United Property Owners of Montana sues FWP over Bison EIS

Charlie Denison
Senior Reporter
Friday, March 13, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

Stock image

Article Image Alt Text

Chuck Denowh

Chuck Denowh, policy director for the United Property Owners of Montana, has had enough, saying the wild bison Environmental Impact Statement recently released by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks shows “disregard for local input.”
“Someone has got to stand up for the Montanans whose way of life would be devastated by free-roaming bison,” Denowh said. “That’s why we’ve filed this suit.”
Denowh said he and others associated with UPOM believe  “FWP is seeking to implement their plan for wild bison without evaluating all of the risks,” which is tremendously concerning, as Denowh said there are a lot of risks involved.
FWP spokesman Greg Lemon begs to differ.
“This EIS was made after a lengthy and exhaustive public process,” he said. “We incorporated all the recommendations from the citizens of the impacted communities. Landowner concerns were heard. It was a transparent public process.”
Lemon said the EIS does not promote putting the bison anywhere.
“Each proposal will be reviewed individually,” he said. “We certainly understand the controversy regarding bison. It’s harder to understand how anyone would oppose the transparent public process that the public asked for and that we established through this EIS.”
Nevertheless, Denowh is dissatisfied, as he said, “Bison are carriers of brucellosis, ‘mad cow’ and other diseases that could decimate the livestock industry of our state and could be spread to other wildlife species.”
“The EIS also fails to address the potential for damage to private property that could be caused by herds of wild bison,” said Denowh. “On a proposal this far-reaching, Montanans deserve to have a thorough analysis done of all the associated risks and impacts—not just the ones that are convenient for FWP to include.”
Denowh claims FWP is pushing this plan through without getting enough input from the public, as they closed their public comment period in 2015.
“The landowners that farm and ranch in the areas that are targeted for this wild bison reintegration, they are the ones with skin in the game if wild bison cause damage or spread diseases,” said Denowh. “They are the ones FWP should be listening to, not the American Prairie Reserve. The landowners don’t receive any of the benefits. We should not be giving one group the benefit.”
According to Denowh, the EIS has been in the works for about a decade, and he believes FWP kind of accelerated it at the end.”
“We think they did a deficient job putting it together,” he said.
A summons was issued in Fergus County March 9. UPOM has yet to serve FWP.
“That being the case, we kind of find ourselves in an awkward position right now,” said Lemon.
According to Montana Tenth Judicial District Court Administrator Rebecca Greene, UPOM has up to two years to serve FWP.
UPOM is a Montana non-profit made up of landowner and agriculture interests dedicated to protecting property rights.



Do you think the coronavirus will spread into Central Montana?