clive Rooney, Area Manager.

Background:

The Bureau of Land Management reported July 28, 2022, that it would indeed allow bison to graze six allotments in Phillips County, Montana.

The American Prairie (formerly known as the American Prairie Reserve or APR) requested about five years ago that the BLM allow it to graze on seven allotments it owns. The American Prairie says its mission is to create the largest nature reserve in the contiguous United States. They currently own or manage at least 450,000 acres.

In a Notice of Final Decision, the BLM cemented its March “proposed decision.”

According to the BLM, the Telegraph Creek, Box Elder, Flat Creek, Whiterock, French Coulee, Garey Coulee and East Dry Fork allotments are now approved for bison – a total of approximately 63,500 acres of BLM-administered lands – which currently provide 7,969 animal unit months of permitted use.

The BLM also said one common allotment grazed with another livestock operator would remain approved for cattle-only grazing. Four of the allotments are approved for seasonal grazing with pasture rotation. Year-round grazing is approved for three allotments; two of which had been previously authorized for bison grazing. There is no change in animal unit months on any of the allotments. Most allotments will be managed under a pasture rotation grazing program, said BLM.

The state of Montana, the Montana Stockgrowers and the North and South Phillips County Grazing Districts have appealed the BLM’s decision to allow bison grazing on those allotments.

The Montana Stockgrowers are actively fundraising to continue their appeal of the BLM decision to allow bison to graze BLM land. Go to http://www.protectopenspaces.com to learn more or to donate.