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Gallatin NF Keeps Public in Dark about Horse Butte Grazing Plan

67,000 people who commented on Yellowstone Bison Management Plan kept in the dark about grazing allotment on National Forest land
Gallatin NF Keeps Public in Dark about Horse Butte Grazing Plan


November 1, 2001 -- For Immediate Release

67,000 people who commented on Yellowstone Bison Management Plan kept in the dark about grazing allotment on National Forest land

Press Contacts:

Darrell Geist, Executive Director, Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers 406-728-0867
Michael Markarian, Executive Vice President, The Fund for Animals 301-585-2591
Jim Coefield, The Ecology Center Inc. 406-728-5733
DJ Schubert, Wildlife Biologist, Schubert & Associates 602-547-8537

(Missoula -- MT) An alliance of Yellowstone bison advocates today criticized the U.S. Forest Service for keeping the pubic in the dark on their plans to renew a grazing allotment on National Forest land that provides traditional habitat for Yellowstone's wild bison herd.

The groups say the U.S. Forest Service failed to properly inform 67,520 people who commented on the Bison Management Plan developed by the state of Montana and several federal agencies including Yellowstone National Park and the U.S. Forest Service.

"The Forest Service has abrogated its responsibility to the American public and to America's bison by avoiding public scrutiny of this critical issue and by downplaying the significance of its decision on the future of cows and wildlife on public lands," states Michael Markarian, Executive Vice-President of The Fund for Animals.

"It's unfortunate that the Gallatin National Forest re-issued the grazing permit last fall. They could've just let the allotment rest," says Jim Coefield of The Ecology Center. "And while the Interagency Bison Management Plan short-changed bison habitat on the Gallatin outside of Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin has a clear duty under the National Forest Management Act. They must provide suitable habitat and viable populations for all species present on the Forest, including bison, and Horse Butte is prime bison habitat."

On September 28, 2001 the Hebgen Lake District of the Gallatin National Forest issued a scoping letter to 125 parties "seeking public comments on a proposal to continue livestock grazing on the Horse Butte allotment through re-issuance of a term grazing permit." The grazing allotment permits 147 cow/calf pairs and 30 horses to range on 2,065 acres of National Forest land on Horse Butte Peninsula near West Yellowstone, Montana. The annual allotment returns $750.60 to the U.S. Treasury. (Source: Forest Service Region 1, May 2, 1997)

Horse Butte provides winter range and spring calving habitat for Yellowstone's migrating bison herds and is also the staging grounds for Montana Department of Livestock bison haze, capture and slaughter operations. Since the mid-1980's over 3,000 buffalo have been killed to control brucellosis. The government estimates it will cost $2.6 to $2.9 million dollars annually to implement its 15-year plan. (Source: Bison Management Plan for the State of Montana and Yellowstone National Park, August 2000)

"The federal government and the State of Montana are spending millions of our taxpayer dollars to implement their plan, surely they have some money left over to keep the public informed of how they are living up to their agreement," states Darrell Geist of Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers.

In a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, The Fund for Animals, Schubert & Associates, The Ecology Center Inc. and Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers requested that the public lands agency:

* Invite the participation of the 67,520 people who commented on the Bison Management Plan for the State of Montana and Yellowstone National Park, and re-start the public comment period.
* Develop a website to facilitate public involvement in the Forest's proposal to re-issue a grazing allotment for Horse Butte.
* Hold public meetings in West Yellowstone and Bozeman, Montana and other communities that have demonstrated an interest in this proposal.

"For over a decade the Forest Service has been complicit in the destruction of Yellowstone bison for the sole benefit of ranchers and a handful of cattle," states D.J. Schubert of Schubert & Associates. "The Forest Service has an opportunity to ensure that bison, not cattle, are given priority on public lands outside of Yellowstone National Park and must engage all interested parties in this debate. Anything less is unacceptable."

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homepage: homepage: http://www.wildrockies.org/buffalo
phone: phone: 406-728-0867
address: address: PO Box 7941, Missoula, MT 59807


The most serious objection 01.Nov.2001 14:37

Mike stepbystepfarm@shaysnet.com

The most serious unfairness about all this is these grazing allotment things are NOT open to bid as claimed. It's a case of "only cattle grazers need apply". All this fuss over a grazing allotement that "went" for ~$750. Of COURSE those cattle folks wkeep claiming that we environmentalists won't put our money where our mouths are.

UTTER NONSENSE! It would be trivially easy say to find 100 of us to each kick in $10/year to offer $1000 for that allotment to let the bison graze there. Except that's NOT allowed. You aren't allowed to bid for an allotment on that basis -- not to be grazed (by commercial critters). Just like you aren't allowed to bid on a forest tract "not to cut".