NWF Supports Effort to Revamp Montana’s Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge Conservation Plan

New plan would improve wildlife habitat, prioritize outdoor recreation

09-10-2010 // Aislinn Maestas
Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge

The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge system. Encompassing more than one million acres, the CMR refuge includes native prairies, forested coulees, river bottoms, and badlands. The refuge is home to populations of mule deer, bighorn sheep, antelope, sharp-tailed grouse, sage-grouse, prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets, and over 236 species of birds.

To help conserve this treasured landscape, the National Wildlife Federation has been working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) while they develop a new Comprehensive Conservation Plan. If approved, the plan will significantly improve refuge management and wildlife conservation.

“The CMR is one of the last remaining intact prairie ecosystems in North America and little has changed since the days Lewis and Clark explored the area over 200 years ago,” said Kit Fischer , NWF Outreach Coordinator for the Northern Rockies and Prairies Regional Center. “Protecting this rich landscape and its wildlife is vitally important.”

Every 15 years, FWS is required to undergo a Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement that defines the long-term management for the refuge. After more than three years of meetings and planning sessions, a draft of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan was released on September 7, 2010. The National Wildlife Federation strongly believes this plan is the best option for maintaining quality outdoor recreation opportunities, as well as for improving wildlife habitat.

If approved, the plan would:

  • Through the use of prescribed fire, grazing and hunting, the FWS plans to restore natural processes on the refuge, benefitting diverse plant and animal species. 
  • Prescriptive grazing, the concept of using grazing as a tool to benefit wildlife habitat, would be utilized to maintain and improve habitat conditions.
  • The FWS would actively cooperate with Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) to provide quality hunting experiences and opportunities not found on other public lands in eastern Montana.

For more information, read NWF's summary of the proposed plan and our "Sportsmen Speak Out - Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge Factsheet."

Related Resources
  • Take Action

    Join NWF in supporting this effort. The public is highly encouraged to comment on the draft plan as well as attend public meetings which will be held this month around the state. For more information please visit http://www.fws.gov/cmr/planning/index.html


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