"Wilderness, Grazing Fuel Debate Over 1.1M-Acre Montana Refuge"

"The Fish and Wildlife Service has been flooded with public comments over a proposed management plan for the second-largest national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states, including an 8,000-acre net decrease in potential wilderness area and significant changes in how livestock are managed.

More than 20,000 comments have been received on the draft comprehensive conservation plan for the 1.1-million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Montana. The refuge encompasses a 125-mile stretch of the Missouri River and contains significant populations of iconic Western species such as Rocky Mountain elk, white-tail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets.

More than 250,000 people visit the refuge annually to hunt, fish, hike and bird-watch, and many more know the native prairie and badlands landscape through the paintings of Charles M. Russell, the prolific American artist for whom the refuge is named. Russell helped solidify the image of the rugged and untamed West through his late 19th- and early 20th-century paintings of the region and its inhabitants."
Laura Petersen reports for Greenwire July 14, 2011.

Source: Greenwire, 07/15/2011