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Could wild bison return to Montana?

Could wild bison return to Montana?

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This week, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (Montana FWP) announced that the agency had approved a final environmental impact statement that could bring bison back to Montana’s public lands. The effort took eight years, two gubernatorial elections and a new Montana FWP director and it is being touted as a step forward by conservation advocates, The Missoulian reports

“People of goodwill can move this effort forward,” said Tom France, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation.

However, the initiative to restore bison to public lands has been met with resistance by private landowners, particularly those within the livestock industry. According to The Missoulian, those against reintroducing wild bison say that the animals bring disease and tend to destroy property. Montana FWP is trying to consider all sides of the issue.

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“Wild bison have been successfully restored under a variety of management regimes and in a wide range of ecosystems,” Montana FWP director Martha Williams said in a press release. “But in order for a proposal to proceed in Montana, it must be devised collaboratively, taking into account the concerns of landowners and communities small and large, and it should follow the model of other successful wildlife restoration efforts.”

Further, according to a press release, “Any concrete proposal for bison restoration will have to undergo a site-specific environmental analysis and include a public review process. Completion of all the steps necessary to implement a bison restoration effort will take considerable time, even for the smallest of test projects.”

Right now, one of the main places where wild bison could roam is the 1.1 million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“There’s a lot of grassland habitat there that doesn’t have grazing on it,” said France, adding that the Refuge is “one of the pre-eminent places for restoring bison in Montana.”


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Erik B. - posted 4 days ago on 01-21-2020 11:20:52 am

I applaud FWP for making this statement. It's time for bison to be treated as the wildlife that they are, not as 'livestock'. There should be as much effort to restore bison to suitable habitat as there is with wolves, grizzlies, etc. There are certainly big pieces of public ground that would be perfectly suited to wild bison and hunting would/should be a management tool, like it is with other wildlife. The chatter about the APR shouldn't cloud the conversation around bison in MT, they're just another ranch grazing bison, like Turner or others have in the past. There is a 'surplus' of bison in the greater Yellowstone according to the park and what better thing to do with them than restore them to parts of MT (and other states). I have long dreamed of hunting wild bison in MT that weren't just flirting with the park boundary. The CMR would be a perfect and iconic place to have and hunt bison, I sure hope it happens in the next few years.

Robert T. - posted 1 week ago on 01-17-2020 09:44:33 am
Blackfoot, ID

I hope we see bison reintroduced in all the areas where they can be viable. We are reintroducing wolves, so why not bison.

Jess W. - posted 1 week ago on 01-13-2020 08:29:14 am

The bad things you are hearing about the American Prairie Reserve* is all propaganda being spread by the United Property Owners of Montana, the same group that has successfully closed down roads that the public used to use for access to thousands of acres of BLM lands. I live right here in Central MT so I get to see all this stuff first hand. When the ARP buys a ranch they open it up for the public to enjoy, where as when 90% of the private parties that buy a ranch anymore lock the gates and keep it as their exclusive hunting ground. Hard to be against the APR buying ranches when the alternative is much worse.

I randomly met the superintendent of the APR at a brewery just this past weekend. He was a super nice guy and we talked about this EIS. He said he would like to see a huntable population of bison in Montana, can't see why any hunters would disagree with that.

Clay S. - posted 2 weeks ago on 01-11-2020 07:31:44 am

I here a lot of bad things about the American Prairie Foundation! Go to the CMR area and drive around there’s signs protesting it at every ranch

Joseph E. - posted 2 weeks ago on 01-11-2020 05:56:27 am
kell illinois

The American prairie foundation is buying up ranches in the cmr area to do just this. Offering up huge sums to buy them out so they can’t complain