Biodiversity: Montana eyes bison restoration

Draft study open for public comment

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A bison in the grasslands of Badlands National Park.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife managers in Montana are exploring options for restoring bison to parts of the state where they haven’t roamed in more than 100 years.

Bison were nearly eliminated from their historic range more than a century ago. By the late 1890s, only 1,000 bison remained in North America, and most of these animals were held on private ranches where they were interbred with cattle. By 1902, only 25 bison remained in the wild in the U.S., seeking refuge deep within Yellowstone National Park. Today, this Yellowstone herd numbers around 4,500 animals. Continue reading

Wildlife: Annual bison slaughter starts in Yellowstone

Wildlife advocates seek wider restoration

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American bison, Black Hills of South Dakota. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite polls showing widespread public support for relocating Yellowstone bison to start herds in appropriate locations across the state, the National Park Service has once again started rounding up wild bison for slaughter.

The animals wander out of the park each winter searching for food at lower elevations. This year’s killing program is slated to be the largest in seven years to cap the bison population in the park at 3,500, part of a settlement with the state of Montana over now-discredited concerns about brucellosis and carrying capacity.

The late-December poll showed that 67 percent of Montanans support relocating Yellowstone bison rather than killing them. It also also found that 68 percent of Montanans view bison as wildlife and 72 percent believe bison should be managed like the state’s other wildlife species. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds take new look at bison restoration

Report addresses brucellosis concerns

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Badlands bison. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Bison may not be getting much love in Montana, where livestock producers have repeatedly blocked efforts to restore herds outside Yellowstone National Park, but the federal government has identified ways to address concerns about brucellosis, according to a comprehensive new report on bison conservation released last week.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Interior, the report “reaffirms the commitment to work with states, tribes and other partners to promote the restoration of bison to appropriate and well-managed levels on public and tribal lands.”

“The Interior Department has more than a century-long legacy of conserving the North American bison, and we will continue to pursue the ecological and cultural restoration of the species on behalf of the American public and American Indian tribes who have a special connection to this iconic animal,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Another win for bison restoration

Montana court says bison are not livestock

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A Yellowstone bison. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Montana district court judge this month rejected yet another attempt by ranchers to block the restoration of bison in the northern plains. The ranchers sought to have wild bison classified as livestock rather than wildlife, but Montana District Judge John McKeon ruled last week that wild bison are wildlife under state law — regardless of their confinement in quarantine.

A legal classification as livestock would have transferred jurisdiction over quarantined bison from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Livestock—a move that threatened to impede any future efforts to restore native bison as a wildlife species in appropriate portions of their historic habitat.

“This ruling rightly discredits what amounted to a stealth attack on future efforts to restore wild bison in Montana,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation in opposing Citizens for Balanced Use’s argument. “Wild bison are classified as wildlife under Montana law. Now it is time to restore wild bison as wildlife on the Montana landscape.” Continue reading

Grand Canyon National Park eyes bison plan

Roaming buffalo create management challenges

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The buffalo are roaming in Grand Canyon National Park. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A herd of bison brought to northern Arizona in the early 1900s has moved from a state-run wildlife area into Grand Canyon National Park, and now park rangers want to develop a plan to manage the animals.

Initially, the bison were managed in the House Rock Wildlife Area for big game hunters, but in the late 1990s, the animals have pioneered their way to the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park.

Resource managers say  combination of public hunt pressure, drought and fire, and reduced forage quality in House Rock Valley during the 1990s may have contributed to the bison moving through Saddle Mountain Wilderness and onto the higher elevations of the Kaibab Plateau. Over the past several years, very few bison have returned to wildlife area. Most now spend a majority of their time inside the park. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Montana Supreme Court ends bison battle

Ruling gives herds more room to roam

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Bison grazing in the South Dakota badlands. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Native bison will get more room to roam outside Yellowstone National Park, as the Montana Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that will end the slaughter of bison leaving the park. The court decision also gives the wild animals seasonal access to important winter and early spring habitat outside the north boundary of the park in the Gardiner Basin area until May 1 of each year.

The ruling ends a bitter and long-running battle between wildlife advocates and ranchers, who just can’t seem to let go of their innate hostility toward most native species, including predators. The courts have now twice rebuffed demands by some livestock producers and their allies to require aggressive hazing and slaughtering of bison that enter the Gardiner Basin area from Yellowstone National Park in the winter and early spring in search of the forage they need to survive. Continue reading

Montana Supreme Court ruling clears way to restore bison on Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Native American lands

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A buffalo grazing in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Decision has cultural and economic benefits for tribal groups at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Montana Supreme Court ruling last week clears the way for the return of Brucellosis-free Yellowstone bison to Native American lands, where the animals are valued for their cultural, traditional and economic benefits.

The Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision following an appeal by two conservation groups, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation, represented by the public-interest environmental law firm Earthjustice.

The transfer of Yellowstone bison to the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Native American lands was opposed by Citizens for Balanced Use, which voiced concerns that the bison might break free of enclosures and transmit Brucellosis to domesticated cattle. Continue reading

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