Conservation groups launch bison coexistence program

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Conservation groups launch bison coexistence program
Yellowstone-area landowners may receive up to $1,000 for fencing efforts

BOZEMAN, Mont. (August 20, 2012) – Today, four conservation groups are launching a fence incentive program to help Yellowstone-area landowners mitigate concerns with free-roaming bison. While funding lasts, Defenders of Wildlife, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club will reimburse 50 percent of the cost of fencing, up to $1,000 per landowner, for purchasing and installing fencing to keep bison off private property where landowners do not want them in the Gardiner and Hebgen Basins.

“Our goal is to increase tolerance for bison in these important habitat areas,” said Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains associate for Defenders of Wildlife. “Offering this incentive will allow us to engage constructively with landowners who may have concerns with free-roaming bison on their properties.”

The program is designed to assist concerned landowners in areas where bison roam outside of Yellowstone National Park. Bison often travel beyond park boundaries in search of food, particularly during harsh winters. Until recently, bison were simply hazed back inside the park, shot on sight, or shipped to slaughter.  

"Montanans have figured out how to live alongside other wildlife, and we are thrilled to be a part of finding creative solutions which help communities do the same with wild bison," said Zack Waterman, associate representative for Sierra Club.  "As bison return to portions of their historic range, simple solutions like putting up a fence can help avoid unnecessary conflicts. A small investment up front can go a long way to ensuring a safe return for wild bison and peace of mind for landowners." 

The severe winter of 2010-11 saw a large bison exodus from Yellowstone into the Gardiner Basin. Bison also roam on Horse Butte in the Hebgen Basin area in winter months.

“This is an incredible opportunity to take a large step forward in how we manage and value wild bison, and we want to help out any concerned landowners,” said Matt Skoglund, wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This can be a win-win situation for both people and wildlife—landowners avoid possible property damage and the bison can move more freely outside of Yellowstone like other native wildlife.”

A proposal from the Montana Department of Agriculture and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks would expand the areas outside the park where bison may roam, including year-round in parts of both the Gardiner and Hebgen Basins. Public meetings on the proposal are scheduled for Monday, August 20, in West Yellowstone and Tuesday, August 21, in Gardiner. The proposal is open for public comment through August 24.

“Making it safer for bison to roam outside of Yellowstone is vital to the restoration of the species,” said Mark Pearson, conservation program director with Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “The ultimate goal is not just to build fences to keep bison out but to build bridges with local communities toward acceptance of this native species as valuable wildlife.”

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Contact:
Jonathan Proctor, Defenders of Wildlife, 406-549-4103, jproctor@defenders.org
Zack Waterman, Sierra Club, 919-696-8329, zack.waterman@sierraclub.org
Mark Pearson, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, 406-599-2008, mpearson@greateryellowstone.org
Matt Skoglund, Natural Resources Defense Council, 406-223-1950, mskoglund@nrdc.org

For more information about the bison fencing incentive program, please contact Sam Sheppard, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 406-994-3540,ssheppard@mt.gov

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