Yellowstone Bison Granted More Freedom to Roam by Montana’s Governor
BOZEMAN, MT (December 22, 2015)- In a big step forward for wild bison and all Montanans, today Governor Steve Bullock agreed to expand year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park. Historically, thousands of wild bison have been hazed or slaughtered as they migrated from Yellowstone into Montana in the spring. This decision represents a significant change in bison management.
Following is a statement from Matt Skoglund, Director of the Northern Rockies Office at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“Giving wild bison from Yellowstone year-round habitat in Montana is a welcome holiday offering from Governor Bullock. While I’d certainly love to see the state go further, this decision is a big step forward for wild bison in Montana, and it will show that wild bison and people can successfully share the Montana landscape outside Yellowstone National Park. When you consider this from a science, economics, public opinion, or common sense perspective, it makes sense for Montana to give wild bison from Yellowstone year-round habitat in the state.”
Wild bison have largely been blocked from staying in Montana year-round like other wildlife due to a concern by livestock interests that brucellosis, an introduced disease that can cause infected pregnant animals to miscarry, may spread to domestic livestock from the migrating wild bison, despite the incredibly small potential for infection and the management tools available to prevent such a transmission from happening. In fact, no documented transmission from wild bison to livestock has ever occurred. Interested stakeholders will now have the opportunity to begin to learn how wild bison will use the Montana landscape outside Yellowstone year-round.
This and other issues were addressed through a proposal to expand year-round bison habitat in Montana announced in July 2012, and a draft environmental assessment issued in July 2013. The proposal was partly in response to consensus recommendations from the Yellowstone Bison Citizens Working Group, a diverse group of landowners, business owners, livestock producers, hunters, wildlife advocates, and concerned citizens that worked together in 2011 and 2012 to provide citizen input on bison management in Montana.
In 2011, NRDC, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife launched the Yellowstone Bison Coexistence Fencing Project, which has helped support over 30 fencing projects in the Gardiner and Hebgen Basins and helped mitigate potential conflicts between wild bison and landowners. The conservation groups have multiple new fencing projects lined up for 2016, and interested landowners can contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks or any of the conservation groups to learn more about it.