This statement taken from the National Public News service article, American Prairie Reserve Rebukes MT House of Resolution, March 8, 2019, gives a glimpse into the mindset of the American Prairie Reserve (APR).
“They’re obviously going to have to be managed, just like any other wildlife species in the state is,” he (APR Vice President, Pete Geddes) said. “But to think that we can’t be generous enough to open our hearts and part of the public lands in this state to that magnificent animal, I think, is extremely short sighted.”
No, Mr. Geddes, the APR bison should NOT be managed like any other wildlife species. Your APR bison are livestock. Owned bison are livestock, clearly not wildlife and therefore should be managed and regulated as livestock. Livestock are allowed to graze in a managed fashion on the BLM.
The APR seems to slide into the mindset that their domestic bison are somehow special. To state that we, Montana ranchers, “can’t be generous enough to open our hearts and part of the public lands in this state to that magnificent animal,” implies that somehow the APR’s livestock is more magnificent or valuable than any other bison or cattle rancher’s livestock in the state. APR believes they deserve special treatment and drastic changes to the BLM grazing permits which would most likely NOT be granted to any other livestock producer.
APR’s vice president, Geddes trys to minimize ranchers concerns by saying, “his group is being used as a bogeyman to scare property owners into believing bison will be set loose across Montana.” An excerpt from the APR REINTRODUCING PLAINS BISON (BOS BISON) TO AMERICAN PRAIRIE FOUNDATION LANDS IN NORTHCENTRAL MONTANA: 5-YEAR CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT PLAN, page 10-11 very much states the long term goal as bison restoration as wildlife on a large landscape.
Following the recommendations of Boyd (2003a), we will emphasize the wildlife conservation value of bison and the differences between wild and domestic bison. We view this project as a wildlife reintroduction and as such will follow all appropriate strategies and protocols recommended for wild species reintroductions, recognizing limitations to this model imposed by husbandry practices and legal constraints. We recognize in the short term the need to plan and manage bison as semi-domestic and confined, but our long-term goal is for a naturally regulated free-ranging population of wildlife. With respect to our premise, our primary goal will be to restore a population of bison that is ecologically effective (Pyare and Berger 2003) over a large landscape. Such a goal is very much different than managing bison for production, or in small confined areas, or in the traditional livestock management paradigm.”
The APR is asking for modifications to its grazing permit on 18 BLM grazing allotments. Changing from cattle to bison, removing the interior fences and allowing year-round grazing are drastic not simple changes to the BLM allotments.
Another excerpt from the APR REINTRODUCING PLAINS BISON (BOS BISON) TO AMERICAN PRAIRIE FOUNDATION LANDS IN NORTHCENTRAL MONTANA: 5-YEAR CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT PLAN, page 11-12 where their document compares traditional livestock management to the APR’s goals in management states as follows.
(Livestock) Managers usually try to avoid heavy grazing and severe soil disturbance. Because the historic occurrence of these phenomena over large areas reduced the long-term ability of many landscapes to support cattle, their prevention ranks among the most sacred tenets of good range management. However, some rare native plants (e.g., blowout penstemon, Penstemon haydenii) (Stubbendieck et al. 1997) and animals (e.g., blackfooted ferret, mountain plover, and other prairie-dog-ecosystem species) (Koford 1959; Knowles et al. 1982; Knowles 1986) are associated with sites considered overgrazed by conventional standards. Management for these and some other “disturbance” species will require balancing their needs against potentially undesirable side effects of heavy grazing and disturbance, such as encroachment of invasive exotics.
Managers strive for uniform cropping of the forage base. Managing grazing animals on western ranges was built on the use of water and salt distribution, fencing, and sometimes herding to achieve spatially uniform utilization of forage (Stoddart and Smith 1955:324, Coughenour 1991). As this review suggests, the concept of uniform utilization ignores habitat needs of some species that rely on lightly and heavily grazed grasslands. Because spatially patchy grazing is normal behavior for grazing animals, capitalizing on this tendency can be a prime management tool for enhancing biodiversity.
Reading the document one would infer that the APR plans on having areas of overgrazing and ground disturbance. Perhaps that is okay on their private deeded acres, but should the BLM permit be changed to allows such practices for the APR’s domestic bison??
The websites of Turner’s bison ranches in Montana and multiple other states, though large in acres and bison numbers, promote rotational grazing.
Here are a few examples—
Z Bar Ranch “Patch burning and rotational grazing are utilized to mimic the historical grazing patterns in a native prairie ecosystem.
The Z Bar Ranch has six solar livestock water well locations that produce a total of 180 gallons per minute under full sunshine.”
Setting the tone for sustainability in the Sandhills ecosystem, the ranch follows the company’s mission, “to manage Turner lands in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner while promoting the conservation of native species,” said Tyrell Anderson, manager, Blue Creek Ranch.
First, they focus on using rest-rotation grazing on the range pastures to accomplish their end goal. “We do not go back and graze a pasture during the growing season any sooner than 13 months after a grazing event to give pastures adequate time to recover,” Anderson said. “A pasture will then have a full growing season rest after we use it during a dormant season grazing during the fall or winter.”
The bison are kept in one herd and managed through 37 pastures on a rotational basis, including both irrigated river bottom and native range.
Rancher and legislators are not wrong in urging the BLM to deny the requested changes in the Livestock grazing permits, nor are they wrong to be wary of APR’s next move.