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Yellowstone National Park Sued Over Access To Bison Culling Operations

Bison at the Stephens Creek Capture facility north of Yellowstone Park in 2015.
Jim Peaco - NPS (PD)
Bison at the Stephens Creek Capture facility north of Yellowstone Park in 2015.

A bison advocate and a journalist are suing the National Park Service over access to Yellowstone National Park’s bison capture facility.

Stephany Seay of the Buffalo Field Campaign and freelance journalist Christopher Ketcham filed suit in U.S. District Court in Wyoming yesterday. The lawsuit claims the Park Service is violating the First Amendment by limiting citizen access to its bison capture facility, known as Stephens Creek. The facility is located inside the northern border of the park, a few miles from the town of Gardiner.

Jody Lyle of Yellowstone National Park said the Park Service doesn’t want to send bison to slaughter.

"We don’t want to be in the business of handling wildlife in this way," she said.

But, Lyle says the Park Service is under a court-mediated settlement with the State of Montana that forces them to cull bison which try to migrate out of the park.

Last week, Yellowstone National Park hosted a tour of the empty facility. They also plan to hold two public viewing dates after bison capture operations begin. But plaintiff Stephany Seay calls these plans, "token tours which will be used to whitewash the operation". The Park Service says access to the large corral is limited because of safety concerns, but Seay does not believe there are any true safety threats to observers.

The state and federal agencies that cooperatively manage Yellowstone bison have set a goal of culling 600 to 900 animals from the herd this year through a combination of hunting and ship-to-slaughter. The Park Service says approximately 200 bison have been killed in the hunt so far.

In related news, the National Park Service has scheduled a public “Open House-style” meeting to explain, clarify, discuss, and solicit comments on its newly-issued environmental assessment of proposed plans to quarantine and relocate some Yellowstone National Park Bison . The meeting will be held February 8, 2016  at Yellowstone Association Headquarters, 308 Park Street Gardiner, Montana from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Written comments may be submitted at the meeting; online through the Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) system; delivered to the park's Administration Building in Mammoth Hot Springs, WY; or mailed to the address below. Comments will not be accepted by fax, e-mail, or in any way other than those specified above. Comments must be received by midnight MST, February 15, 2016.

Attn: Bison Quarantine EA
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

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