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Montana FWP Approves One-Time Emergency Haying, Grazing on Wildlife Management Areas

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Jackie Yamanaka
/
YPR

Amid drought conditions, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks approved emergency grazing leases on wildlife management areas on Monday.

FWP approved a proposal that will allow livestock producers to take part in one-time haying or grazing leases. The leases are on parts of 14 different wildlife areas spanning around 7,300 acres.

Of the 182 public comments the proposal received, 104 were in opposition. Some voiced concerns around cattle eating forage that elk would have relied on in the winter months. Others were worried about cattle reducing the amount of coverage available for other wildlife.

The department acknowledged that there could be “temporary negative impacts that are offset by longer-term benefits to habitat condition, resulting in improved habitat productivity or attractiveness to wildlife.” In the decision notice the department states that the sites selected are ones where vegetation would benefit from a grazing treatment.

FWP’s claim of grazing benefiting wildlife vegetation was disputed by some public commenters.

To mitigate the potential transfer of noxious weeds, the proposal was adapted so that in most cases, leases will occur in the counties where producers reside. Lease applications are being accepted on FWP’s website until Sept 1. Grazing and haying operations will conclude Oct. 31.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.