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
“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
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.