Leaders from the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (Montana BHA) and the Anaconda Sportsmen Club joined FWP personnel on June 12 to observe the grazing that had begun three days prior on a portion of Spotted Dog WMA. Montana BHA had previously expressed concerns about this WMA and had requested an opportunity to view the proposed sites.
On their tour, Montana BHA Board Conservation Director Greg Munther and member Corey Ellis heard from numerous FWP wildlife and range experts about their plans for the WMA's management and how the pasture design was intended to improve elk forage while minimizing adverse effects to riparian areas, and how monitoring was planned to document how the grazing concept was working. We were glad to hear that the grazing plan excludes fragile south-facing slopes with important wildlife forage species like bitterbrush.
Though the tour attendees found scattered invasive plants like cheatgrass, they were glad to see these in low densities and to hear that FWP was already actively addressing these undesirable plants. Two troubling detractors from the tour included seeing cattle grazing in lower riparian areas, but not yet in the higher pastures where elk forage would benefit the most from grazing, as well as realizing that the new $10,000 electric fence paid for by sportsmen was not operating as planned and some cattle had already escaped.
Montana BHA will be revisiting the grazed pasture with FWP at the end of grazing (July 31) to assess how cattle used the pasture, the effects of grazing and what changes may be appropriate in subsequent years. Montana BHA is committed to helping where feasible to make this new endeavor as successful as possible.
We appreciative of the planning effort and additional plans made by FWP to monitor the grazing operation that are intended to increase the value of forage for elk and to improve range conditions on private land by encouraging cattle rest of neighboring private lands that also make up elk winter range.