Yard signs in Malta

Yard signs in Malta oppose bison, a herd of which American Prairie Reserve has established on its more than 300,000 acres in northeastern Montana.

The Bureau of Land Management will extend the scoping period by a month to allow the public more time to submit comments on the American Prairie Reserve's proposal to modify its grazing permits in Eastern Montana to allow bison.

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An estimated 400 people attended four scoping meetings the BLM held this spring. Some people told agency officials that the timing of the meetings was difficult because they were scheduled when many ranchers were calving.

American Prairie Reserve controls private properties tied to 18 BLM grazing allotments in Chouteau, Fergus, Petroleum, Phillips, and Valley counties. The nonprofit group is seeking permission to: change the class of livestock from cattle to bison; allow for season-long grazing; fortify existing external boundary fences by replacing the second strand from the top with an electrified wire; and remove interior fences.

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The BLM plans to analyze all 18 grazing allotments in one environmental assessment to consolidate efforts across the district and therefore asked the public to provide input on what needs to be analyzed in the document. The most helpful comments are those that describe specific issues of focus.

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"We have already seen generous engagement and public support across the state for our application," said Betty Holder, land manager for American Prairie Reserve, in a statement. "A comment extension provides additional time for the public to request a fact-based analysis of our proposal's public benefits for wildlife, economic diversification, access, and recreation."

The scoping period has been extended to June 11. After scoping comments are received and reviewed, a draft environmental assessment will be released to the public for a 30-day review. During that time the BLM will host meetings to gather input from the public.

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Scoping comments can be emailed to blm_mt_scoping_ncmd@blm.gov or mailed to: APR Scoping Comments, BLM Malta Field Office, 47285 Highway 2, Malta, MT 59538. For more information, go to https://go.usa.gov/xQWBw.