Bison Finally Catch a Break in Montana

Purchase of easement creates much-needed corridor for hungry bison

(04/17/2008) - BOZEMAN, Mont. – Today the National Park Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks finally took a step in the right direction on bison management in the Yellowstone National Park region. Governor Brian Schweitzer and Yellowstone Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis announced that they have come to an agreement with the Church Universal & Triumphant to purchase an easement across their Royal Teton Ranch.

This easement provides a small number of Yellowstone’s bison with access to crucial winter range north of the park in the Gallatin National Forest. Yellowstone National Park will contribute $1.5 million toward the purchase, Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks will contribute $300,000, and a number of conservation organizations are committing to raise the remaining $1 million.

“We greatly appreciate that Governor Schweitzer, the state of Montana, and the Park Service have finally stepped up to the plate on this issue and are focusing their resources on maintaining a wild, free-ranging population of bison, as promised in the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP),” said Mike Leahy, Rocky Mountain regional director for Defenders of Wildlife. “This long overdue action comes too late for the more than 1,600 bison that have been killed this year, but it does signify an important stride in the right direction.”

The agreement marks the coming-together of many different interest groups including private landowners, state and federal agencies, conservation organizations and various groups. Many individuals and groups have been calling for urgent action on behalf of the bison, with Defenders of Wildlife members alone sending more than 49,000 letters to the Montana Promotion Division in the past couple of weeks.

“This agreement – although not an ultimate solution – means that at least some bison will finally be able to leave the park when they need food to survive the winter,” Leahy said. “The real significance of this agreement is that it can build tolerance for more bison to return to their historic habitats outside Yellowstone Park.”


The Interagency Bison Management Plan for Yellowstone region bison was initiated in 2000. The Interagency Bison Plan seeks to: (1) reduce the risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle by keeping the animals away from each other and protect the economic interests of Montana's livestock industry; and (2) maintain a wild, free-ranging bison population.

Under this management approach, about 3,700 wild Yellowstone buffalo have been killed and many more have been hazed by state and federal agencies to stop them from crossing onto mostly public land outside the park. Buffalo naturally migrate to these areas in the winter – as do other wildlife – due to the better forage on National Forest lands. They are systematically denied these natural impulses and regularly killed if they cross onto public forest lands.

Learn more about Defenders' work to conserve bison.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit



Mike Leahy, (406) 586-3970
Erin McCallum, (202) 772-3217