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Yellowstone Bison May Get A Little More Room To Roam

10 total bison tags will be available on the American Prairie Reserve this fall
Yellowstone bison may get more room to roam after today's decision by Governor Steve Bullock.

Governor Steve Bullock today issued a decision that would allow wild bison from Yellowstone National Park to roam in portions of Montananorth and west of the Park year round. The decision potentially breaks a longstanding impasse in a wildlife conflict that's dragged on for decades.

"Yes, I do see this as a big step."

That’s Dan Brister, executive director of the bison advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign.

Today’s decision by Bullock likely won't end the periodic slaughter of some bison that leave Yellowstone National Park in search of food at lower elevations. But it does for the first time allow something that Brister’s group has sought for 18 years — allowing at least some bison to be outside the park in Montana year round.

"We’ve been asking for year round tolerance for bison for that entire time, so it is a surprise."

Only bull bison will be tolerated in a wider area north of Yellowstone, but Bullock’s decision would allow hundreds of the animals to roam further into Montana west of the park, and to stay there year round.

Montana cattle interests have long opposed the increased presence of Yellowstone bison outside the park, saying they can spread the disease brucellosis. Today Jay Bodner with the Montana Stockgrowers Association says his group needs more time to study Bullock’s decision before deciding whether to oppose it.

The decision must also be approved by a consortium of state and federal wildlife and livestock agencies.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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