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Montana Proposes Year-Round Habitat for Wild Bison Outside Yellowstone National Park

Matt Skoglund

Posted July 30, 2012 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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bison 123.jpg

 

Last week, the State of Montana announced a landmark proposal for year-round bison habitat outside Yellowstone National Park in Montana. Specifically, the proposal would allow for year-round use for all bison on a big chunk of the Gallatin National Forest west of the Park (e.g., Horse Butte, the Hebgen Basin, much of the upper Gallatin River watershed) and year-round use by bull bison in the Gardiner Basin north of the Park.

This is huge, great news, and it makes a lot of sense.

As the State said in its scoping notice, there have been several big changes since 2000, the year the federal-state-tribal management scheme for Yellowstone bison was implemented. The State then listed five changes that helped prompt this new proposal:

  1. Cattle are no longer found on the Horse Butte peninsula following a change in land ownership and then a subsequent change in land use;
  2. The U.S. Forest Service permanently retired its Horse Butte grazing allotment;
  3. Cattle no longer graze on the previous allotments in the Taylor Fork;
  4. Significant changes were made in 2010 to the federal rules that govern the response to brucellosis infection of cattle; and
  5. Agreement among the federal-state-tribal management partners that research suggests little risk of brucellosis transmission from bull bison to domestic cattle.

These factors are game-changing events, and I’ve previously written about them here, here, and here. It’s encouraging to see the federal-state-tribal managers respond to these changes and propose a significant increase in available habitat for bison outside Yellowstone National Park.

It’s also important to recognize the hard work of a diverse group of Montana citizens that joined together a year and a half ago to try to find a better way forward for Yellowstone’s iconic bison population. The Citizens Working Group we formed was comprised of business owners, landowners, environmentalists, livestock producers, hunters, and concerned citizens. Over the course of several facilitated meetings over many months, we were able to reach consensus on some strong, practical recommendations regarding how we thought Yellowstone’s bison could be better managed.

This was no small task, given the array of opinions involved, but we persevered, and this proposal from the State of Montana is a direct result of that hard work, as the regional supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said last week. The federal-state-tribal managers supported the Citizens Working Group, and it’s good to see them acting on our recommendations.

Regarding this proposal, Montana is in the scoping phase right now, seeking input from people to help guide the more detailed environmental review the State will do this fall. As such, Montana is accepting any and all comments at yearroundbison-scoping@mt.gov and bison-ea@mt.gov.

After years of frustration from all sides of this issue, providing year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park would be a great step in the right direction for Montana.

 

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Comments

Porath, JohnJul 30 2012 10:16 PM

We are currently visiting from Michigan and will come back to see wild roaming Bison. Good move Montana. When we think of MT we think of wild Bison.

PeteJul 31 2012 01:25 PM

Great news, and great work to you and the many others who came together on this.

Max GreenfieldAug 1 2012 10:22 AM

If you want to see buffalo, then have them reintroduced in Michigan. Montana is being buffalo-raped by outside interests with deep pockets. The majority of Montanans do not want more buffalo herds.

Max GreenfieldAug 1 2012 10:48 AM

I apologize for such a harsh comment, it was made out of frustration. I just think there needs to be more local input taken before any permanent changes are made. For some people, this isn't a vacation. They will have to interact with these large animals all year round.

James HendersonAug 1 2012 05:03 PM

> If you want to see buffalo, then have them reintroduced in Michigan.

Bison are not native to Michigan.

Karrie TaggartAug 3 2012 03:17 PM

This is in response to Max Greenfield's comment that he thinks "there needs to be more local input taken before any permanent changes are made."

Mr. Greenfiled, I can understand your frustration, however, and with all due respect, I do not empathize.

I live on Horse Butte and over the past 9 yrs. that I've been involved and attended multiple IBMP meetings, public forums, senate hearings, open houses, and participated in the Citizens' Working Group etc., there have been plenty of opportunities for locals, particularly in Gardiner and West Yellowstone, to vent. It has always been the responsibility of the individual as to whether they participate or not. And from what I've seen, people choose not to.

I hope that you will act upon your concern/frustration and attend the public scoping meetings either in Gardiner or West Yellowstone.

If you're unable to make it, public comments (pro and con) are hoped for, anticipated, appreciated, and necessary.

Respectfully,
Karrie Taggart

David E.Aug 5 2012 03:56 PM

Actually, bison are native to Michigan. Bison's range went from northern Mexico to Alaska east to Pennsylvania.

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