Plains bison

The American Prairie Reserve in north-central Montana is seeking to expand its bison grazing onto federal lands.

Changes to grazing allotments on Bureau of Land Management property in north-central Montana that have been requested by the nonprofit American Prairie Reserve for its bison herd have taken another step forward.

On Friday the BLM released a list of 24 topics identified through the public comment process that will help focus the agency's environmental analysis.

APR controls private properties tied to 18 BLM grazing allotments in Chouteau, Fergus, Petroleum, Phillips and Valley counties. The APR’s stated intent is to build a 3.5-million-acre nature reserve using about 500,000 acres of private land and 3 million acres of public lands, much of which is managed by BLM.

The APR has submitted a proposal 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 on all 18 permits.

The BLM held meetings in Winnett, Winifred, Malta and Glasgow last spring during a two-month scoping period to seek public recommendations on topics the BLM should consider in its environmental analysis.

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During the public scoping period, the BLM received 2,497 submissions regarding APR’s proposal. BLM Malta field manager Tom Darrington noted that “each submission received was logged and organized. Since some submissions contained multiple comments, individual comments were parsed from larger submissions and organized according to topic area.”

Based on the substantive comments received, 24 summary issue statements were developed. The BLM will consider and refine these statements, in conjunction with those developed by the BLM’s interdisciplinary team, to determine the final set of issues to be included in the NEPA analysis.

The BLM anticipates preparing an environmental assessment that is focused on the key issues. The public will be notified once the environmental assessment is complete.

The scoping report, copies of each unique submission received, as well as a representative example of each of the 17 form letter campaigns received, and a list of senders of each form letter, are available at https://go.usa.gov/xQWBw.

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