Governor Gianforte Appeals Biden Administration’s Bison Grazing Decision
HELENA, Mont. (STL.News) Governor Greg Gianforte last week appealed the Biden administration’s approval of the American Prairie Reserve’s (APR) bison grazing proposal for 63,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in northeast Montana. The federal decision comes despite significant opposition from impacted communities and elected officials in Montana.
In an appeal to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), the governor outlined reasons the BLM’s decision must be reversed and the permits set aside.
First and most importantly, the governor argues BLM lacks the authority to issue the permit.
“Regardless of whether BLM labels the herd ‘indigenous animals,’ ‘indigenous livestock,’ ‘domestic indigenous animals,’ or ‘domestic indigenous livestock’ the agency’s action exceeds its authority, violating statute and rule. The herd in question is not livestock under federal law and the permit contemplated cannot be authorized,” the governor’s appeal reads.
Citing the BLM’s failure to appropriately review APR’s proposal and meet public participation obligations, the governor also contends the agency’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review was insufficient.
“BLM’s NEPA analysis is fundamentally flawed because it does not take the requisite ‘hard look’ at APR’s proposal,” Gov. Gianforte argues. “BLM [also] failed to guarantee informed public participation in its decision-making.”
The appeal continues, “For these reasons, the analysis is deficient, and the permits should be set aside.”
Using a four-factor test, the governor’s appeal also petitions DOI for a stay, citing no relative harm to parties if the stay is granted, the state’s strong likelihood of success in its appeal, the immediate and irreparable harm the state will suffer if the stay is denied, and the public’s interest in a stay.
The appeal concludes, “The Decision violates BLM’s obligations under federal statutory and regulatory authorities and under NEPA. The Decision, if made effective, will cause immediate and irreparable harm to the State and to the public. Therefore, the Decision should be stayed pending appeal.”
In September 2021, Gov. Gianforte and four state agencies raised issues with the BLM’s Environmental Assessment of the APR’s bison grazing proposal. Gov. Gianforte and leaders from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Livestock submitted public comment to BLM highlighting the agency’s lack of authority to enact its proposal, its failure to analyze the full range of impacts of its proposal, and its failure to provide the public with sufficient opportunity for in-person, public comment.
In July 2021, Gov. Gianforte repeatedly called on BLM to provide Montanans with sufficient opportunity for in-person, public comment on its Environmental Assessment of the APR’s bison grazing proposal. On July 22, 2021, Gov. Gianforte admonished BLM officials for failing to engage with Montanans, writing, “One public hearing, conducted via Zoom in the middle of the afternoon, cannot and should not replace engaging face-to-face with residents in the impacted communities. I urge you to talk with local residents where they live and work, not behind a computer screen.”
Gov. Gianforte’s full notice of appeal may be found here.
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