Opinion Editorial by Montana Stockgrowers Association
In a recent interview published by the Billings Gazette, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director, Tracey Stone-Manning, expressed positions that were of concern to the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) that we felt needed to be addressed. The first issue being Director Stone-Manning’s statements regarding corner crossing and the second regarding the appeal filed on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision regarding American Prairie’s grazing allotments.
The article references the May ruling by a federal judge that hunters in Wyoming who crossed from one corner of public land to another did not trespass on adjacent private lands. The rancher who brought the case has filed a notice for his plans to appeal the ruling.
In the interview, Director Stone-Manning is quoted as saying, “Our solicitors think it’s pretty clear. We’re taking that ruling quite seriously and making sure that our state directors are implementing it.”
MSGA strongly opposes this statement and would like to iterate that private property issues are at the authority of the state of Montana, the Montana legislature, and the citizens of Montana. They are not the authority of the BLM and are not subject to the federal government’s overreach.
MSGA and its members are passionate about protecting private property rights and we will continue to speak out against this issue and would remind the BLM that it is irresponsible to encourage others to unlawfully practice corner crossing in Montana.
Following the announcement of the U.S. Federal District Court Decision in Wyoming, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) Deputy Director Dustin Temple said, “Corner crossing remains unlawful in Montana, and Montanans should continue to obtain permission from the adjoining landowners before crossing corners from one piece of public land to another. Wardens will continue to report corner crossing cases to local county attorneys to exercise their prosecutorial discretion.”
Additionally, in the interview Director Stone-Manning addresses the appeal filed on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision regarding American Prairie’s grazing allotments, with statements such as;
“That process will be that process. We stand by the decision. When our permittees come to us and ask us to work with them for outcomes on the landscape, we do it. It doesn’t matter who the permittee is.”
“Stone-Manning said she has no knowledge regarding the ruling but said the sometimes heated rhetoric surrounding the issue is “unfortunate” and a view held by a minority.”
“I think that the work — the show-me-don’t-tell-me rule, right — the work we’re going to do on this restoration landscape to create better value for wildlife habitat, better value for our permittees, will speak for itself.”
Director Stone-Manning is correct that it should not matter who the permittee is when working with permittees on landscapes, but it absolutely does matter that actions taken are compliant with the law and in the best interest of the resource. It is distressing that the Director refers to doing this on “restoration landscape to create better value for wildlife habitat,” when moving to unmanaged, season-long grazing with less allowance for plants to rest goes against more than a century of research on good range management practices, regardless of what species is doing the grazing.
We cannot speak for others, but the Montana Stockgrowers Association has not been party to any “heated rhetoric.” Our issues are not with any specific permittee, but rather we draw issue with disregarding scientifically-proven resource management and not acting according to the law by replacing livestock with animals which will function more like wildlife as they are not managed as production livestock.
The strong support we have seen for our appeal of this faulty decision certainly indicates that ours is not a “minority” position. To be reduced in that language is an insult to the thousands of ranchers who hold permits and have worked for generations to be diligent stewards of public lands.
While Director Stone-Manning can view American ranchers as the minority, we are the majority voice for how decisions impact federal land permittees and local economies. This blatant disregard to local impacts, citizens, and controls shows the true intent and direction of where this federal agency is being led.