19-06: Requesting the BLM Deny the American Prairie Reserve Proposal to Remove Interior Fences and Graze Bison/Buffalo Year Round

WHEREAS , when the Lewis and Clark “Corps of Discovery” traveled up the Missouri River through northeastern Montana in the spring of 1804 they encountered immense herds of wild ungulates.  They also recorded very poor range conditions and severe erosion in the vicinity of the river; and

WHEREAS, on May 12, 1804 the expedition was halted by a dust storm along the river in what is now Phillips County; and

WHEREAS, over the next 100 years the bison/buffalo herds were replaced by domestic livestock that grazed freely on the open range; and

WHEREAS, the beginning of the twentieth century saw an invasion of homesteaders that plowed up the native prairie and grazed their livestock on the open rangeland; and

WHEREAS, in the 1930s the combination of plowed land, overgrazing and drought resulted in what has been called the ‘Dust Bowl’ as blowing dust drifted all the way to Washington, D.C.; and

WHEREAS, Congress reacted to this disaster by passing the Taylor Grazing Act, forming the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) and encouraging the states to establish Conservation Districts; and

WHEREAS, for more than 80 years, the Conservation Districts, working with state and federal agencies and other entities, have assisted farmers and ranchers in implementing practices that protect their soil and water resources; and

WHEREAS, the research and results clearly show that livestock populations must be managed and that rotational grazing provides benefits to vegetation and the water cycle; and

WHEREAS, the American Prairie Reserve (APR), (the nonprofit ‘land trust partner’ of the World Wildlife Fund) recently petitioned the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to allow them to remove all interior fences and graze bison/buffalo year-round on 18 of their holdings that include federal grazing leases; and

WHEREAS, the BLM requested an Environmental Assessment (EA) (paid for by APR) that will guide their decision, rather than a more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); and

WHEREAS, history has shown that unmanaged ungulate/livestock grazing is very detrimental to the vegetation, soils and water cycle.  (A recent example is the devastation caused by unmanaged bison/buffalo in Yellowstone National Park);

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED,  the Montana Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) strongly opposes the APR’s request to ignore over 80 years of proven grazing management success and their proposal to implement practices that have been proven to be disastrous to the natural resources; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the MACD requests the BLM to protect the soil, water, economy and livelihoods in our districts by conducting an EIS that will address the concerns of our constituents.