Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is calling on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to scrap its rubber-stamp analysis of the American Prairie Reserve’s (APR) radical grazing change of use permit proposal aimed at fundamentally transforming northeastern Montana.

“My office will vigorously protect the lawful interests of Montana families and agricultural producers. Montana communities can only thrive when we are working together. it does not work for Montana to have BLM rubber-stamp a radical proposal aimed at fundamentally transforming Northeastern Montana. We deserve better than that. “My concerns regarding APR’s ‘vision’ to transform Northeast Montana into a wildlife viewing shed for out-of-staters at the expense of local communities, local families, and local agricultural producers only grew more pronounced after hearing from over 250 Montanans directly, ~ Austin Knudsen, Montana Attorney General

In the comments filed yesterday on the BLM’s Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and Draft Environmental Assessment (EA), Attorney General Knudsen spelled out multiple legal issues with the BLM’s inadequate review process and with the APR’s proposal itself.

“Whatever motives APR may harbor, and whatever donors APR may serve, its interests in this change of use permit request run afoul of clear statutory and regulatory guidelines,” Knudsen wrote in the comments. “BLM should scrap the Draft FONSI and EA and conduct a more thorough review for the benefit of Montanans and the affected communities.”

Montana Attorney Genera Austin Knudesen

The changes BLM proposes to accept are contrary to decades-old grazing laws and failed to consider important local interests while also shutting out public input from agriculturalists in affected communities.

APR’s mission, statements, and goals are at odds with the Taylor Grazing Act’s intent to promote the livestock industry.  APR seeks bison as wildlife, not livestock.  Putting them in a made-up and legally meaningless “indigenous livestock” category undermines the law, hurts the local agricultural economy, and defies logic. Existing regulatory structure clearly defines livestock to preclude bison and BLM cannot use ill-defined terms to insert bison into the definition of livestock.

Further, BLM failed to analyze the consequences of APR’s full plan to reasonably calculate impacts to local communities and to the state as required by law. National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to consider the full scope of a proposed action to determine whether it will have a significant impact.  APR makes it clear that the current proposal is still a part of its grand scheme to displace northeast Montana’s livestock industry and replace it with a large outdoor zoo.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Knudsen held a public listening session in Malta, Montana to hear from the local agriculturalists the BLM effectively ignored and shutout from the process when its single public “meeting” held in the middle of the day in July. The BLM’s scheduling and format was clearly intended to benefit out-of-state and lobbying interests at the expense of the agriculturalists in northeastern Montana. More than 250 Montanans came to Knudsen’s meeting.

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