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I am writing to express support for proposed Bureau of Land Mangement action requested by the American Prairie Reserve (APR). Granting this request allows orderly planning for phase-in of year around bison grazing on the allotments where APR has acquired base properties and now legally holds priority grazing privileges.

The mission of the American Prairie Reserve is “to create and manage a prairie-based wildlife reserve that, when combined with public lands already devoted to wildlife, will protect a unique natural habitat, provide lasting economic benefits, and improve public access to and enjoyment of the prairie landscape.”

Recently both houses of the United States Congress unanimously designated the American bison our National Mammal. This action is a much-deserved recognition for a unique animal species almost lost forever because of selfishness, greed and ignorance.

American Prairie Reserve is a committed organization taking serious responsibility for the health of their lands and of the animals. Bison are the subject of the grazing lease change but equally important is the well-being of all other native wildlife on APR leased and private property.

Spending time with enthused people of all ages at the Reserve south of Malta, Montana is a very uplifting experience. These happy folks from across the country and around the world are eager to experience the natural prairie landscape. I see this entire project as an excellent opportunity to educate ourselves and to refine knowledge of the prairie ecosystem. Among other things, this process has the potential to improve both livestock and bison caretaking abilities.

Although bison have been the foundation species of our Great Plains for thousands of years, it is only within the last 50 years that we as humans have seriously begun to re-learn that it is entirely possible to live in harmony with these magnificent bison. Tribal, national, state and regional buffalo associations as well as wildlife conservation organizations across the United States and Canada have joined together to network and learn from each other. We must continue to foster the spirit of innovation and creativity that benefits healthy wildlife, livestock, lands and people.

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I am proud of our agricultural heritage. There is much hope for the future because we are continuously learning and improving the profession of growing and gathering human sustenance from our land. A more complete understanding of how the prairie operates is vital to efficient and productive agricultural enterprises. Studying natural processes at American Prairie Reserve can help teach us even more.

Allowing bison to graze responsibly on public-owned lands is an established and workable practice. The APR has an excellent track record of being an exemplary lessee of state and federal grazing properties. Past rangeland health assessments by agencies of current APR bison grazing leases have all been rated excellent.

It is in the best interest of property owners to have a priority grazing lease process managed equitably by public agencies for all landowners. Whether it’s bison or cattle, responsible management resulting in a healthy landscape is the goal.

People worldwide increasingly covet access to open spaces where plants and animals thrive in their natural environments. As Montana family ranches continue the disturbing trend of being bought up then locked up by a rich and select minority, it is refreshing to have an organization such as the American Prairie Reserve committed to sharing their land and wildlife with all who care to treat it responsibly and respectfully.

For more information’ please go to the Reserve website at americanprairie.org. Comments are due June 9. It is very important you become informed and make your views known as soon as possible.

Woerner owns and helps operate a successful private veterinary practice in Laurel, Montana. He and his family-business have more than 50 years of practical veterinary experience in range beef cattle, feedlot cattle, commercial and conservation bison management, as well as horses, other livestock, wildlife and pets.

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