More great news from Montana . Montana officials have finalized a deal that will open 75,000 acres in southern Montana for bison to roam outside of Yellowstone National Park. The partners of the Interagency Bison Management Plan hosted an open house in Gardiner, Mont., last night to discuss the latest changes to the plan. The agreement between eight state, federal and tribal agencies has been in the making for several weeks, while more than 600 bison are still being kept at a capture facility until spring.
“Ultimately, we believe that wild bison should be free to roam like all other wildlife, and this plan gets us closer to that goal.” — Jonathan Proctor, Rocky Mountain Representative
Typically, bison that leave the park during winter months in search of food are hazed back into the park, captured and shipped to a slaughterhouse or shot on sight. This is done on behalf of ranchers who fear that wild bison could spread disease to cattle or destroy fences—fears that are greatly exaggerated. Over the past two decades, some 3,800 bison have been sent to slaughter for migrating beyond the park boundaries. But this year, Gov. Schweitzer issued an executive order that effectively prohibits the shipping of bison to slaughter through May 15.
The changes to the bison management plan will go a step further by increasing tolerance for bison that head north of the park during winter months. Defenders has committed at least $50,000 so far to implement bison reintroduction projects on tribal lands and coexistence projects in Montana’s Gardiner Basin that will allow bison to coexist with private landowners in the area. Click here to read a statement from Defenders bison expert Jonathan Proctor about the proposed changes. Check out the slideshow below to see photos from Jonathan’s latest trip to Yellowstone, where he got to see the new plan in action.
More than a century ago, bison were hunted nearly to extinction. But a small herd of a couple dozen bison survived in Yellowstone. Dedicated recovery efforts have since restored Yellowstone’s bison population to 3,500 animals. But until now these bison have not been allowed to roam outside the park, even in winter when the park is deep under snow and bison roam to lower elevations outside the park in search of food. Expanding their winter range outside Yellowstone is a tremendous improvement for the bison and lays the groundwork for finding other collaborative solutions.
Thanks to the thousands of Defenders members who wrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking them to halt the bison slaughter. And thanks to Montana’s Governor Schweitzer for his leadership on this bison agreement. This is a great victory for bison conservation that will help advance their continued recovery across Montana and the West. It couldn’t have happened without your help!