Nonprofit wildlife reserve gets a permit to graze bison on public lands
A nonprofit organization with a 3 million-acre wildlife reserve in north-central Montana has received approval to graze bison on public lands.
American Prairie (formerly known as American Prairie Reserve) has obtained a permit from the federal Bureau of Land Management to graze bison on more than 63,000 acres in Phillips County.
The organization said in a news release Thursday that the reserve hopes to grow its herd to around 1,000 bison by 2025. Other parts of the reserve are leased for cattle grazing and support 10,000 head of cattle.
A Bureau of Land Management environmental analysis found in 2021 that bison grazing would have no significant impact on the land or local ranching economy.
Montana Republicans and some locals in the area have long protested the organization’s privately funded acquisition of ranchlands. They also worry bison could spread disease among cattle.
State Republican lawmakers passed a resolution in 2019 voicing their opposition to the permit. In a statement Thursday, Gov. Greg Gianforte said he shares “frustration” with Montanans over the decision to allow bison grazing and said there wasn’t enough opportunity for public input.
Both Gianforte and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said they would "consider next steps" after thoroughly reviewing the decision.
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