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MontanaFWP Wants Your Input On Bison Management

Bison at the National Bison Range.
A bison herd at the National Bison Range in Montana.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials will hold five public hearings in August to find out if there’s a place for bison on the Montana landscape. The first two hearings are scheduled next week in Bozeman and Billings. Bison are managed both as a wildlife species, and for disease control because of brucellosis.

MontanaFWP spokesman Ron Aasheim says the focus of these public hearings is the draft Environmental Impact Statement on bison conservation and management.

That document offers four alternatives and includes the possibility of restoration of a publicly-managed bison herd on private and/or public lands of willing landowners; on tribal lands; or on a large landscape with minimal conflicts with livestock. The last alternative is "no action".

"Bison are an intriguing, controversial, contentious species to talk about, and what this is, one of the final steps in determining whether there’s the possibility of bison restoration somewhere in Montana where they can be managed as a native species," Aasheim says. No predetermined outcomes. We’re just going to ask the public what they think and we’re going to get an earful."

Aasheim says these will be formal public hearings. FWP officials will briefly introduce the topic, but the main purpose is to listen to the public.

He says the draft EIS does not identify any specific site or sites, nor bison herd. He says if it is the wish of the public to move forward with bison conservation and management there will be further analysis and a site-specific environmental assessment.

The first hearing is Tuesday in Bozeman, followed by another Wednesday in Billings. All hearings begin at 6:00 p.m. Other hearings will be held later in August in Great Falls, Malta, and Miles City.

FWP is accepting comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement on bison conservation and management on their website.

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