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Feds Approve Bison Grazing

A Bozeman based group formerly known as the American Prairie Reserve, now known as the less eyebrow raising American Prairie, has recently secured grazing rights and fencing removal permission for more than 800 bison to roam a mix of public and private lands in Montana. The group’s long range plan is to secure 5,000 square miles, a swath including the C.M Russell National Wildlife Refuge that would act as a nature preserve for bison. 

Local ranchers are concerned that this plan will displace them, put their cattle at risk of disease and ultimately end their agriculture based lifestyles. I for one am concerned about the loss of hunting, recreational opportunities and true conservation work that loom from not only American Prairie’s master plan to parse together such a massive tract of land but the federal government’s approval of it. 

In the past American Prairie has expressed a willingness to allow public access for hunting. However, it comes with a massive BUT… They have also publicly stated that hunting would not be granted in perpetuity and while they fully retain that right on the massive amount of acreage they have gobbled up, they do not have that right on the “leased” public lands they plan to pasture their bison on. That is, unless I’m missing something. That is a problem and should raise questions as to exactly what the endgame for American Prairie is. 

Hunters should be very suspicious of the motives of American Prairie. Taking the word preserve out of the name hints at deception. A look at their list of Collaborations reveals an alarming lack of hunting-related partnerships with true conservation groups such as RMEF, Ducks Unlimited, TRCP and others.

While I applaud the overall vision of American Prairie I question the alienation of hunters in the group’s plan. Afterall, Trophy Hunting IS conservation and hunters remain the greatest stewards of wildlands and wildlife, why not get us involved? 


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  1. Orion-Cazadores

    Hmm…a lot to unpack here? The good: possible added herd of huntable bison. No better meat on the planet and another possible tag for hunters. Suffice to say the herd will grow and the best method to manage with is -yep- hunting. It would be nice to see The most prevalent big game species in N America once upon a one time become a population that compares to elk in terms of tags etc. That’s a nice supplemental meat if u draw a bison tag every few years versus 1 in lifetime.
    The bad is it’s likely a nefarious endeavor. Making it into a novelty herd once again like so many other bison herds and then restricting not only bison hunts but every other species on that same refuge – resulting a net loss versus any gain ?
    As for ranchers crying – these are mostly the same guys that won’t allow hunting on their land. Who doesn’t love seeing millions of cattle on Nat Forest when ur elk hunting – it sucks and ruins the area in most instances. Think most are more concerned cattle and other invasive will actually infect the bison not the reverse. Bison also give the pro wolf expansionist fuel since wolves love bison.
    Bottom line is that playing God is tough when trying to control every single thing on the planet !

    • Montana Joe Schmoe

      The way I understand it, these bison are not going to be a huntable herd of bison, at least not by the common hunter. It’s going to be just like they had a huge herd of cattle grazing over all that land. This isn’t a public domain bison herd owned by the state…it’s a private herd that has the grazing leases on BLM lands and thus is allotted a certain amount of forage on those leases. Since they won’t be owned by the state, MT FWP isn’t going to be giving tags out to go shoot a bison in the Breaks.

      It’ll be just like in western MT where you have private herds, and the bison ranchers conduct their own “hunts” for super wealthy hunters to come add a bison to their trophy wall. For high paying hunters, they’ll even go buy some old bull from the bison ranch down the road and let you “hunt” the domestic bison.

      I definitely think it will be a little more interesting recreating and hunting on those BLM lands with a herd of bison roaming around and a private entity that likely doesn’t want public hunters in the area. I’d be curious about the safety issues present as well.

  2. I strongly suggest to if you want to have an opinion on this you go and actually visit the American Prarie land and information / visitor centre and speak to the incredible people dedicating themselves to this huge project and find out exactly what they are trying to do here. I have spent several weeks volunteering on the “reserve” … flying from the UK to do so each time. They are restoring the natural eco system from the grass up literally and the end game will be magnificent. When you understand what why and how they are doing things and what the reasoning and vision is …. You won’t have so many negative things to say I promise you!

  3. For good info on the American Prarie Reserve look up Range Magazine. Very informative, they want to lock up the whole thing for themselves. Not good.

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