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Nature reserve reduces plan for bison grazing after rancher pushback

Nature reserve reduces plan for bison grazing after rancher pushback
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The American Prairie Reserve (APR), a conservation group determined to create the largest forest reserve in the lower 48 states, said Tuesday that it is scaling back its plan for increased bison grazing in Montana.

The group's original goal was 450 square miles where bison could freely roam. That number has shrunk to 94 square miles, The Associated Press reported.

APR Vice President Pete Geddes told the AP that the group didn't want nearby residents to feel "bulldozed." The revision also reduces the amount of interior fencing that would be removed and would limit the bison to seasonal grazing.

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However, APR is still intent on creating a 5,000-square-mile reserve that combines private and public lands and features at least 10,000 bison. APR already possesses leases for the public land in question.

Myriad herds of bison used to inhabit the region but the species was hunted almost to extinction by the end of the 18th century. 

Located near the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and the Missouri River, the reserve was created in 2001 and has received over $150 million in donations to date.

Opponents of the creation of the reserve weren't fazed by the revisions.

“APR is clear that their goal of controlling 3 million acres of public land and removing all cattle, people and signs of inhabitation hasn’t changed,” Montana resident Deanna Robbins told the AP. “Neither has our opposition.”

APR's plan is being reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which has given no estimate when its decision could be made.

If approved by the BLM, the reserve would be larger than Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks combined.