Deforestation for Cows in Montana’s Gravelly Range

On Jan. 9, 2017, the Forest Service (FS) met with the Gravelly Landscape Collaborative which included groups as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and The Nature Conservancy, to plan the Greenhorn Vegetation Project in the Gravelly Landscape.

The jointly-planned vegetation treatments were recently released for public comment. The FS and collaborators have proposed slashing/burning over 16,000 acres of inventoried roadless lands because there are too many trees and shrubs.

Fire is needed to get rid of this offending vegetation, much which may be replaced with cheatgrass. The proposal failed to define why the woodlands and wooded-shrublands that are to be removed are not being used by wildlife. These areas provide important elk and mule deer winter range, elk and deer fawning/calving habitat, and key habitats for at least a dozen bird species identified as Montana Species of Concern.

The USFS and collaborators also plan to burn sagebrush. They have determined that sage grouse habitat in this landscape has too much sagebrush. Burning big holes in this sagebrush will create more grass, which sage grouse apparently like as much as cows do. In addition to sage grouse, hunters will also supposedly benefit from the new roads and logging proposed outside of the Sheep Mountain roadless lands.

With less security, elk will be easier to kill, unless they choose to avoid hunters by moving to private lands, an ongoing trend in Montana. Finally, the USFS and collaborators concluded that long periods of spring helicopter use in the Greenhorn roadless lands will not really bother grizzly bears, including sow/cub groups, because 10 years of spring disturbances are considered to be “temporary.”

Unfortunately, groups that have the money and time to attend meetings to collaborate with the USFS are promoting the degradation of lands owned by all Americans.