The Bureau of Land Management Lewistown Field Office is updating its management plan for central Montana. The plan which covers 650,000 acres, with most located near the Musselshell River, south of the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.
The best of these lands contain a stunning range of sweeping grasslands and deeply rugged river breaks while providing critical habitat for trophy ungulate species such as mule deer and elk as well as many bird species.
Plans of this sort generally try to strike a balance to accommodate varied uses spread across a diverse landscape. But this plan, as proposed, is extreme. It puts to risk areas with the highest conservation, recreation, historic, and wildlife values by proposing to eliminate all of the existing Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, while managing all of the 200,000 acres identified as having wilderness characteristics, for energy, mining and other impactful uses.
It is especially disconcerting to learn that a more balanced plan, proposed by local BLM land managers from the Lewistown BLM Field Office, was altered by political appointees in Washington, D.C.
A more balanced approach is needed that provides meaningfully protection to our natural resources and respects the knowledge of local BLM field personnel.