Montana Public Radio

livestock

Wolf portrait closeup on the eyes, on a black background.
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More than a half dozen wildlife bills have been signed into law, all with a similar vision for Montana: they suggest that there are too many predators on the landscape — and that numbers of animals like wolves and grizzly bears need to be reduced. Now, questions are proliferating over the future of predators in Montana. How that future looks lies at the intersection of law, values, and living with those species on the ground. 

Cattle
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Wildlife officials killed a male grizzly bear on May 24 in the Ophir Creek area northeast of Avon. The bear had been in the area consistently for the past month and killed several cows on a local ranch earlier this week, according to a press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Grizzly bear. Stock photo.
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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife officials in central Montana have killed the first confirmed grizzly bear in modern times in the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown, state wildlife officials said Friday.

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.

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.

Gray wolf.
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A coalition of livestock producers, tribes, nonprofits, and landowner groups that sprawls from Montana to New Mexico was awarded a federal grant of nearly $1 million to reduce conflicts between people and predators — especially grizzly bears and wolves.

 


This story is part of a series on lasting ways Montana is adapting to the pandemic. It’s funded in part by the Solutions Journalism Network.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Montana’s cattle ranchers hard. Midwest meat plants shuttered because of disease outbreaks, upending the traditional supply chain and leaving ranchers with animals they might not be able to sell. The burgeoning local food systems may play more of a role going forward. 

Last week’s Graying Pains story explored the challenges of family farm succession as Montana’s agricultural demographic ages, and a program designed to connect up-and-coming farmers in Montana. This week’s installment explores the same issue — and a community college proposal to address it — near the state’s eastern border.

Not everyone who is interested in agriculture grows up on a farm, and without the skills and experience, finding your way into a family farm operation as a new producer is difficult.

USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue (center) in Missoula to announce new USFS priorities June 12, 2020. Behind him: Chuck Roady, GM of F.H. Stoltze, Rep. Gianforte, USDA Undersecretary James Hubbard, Ravalli County Commissioner Greg Chilcott, RMEF Pres. Kyle Weaver
Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

*UPDATED 06/13 

The U.S. Agriculture Secretary visited Missoula Friday to announce a blueprint to prioritize work for the U.S Forest Service.

Supporters say it will modernize the agency and cut unnecessary red tape. Opponents, however, counter it will undermine the nation’s laws aimed at protecting the environment.

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