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BLM OKs Switch From Cattle To Bison Near Malta

Bison at Fort Belknap
Mark Azure

After a nine month analysis, the Bureau of Land Management is now prepared to allow bison to replace cattle on a publicly-owned grazing allotment near Malta.

It’s at the request of the American Prairie Reserve, a non-profit that’s trying to piece together 3.5 million acres of private and public land in the area. The group wants to restore bison and enhance habitat for other native species.

On this particular 13,000 acre grazing allotment in Phillips County, American Prairie Reserve is asking to graze 385 bison year round.

Vanita Shea, the BLM’s field manager in Malta, says the proposal drew mostly negative comments when the agency posted it last March.

"We received about 140 letters and e-mails, and they were all kinds of different comments," Shea said. "Some people were concerned about the habitat, concerned about the year round use, concerned about bison. And there were some comments that were supportive."

The BLM’s environmental analysis notes that bison had been present on the landscape since the last ice age, and that no ecological problems are expected as long as the number of animals is controlled. The agency also says the proposal will likely benefit greater sage grouse, since American Prairie Reserve plans to remove 14.5 miles of internal fences.

Opponents of the BLM’s decision have 15 days to lodge a complaint, otherwise it becomes final.

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