American Prairie Reserve manages 400,000 acres of purchased, leased and partnered lands. (Dennis Linghor/American Prairie Reserve)
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service – MT | March 8, 2019
HELENA, Mont. — American Prairie Reserve is pushing back on a Montana House resolution asking the federal government to deny a bison-grazing proposal on land it leases.
House Joint Resolution 28 passed through the chamber last week and now is in the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Supporters of the resolution say the U.S. Bureau of Land Management should reject the proposal because it could hurt farmers and ranchers in the region. APR Vice President Pete Geddes said that's a dubious claim, considering bison are fenced in on the property.
He also rejects the United Property Owners of Montana's characterization that APR is performing a "radical experiment."
"This notion that we're engaged in a radical experiment,” Geddes said, “to the extent property rights and exercising property rights are radical - I might pause before I make a claim like that."
APR is asking for modifications to its grazing permit on 18 allotments, including changing the class of livestock from cattle to bison, allowing year-round grazing, removing interior fences and fortifying external boundary fences.
APR manages 400,000 acres of purchased, leased and partnered lands, with the goal of reconnecting 3 million acres of public and private prairie lands to help native plant and animal species.
Geddes said his group is being used as a bogeyman to scare property owners into believing bison will be set loose across Montana. He said the mammals aren't free to roam anywhere in the state outside of Yellowstone National Park.
"They're obviously going to have to be managed, just like any other wildlife species in the state is,” he said. “But to think that we can't be generous enough to open our hearts and part of the public lands in this state to that magnificent animal, I think, is extremely shortsighted."
Geddes also rejected the idea that APR is getting special treatment. He said any property owner can request to modify their grazing permits, so long as they maintain basic rangeland health requirements.
The group notes the BLM has previously approved modifications for bison grazing on 41 allotments across the West.