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It’s no coincidence Montana’s two largest industries are agriculture and outdoor recreation. These two economies are the lifeblood of many small towns. The Montana way of life is as much about exploring natural wonders and hunting and fishing as it is our rural roots.

Montana is big enough for all these things. That’s especially true in the vast grasslands of north central Montana where American Prairie Reserve has been conserving land and wildlife and welcoming visitors from all backgrounds to experience the prairie for over a decade.

In that decade, we’ve seen how agriculture and outdoor recreation work hand in hand. While there are some disagreements about how the Reserve should move forward, those discussions come from a shared place of love of the prairie and the people and animals who call it home. American Prairie Reserve is committed to the future of agriculture in Montana. We lease our lands to ranchers and work with many family agricultural producers. We’re also working to be good neighbors to those who live and work around us.

That’s why we scaled back our original application to expand bison grazing on public lands where we have grazing privileges. It’s important to us to listen to local concerns, and to work together in the local community to solve those differences

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The revised application no longer removes interior fences, and it no longer transitions to season-long grazing for all our grazing allotments. Instead, we have proposed a limited demonstration area to further showcase how this grazing strategy can benefit Montana’s land, water and wildlife which would be monitored by land managers and range scientists.

We hope these changes to our proposal represent our commitment to being good neighbors, and they are viewed as a step in the right direction that gives everyone more time to find common ground in this special part of the state.

We’re hopeful that the majority of Montanans can work together, put aside our biases and listen to each other when it comes to protecting the economy, heritage and conservation legacy that is vital to central Montana’s future.

At the end of the day, agriculture and conservation go hand in hand. We each have an important role to play as land stewards of the world’s last functioning grasslands for the next generation to ranch, explore and enjoy.

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Damien Austin is the reserve superintendent at American Prairie Reserve and is based in Malta.

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