Spotted Dog WMA closeup

Pictured is an archived photo of the Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area.

A proposal by Fish, Wildlife & Parks to put in place a new cooperative cattle grazing system on a portion of the Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area is up for public comment.

The plan is aimed at improving elk and other wildlife habitat. It will include acreage from the McQueary Ranch, which is adjacent private land. 

The proposal will need approval from the Fish and Wildlife Commission to go into effect. The commission will consider it at the April 25 meeting, which will be held at the Bozeman regional office, 1400 S. 19th St.

The plan, if approved, would remain in effect for six years beginning in early summer 2019.

The proposed plan would create periods of "rest" from cattle grazing in specific areas. FWP says the grazing system would enhance grassland habitat for elk and other wildlife by fostering more grass and shrub growth and variety.

“Plant regrowth and diversity that results from grazing is important to elk in spring and fall and can be attractive to a variety of other wildlife species for foraging or nesting,” Mike Thompson, FWP Region 2 wildlife manager, said through a news release.

The land under the proposal is not elk winter range but provides spring and fall forage as elk migrate between summer and winter ranges.

A total of 2,800 acres of the Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area would be available for grazing over a four-year period. That equals about 8 percent of the wildlife management area.

Each year, somewhere between 600 and 750 acres of the wildlife management area would be grazed and then “rested” from grazing for three subsequent years. In exchange, two-thirds of the 2,100 acres of adjacent McQueary Ranch lands would be rested from grazing annually to allow for growth of critical winter elk forage and to foster more diverse wildlife habitat.

To request more information or make comments, contact Region 2 FWP, 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula, MT 59804; 406-542-5540; or shrose@mt.gov. Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. March 28.

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