A Conservation Ordinance and a Fundraiser in Phillips County, what does it all mean?


By Margo Pankratz


There has been a flurry of information floating around regarding an ordinance that was passed in Phillips County. Now, a group of locals in Malta are hosting a fundraiser to help the Phillips County Livestock Association and the North & South Phillips County Grazing Districts cover costs that will be associated with hearing the APR’s request for a variance. For some of us outside of the Phillips County we are left wondering, ‘What does all this mean?’ I would like to try to clarify. First a little background information is always helpful.



“On June 7, 2016 the majority of qualified electors in Phillips Conservation District (PCD) cast votes for the approval of a bison grazing ordinance, number 2016-1, with 1168 in favor and 315 against the ordinance, resulting in 79% voter approval.

In October 2016, American Prairie Reserve (APR) requested a variance from the ordinance.  Specifically, APR requested a variance from Sections 7(1)(b) and 7(1)(e), citing great practical difficulties and unnecessary hardship as a reason for the request.

Section 7(1)(b) requires: “All bison/buffalo must be tested and certified, by a state veterinarian to be disease free.”  Section 7(1)(e) requires “bison/buffalo must be branded, tattooed, tagged or otherwise identified to track its health status.” – from the Phillips Conservation District


Yes. You read that correctly. The APR feels that certifying their bison as disease free and having some sort of identification for their bison is a going to result in “great practical difficulties and unnecessary hardship”. So the APR requested a variance.

As a result of the APR’s variance request, a DNRC appointed Board of Adjustment was created to hear the variance request. The Board of Adjustment set procedural rules that allow for any qualified elector residing in Phillips County who wishes to be a party to the hearing (an Intervenor), can request to do so. Intervenors are allowed to participate in all aspects of the legal proceeding and are required to follow all rules and procedures adopted by the Board in the conduct of the pre-hearing discovery and the hearing proceeding.

Sitting on the three-person Board of Adjustments will be Jay Bodner with the Montana Stockgrowers Assn, Dale Krause who has 35 years working around the state with Conservation Districts, and Dave Hinman of Hinman Angus.

The Phillips County Livestock Association, together with the North and South Phillips County Grazing Districts requested and were granted intervenor status as part of the upcoming hearing. The three parties involved in the hearing are the American Prairie Reserve, Phillips Conservation District, and Phillips County Livestock Association/Phillips County Grazing Districts.

North and South Phillips County Grazing Districts along with Phillips County Livestock Association who are acting as the Intervenors are going to try to see that the APR adheres to the Conservation District ordinance.

The hearing date is set for November 12, 2019 at the Phillips County Courthouse. Should the hearing not go in one party or the others favor an appeal will more than likely be made and then the hearing will go on to District Court. Hence the reason for the fundraiser being put on by Phillips County Grazing District. The event will be held October 12th at the Milk River Pavilion in Malta.


Fundraiser Information:

Entries open at 9 a.m.

Ranch Roping 10 a.m.

Free Will Lunch Served by Livestock Association at 11:30

Ranch Sorting to follow after Roping approx. 1 p.m.

Doors open at 5 p.m for Silent Auction

Free Will Dinner served from 5:30 to 6:30

Kids Boot Race, Ribbon Pulling and Wild Goat Milking (including the Calcutta) will start around 6:15.

Live Auction will start at 7 p.m.

Live Band will start at 8 p.m.


If you’d like to help, or to donate a silent or live auction item, you can contact Katie Brown at hilineheritage@yahoo.com or check out their Facebook page “Hi-Line Heritage Celebration.”

To make a cash donation to Livestock assoc. you can mail the check directly to:

Phillips County Livestock Association

P.O. Box 430

Malta MT 59538

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