This is an open letter from Michael Fred Ereaux of Malta, a member of the Montana Community Preservation Alliance, to Tom France, the Missoula-based senior director for western wildlife conservation for the National Wildlife Federation, whose opinion piece “Planning can help to resolve bison battles” was printed in state newspapers last week.
I live close to CMR, and I have witnessed what sound wildlife management brings. You say that CMR would be the best place to reintroduce bison. Have you considered that the majority of the roads that traverse through the CMR have been closed to vehicles, there by limiting access by visitors and tourists.
Let’s face it, most people viewing wildlife would prefer it through a window not walking for miles to get a glimpse of a bison or elk. Yellowstone on the other hand has many roads and lots of opportunity to view wildlife from a air-conditioned vehicle.
CMR has very few roads, and I can assure (you) that tourism in this area is limited to certain periods of the year, late spring, summer and perhaps early fall. The rest of the time Mother Nature limits mobility by severe weather. I don't know if you have ever driven down a gumbo road after a inch of rain or have been stranded due to a three-day snow storm or have walked in a 100 degree day fighting mosquitoes. I have, but I live here and I prepare for the likelihood of these events.
Communications and people are limited, so help usually means that you rely on yourself, no AAA, etc. Cell service is improving but again, don't rely on it. So your assessment of tourism as a savior to the economy of our area is naive.
Current wildlife management also encourages wildlife to go off CMR to find lush grass and habitat. You see we (agriculture production) use what Mother Nature gives us to produce food for a hungry world. Due to this mentality, we take care of the land or it will not take care of us. This includes water development, weed management, sound grazing practices and yes, activities like hunting and tourism.
CMR's answer is to have prescribed burns on old growth and very limited grazing. Even with these practices you will find wildlife from the CMR on private ground that is adjacent to the CMR more often then not. Our government chooses not to raise food here but instead gives food stamps to solve the problem of hunger.
This area is much like it was thousands of years ago due to ranching and ag production. Wildlife has not always been so prevalent, read Lewis and Clark’s journal or talk to a few old-timers, who remember when wildlife were scarce and could not be found anywhere except next to year round water sources. It was ranchers and homesteaders that developed water sources to live and wildlife piggybacked into those desolate areas and have thrived.
I am sure you are considering the CMR also due to the American Prairie Reserve’s close proximity. What a coup, tie up millions of acres for a few rich people and environmental groups.
In addition, your comments toward the survey that states 2 to 1 public support of bison is bogus. I believe you are referring to a survey commissioned by World Wildlife Fund by a West Virginia firm. Well, sir, a survey in our area, a written petition and well attended public scoping meetings put on by FWP state the opposite. I would feel safe to say the numbers would be almost or greater then 3 to 1 against.
I am sure you are thinking that we who live here just want to keep the landscape for ourselves. Quite the opposite. Until this bison issue came to light, I can't think of any of my neighbors who locked up private ground to hunting, rock hunting or just about any human activity allowable. Not true now, many ranches have put up big orange signs that say no trespassing, Thousands of acres are currently locked up with more to come.
What Gov. Bullock did was to further alienate Montana's biggest industry. Paying back those who elected him was his number one reason. Wildlife is part of our state but so are those who live in your target area (eastern Montana). The only difference between him and Gov. (Brian Schweitzer) is that he is more coyote and not as arrogant.
In conclusion, I feel there are enough bison in Yellowstone Park (4000-plus where 450 should be), current herds on reservations and those held by bison ranchers. These can be viewed comfortably by John Q. Public. The bison legacy is just fine where it currently stands.