The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is looking for your input on a draft environmental assessment on a proposal to move a portion of the Yellowstone National Park bison herd to the Marias River Wildlife Management Area (the former Charlie Lincoln ranch) in Toole County. A public hearing will be held in Shelby on October 6th.

Here are some of the details relating to the Marias River WMA:

The Marias River WMA is located 8 miles southwest of Shelby and 70 miles northwest of Great Falls in Pondera and Toole Counties and falls within FWP Administrative Region 4. The property consists of 8,866 contiguous acres (7,540 deeded, 492 DNRC, and 833 BLM) on the north and south sides of the Marias River. There are approximately 14 miles of Marias River frontage. Use of DNRC and BLM lands within the Marias River WMA are subject to their respective permitting processes.

Proposed improvements would include:

A. Boundary fencing: Fencing for a proposed bison pasture would encompass the entire WMA perimeter boundary (8,866 acres or approximately 20 linear miles). The fence would be 5-foot high and be constructed of 5 strand barbed wire. Smooth top and bottom wires may be used where fence conditions, topography, and/or wildlife passage dictates an adjustment. Heavy wood and steel posts would be to support the wires. Special fencing requirements must be met at the points where the Marias River enters and departs the WMA. These circumstances would be addressed on-site as fencing proceeds. Special fencing may include extended drift fencing, floater gate(s) and/or extended fence portions along or into the river.

B. Internal winter pasture fencing: Winter pasture fencing would be on an 880- acre pasture for the sake of controlled winter handling and monitoring purposes. Similar fence construction standards would apply.

C. Construct corrals and chutes for handling bison when veterinary care or research testing is required.

D. Install or modify a barn and shed to store maintenance equipment, hay, and mineral supplements for bison, and small office for staff.

Estimated start-up costs for this location are $846,110 and annual costs are estimated at $139,000. The source of these funds is yet to be determined.

Management of the bison at this location is described in section 2.1.2 and would meet the yearly APHIS testing requirements and decrease the possibility of the bison leaving the designated pasture area within the WMA.

The above details are from page 6 of the 105-page report.

More info specific to the Marias Valley WMA can be found on pages 48 and 49.

Click here to read the complete DAE.

 Addenda and updates to the DAE can be found at the FWP website here.

To comment on the DAE, click here.