Great News: Judge Upholds Expanded Bison Habitat Outside Yellowstone National Park

      Wild Bison in Yellowstone National Park

In a much-anticipated decision announced today, a Montana state judge upheld the State of Montana’s historic decision to give wild bison from Yellowstone National Park access to tens of thousands of acres of habitat north of the Park in Montana. 

This is great, exciting, wonderful news. The court’s ruling keeps in place a much-needed step forward in the management of Yellowstone’s wild bison population.

Here are the details:

In April 2011, the federal, state, and tribal agencies that collectively manage Yellowstone’s wild bison population proposed to give the iconic critters access to approximately 75,000 acres of habitat north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana during the winter and much of the spring.

An attorney for the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho commented at the time, “This is the most significant advance in recent times in tolerating bison outside Yellowstone.”

Following the announcement of the agreement, the Park County Stockgrowers Association, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and Park County, Montana, filed two lawsuits challenging the agreement in May 2011. We and other conservation organizations, represented by Earthjustice, intervened on the State of Montana’s behalf in the lawsuits to help ensure that the agreement for greater tolerance for wild bison in Montana remained in place.

In February 2012, following a formal environmental assessment process regarding the expanded tolerance, the State of Montana officially signed off on the agreement.

The lawsuits proceeded, and a five-day trial transpired in August and November of last year. We have eagerly been awaiting the court’s ruling since the conclusion of the trial in November.

In today’s ruling, the court rejected all of the plaintiffs’ claims.

In doing so, the court’s decision represents a victory for wild bison – and a win for all native wildlife in Montana.

About the Authors

Matt Skoglund

Director, Northern Rockies office

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