Montana Public Radio

bison

Bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone National Park

Montana officials are butting heads over the future of the national mammal. At stake is whether bison should be treated as livestock or as wildlife. New legislation and policy changes under the Gianforte administration are derailing hopes of establishing the first free-roaming bison herds in the state.

Tribal nation leaders and conservation groups sent a letter to Montana’s governor Tuesday urging him to veto two bison management bills.

The leaders of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, the Fort Belknap Indian Community and Blackfeet Nation, along with the InterTribal Buffalo Council, Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups, say the two bison bills will threaten tribal efforts to restore bison through “the unlawful delegation of state powers and the restrictive definition of wild bison.”

Bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Josh Burnham

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said Tuesday he is ending a bison management plan that would have allowed the wide-ranging animals to be restored in more areas of the state.

Correction 3/11/2021: A previous version of this story implied that a fee was being added to domesticated bison. This fee already exists. House Bill 318 seeks to change the definition of domestic bison to include animals that have ever been subjected to a per-capita fee.

Montana’s legislature is considering four bison-related bills this session. The two bills that would have helped tribal nations expand bison herds were voted down, while tribal leaders say the surviving bills could harm long-standing bison management on reservations.

Correction: The original post said the American Prairie Reserve will expand its disease management plan by testing 325 bison each year for the bacterial disease brucellosis for the first five years and then 150 bison annually for the next five years. The story has been updated to reflect the American Prairie Reserve will test 325 bison total during the first five years of the settlement agreement and another 150 over the next five years.

Bison walking through deep snow.
Jim Peaco / National Park Service

The U.S. Forest Service this week proposed closing hunting with firearms in part of a controversial pinch-point where bison migrate out of Yellowstone National Park.

Officials set a target Wednesday to reduce bison herds living in and around Yellowstone National Park by 500 to 700 animals this winter. The yearly cull is meant to keep the population in check and prevent bison from possibly transmitting a disease to domestic cattle.

Sixteen Native American tribes across the U.S. will soon receive graduates of the bison quarantine program at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

The InterTribal Buffalo Council Aug. 12 began transferring 40 bull bison to tribes in nine states to boost the long-term genetic health of cultural herds.

Eleven bull bison quarantined in a federal facility near Yellowstone National Park were transferred to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation on June 24. There, they’ll complete the final phase of a program to make sure they are disease free before being sent out to start or boost herds across the U.S.

Bison walking through deep snow.
Jim Peaco / National Park Service

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park is done capturing wild bison for the year after rounding up almost 550 of the wild animals and sending most to slaughter as part of a population control program, park officials said.

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