Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Billings, Mont. – In a formal protest submitted yesterday to the Malta, Montana, field office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), R-CALF USA asserts the agency overstepped its authority.
On December 28 the BLM provided notice of its proposed decision to allow the American Prairie Reserve (APR) to graze bison on the Flat Creek Allotment located in Phillips County, Montana. Currently, the grazing permit for the allotment designates cattle as the approved species.
In addition to allowing the APR to graze bison, the BLM also proposed to allow the APR to remove all interior fences within the allotment and to allow year around grazing.
R-CALF USA states that information contained in the American Prairie Reserve's Website reveals that its purpose is to 'maintain a fully-functioning prairie-based wildlife reserve,' and it intends to combine both private and public lands for that purpose.
According to the BLM notice, the decision to grant APR's entire request would become final unless the agency receives a written protest.
R-CALF USA's protest points out that BLM regulations exclude bison from the list of animals eligible to be included as livestock on BLM grazing permits. Only cattle, sheep, horses, burros and goats are listed as species considered livestock.
The group also states that "the American Prairie Reserve's stated goals clearly indicate it does not intend to maintain its bison as if they were livestock. Instead, it intends to maintain its bison as wildlife."
The group contends the BLM has no authority to approve grazing permits for wildlife or for the purpose of establishing wildlife reserves.
"It is clear the Proposed Decision exceeds the BLM's scope of the authority to manage livestock grazing on federally-controlled lands," the group wrote.
The group also asserts that managing wildlife contradicts the BLM's regulatory objective of sustaining the western livestock industry. It also states the BLM's proposal to remove all interior fences contradicts best rangeland management practices, particularly rotational grazing.
"R-CALF USA believes the BLM's Proposed Decision is contrary to the BLM's stated objective of promoting the improvement of rangeland ecosystems for the purpose of sustaining the western livestock industry.
"Instead, the Proposed Decision constitutes defiance of the agency's stated objectives and will facilitate the demise of the western livestock industry by removing rangeland ideally suited for livestock enterprises from the purview of the Phillips County, Montana, livestock industry," concluded the protest.