Earlier this week Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced that they will be hosting a series of public meetings this spring as a first step toward developing a long-term bison conservation and management plan for the state. The plan will be developed through a programmatic environmental impact statement, which will address issues associated with bison and options for their long-term management as a Montana wildlife species.
The programmatic EIS, which will take about three years to complete, will examine an array of issues and possible alternatives—including no action—and each alternative’s potential beneficial and adverse environmental, social, and economic impact.
FWP will begin a formal public “scoping” process as required under the Montana Environmental Policy Act. Public scoping is aimed at identifying issues, impacts, public concerns, and conservation challenges and opportunities. The comments will assist FWP in further identifying issues and developing possible alternatives.
Some issues already identified include: (1) the risk of bison spreading disease to domestic livestock, (2) competition between bison and other wildlife, (3) competition between bison and livestock for rangeland, (4) damage to fencing, (5) public safety, and (6) the legal classification and status of bison in Montana.
Eight scoping meetings are scheduled for May. The sessions will be held from 6-9 p.m., with the first hour dedicated to informal discussions and the remainder of the evening set for recording scoping comments. Here are the meeting dates and locations:
May 14 - Missoula Holiday Inn Downtown – 200 S. Pattee St.
May 15 - Kalispell Red Lion Hotel – 20 N. Main St.
May 16 - Glasgow Cottonwood Inn – 45 1st Ave NE
May 17 - Helena Montana Wild Center – 2668 Broadwater Ave.
May 21 - Billings Holiday Inn Grand MT Convention Center – 5500 Midland Rd.
May 22 - Miles City BLM conference room, BLM center – 111 Garryowen Rd.
May 23 - Great Falls Townhouse Inn – 1411 10th Ave. S.
May 24 - Bozeman Holiday Inn on Baxter – 5 Baxter Lane
Last year, in anticipation of a programmatic EIS proposal, FWP prepared a summary of bison history and activities in the West that offers information related to the possible restoration of bison in Montana. The “Bison Background Document” presents information on the bison's genetic and disease history, management concerns and a brief synopsis of different bison management philosophies among an array of private groups and organizations. The document is available online here. The document may also be obtained on CD or other formats by calling Margaret Morelli at 406-994-6780 or via email at MMorelli@mt.gov.
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