Montana Governor Asked to "Provide Leadership" In Yellowstone Bison Controversy

Conservation groups want Montana Governor Schweitzer to "provide leadership" in finding a solution to Yellowstone's ongoing bison controversy. File NPT photo by Kurt Repanshek.

Cowboys on the ground, and possibly in the air, have been summoned to haze bison back into Yellowstone National Park from the area around West Yellowstone. It's a spring ritual that shows that while the park's bison are wild, they're not always allowed to behave that way.

At a time when much of the park remains buried deep in snow, horseback riders and a helicopter today were expected to begin forcing the bison back into Yellowstone even though forage is not readily available in the park. And with those hazing operations resuming, conservation groups are urging Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to step up and "provide leadership" to resolve the ongoing controversy.

In a letter to the governor, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Parks Conservation Association, Montana Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Bear Creek Council said more tolerance, and more habitat, to the west of Yellowstone is needed for the bison.

In the meantime, they want the governor to call an emergency meeting of the Interagency Bison Management Plan partners to adopt emergency provisions that will end the hazing.

“Right now Montana needs a leader to step up and provide Montana solutions,” said Amy McNamara, national parks program director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “Governor Schweitzer has demonstrated time and again that he can think outside the box to provide solutions that work for Montana and this is an opportunity for him to do that once again.”

Tim Stevens of NPCA pointed out that Governor Schweitzer has said the IBMP is not working and that solutions are needed "that will protect Montana’s livestock industry and end the annual slaughter of
Yellowstone’s bison.”

“We are calling on the governor to immediately implement solutions that will ensure that the bison seeking habitat and forage west of Yellowstone will be provided tolerance and flexibility until they naturally return to the park once the snow has melted and green up in the park begins,” said Mr. Stevens.

According to the groups, this past winter, one of the harshest in years, has led to the largest loss of bison since the herds were brought back from the brink of extinction in the early 1900s. Since November more than 1,700 bison have been killed or removed from the Yellowstone herd.

In addition, Yellowstone Park officials estimate that at least 700 bison have been lost to winter-kill.

“All told, over half of Yellowstone’s bison population has been lost this winter—a devastating blow to this
unique resource,” said Mike Leahy, Rocky Mountain Region director of Defenders of
Wildlife.

In a report released this spring, the Government Accountability Office showed that despite eight years and $16 million spent since 2002, the IBMP is failing to allow bison to range freely outside of Yellowstone. The
report pointed to the IBMP agencies’ failure to utilize the adaptive management provision of the plan and encouraged the agencies to implement changes using this provision.

Comments

6 years and 16 million dollars for nothing.........and to think, we sent a man to the moon within a single decade. This problem needs to be solved NOW. The wild bison and other animals who have to follow the forage to survive deserve our help.

This situation is a disgrace to America, the state of Montana, the US Fish & Wildlife and the National Park Service.

In this case, the agencies involved in the IBMP are the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Montana Department of Livestock, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

What we are hearing from the field is that compared with years past, the hazing has been relatively mild; however, there has been some hazing on private property, something that Governor Schweitzer's office says wouldn't happen. However, there are firsthand witnesses reporting otherwise.

Most of the buffalo are still there; it's also extremely warm this weekend - there should be a huge melting of snow this weekend.

Some of us joined BFC's rally in Helena the same day that the hazing started, where we attempted to give Gov. Schweitzer and Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis the Buffalo Bill Award for having hilled more buffalo (1,604) than at any time since the 19th century. Schweitzer wasn't there; he had an intern who knew next to nothing about the issue put on a smiling face in accepting the award.

Locals are beginning to organize in addition to Buffalo Field Campaign. We've formed Buffalo Allies of Bozeman, and the Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo (HOBNOB) are re-activating. We urgently need your support so that this doesn't happen again.

As the GAO noted, the conflicting missions of the IBMP partners and the lack of a clear goal make the success of the plan impossible. The IBMP must be scrapped; however, in the short term, stopping this haze would be a good idea this year and every other year in both the north and the west of the park

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World