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Special Update about Antelope Basin habitat

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Your comments are urgently needed to protect potential buffalo habitat outside Yellowstone's western boundary. Please read the following information and send comments by the end of the day on Monday, January 27.

The Antelope Basin Environmental Assessment (EA) contains some interesting information. After the first edition of the EA came out in February 2002, there were a lot of negative comments on it, and the Beaverhead National Forest went back to work on it. On 5-15-02, the Bozeman Chronicle ran an editorial suggesting that Antelope Basin, if cattle grazing were to be suspended (Alternative C) or grazing were shifted to horses and/or sheep, would be prime summering and wintering grounds for bison.

Right now, there are about 11,225 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) allowed in the planning area and under Alternative A it would stay that way. Alternative B, the preferred Alternative, would reduce that number to about 10,453 AUMs. Alternative C suspends cattle grazing in the grazing allotments.

Antelope Basin is about 15 miles SW of Hebgen dam, not too far from Horse Butte, where the majority of bison slaughter has taken place in recent years. It is on the SE corner of the Gravelly Range between Cliff Lake and Raynolds Pass. Obviously, if you can graze 11,000+ cattle in the area, you could graze a lot of bison in the summer. They may even consider wintering there, instead of returning to Yellowstone, or migrate to there from Yellowstone in the winter as they did in 1997, only to be shot down by the Montana Dept. of Fish Wildlife and Parks.

This area also runs into the Centennial Valley area and the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness Area. To the west, north and south of Antelope Basin, there are three large roadless areas in the Gravelly, Snowcrest and Centennial Mountains, and huge basins in and between the three ranges. In other words, this could be an excellent area to consider for an expanding bison herd in search of new range.

Unfortunately, the Beaverhead NF has chosen to dodge the issue of bison habitat by concluding that because there are no bison there now, and that the Bison Management Plan for Yellowstone and Montana Environmental Impact Statement (BMP EIS) supposedly restricts bison to Yellowstone and a few minor areas outside of its boundaries, they aren't including analysis of bison or suitable habitat in its EA. The BMP EIS is an adaptive management plan, and can be revised to allow for bison migration or relocation to other areas under certain conditions.

Comments on the EA are due next Monday, January 27th, 2003 and either need to be postmarked and mailed to:
Mark Petroni, District Ranger
5 Forest Service Road
Ennis, MT 59729
--or emailed before close of business on the 27th to:
<mailto:r1_b-d_comments@fs.fed.us> (notice that's a number one in r1, and the spaces between are underscores.

Use the Subject: "Antelope Basin/Elk Lake AMPs in the subject line of your email.
Comments should include:

  • Name, Address and telephone number, and organization represented, if any;
  • The title of the document ("Antelope Basin/Elk Lake AMP Updates EA"), which the comments address; and
  • Specific facts and supporting reasons for the District ranger to consider

Anonymous comments will be accepted and considered, however, those who submit anonymous comments may not have standing to appeal the decision on this EA.

Urge Mr. Petroni to decide on Alternative C, and to consider utilizing the habitat in the area for wild bison from Yellowstone.

The text of the EA is available online at:

If you want to see a topographic map of the area, go to Topozone.com at:
<http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=12&n=4950747&e=462855&size=m>. You can zoom in or out at Topozone, or pan sideways, cornerways, or up and down to see the surrounding area.

The editorial in the Bozeman Chronicle by Glenn Hockett can be viewed online at:
"Bison migrated along the Madison River to the edge of the Antelope Basin during the winter of 1997 before they were gunned down by government agents acting on behalf of the livestock industry" --Glenn Hockett

An article in the Bozeman Chronicle, Jan. 30, 1997 entitled "Witnesses horrified by bison shoot," describes the end of the 22 mile journey from Yellowstone to Antelope Basin for 5 bison: <http://bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/1997/01/30/news35820.txt>


Bison Ecology Project

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