Montana Board of Livestock Takes No Action on Bison Tolerance Zone

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Montana Board of Livestock Takes No Action on Bison Tolerance Zone:

Decision keeps previous ban on expanding habitat intact and perpetuates conflict

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 18, 2014

Jonathan Proctor, jproctor@defenders.org; (406) 214-5327

GARDINER, Mont. –Today, members of the Montana Board of Livestock (BOL) discussed but took no action on a joint proposal put forth by Montana’s Department of Livestock and Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to expand the tolerance zone for bison outside of and adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, which would enable bison to roam on as much as 421,000 acres federal, state and private lands west and north of the park.  

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Montana Department of Livestock (which the BOL oversees) released a joint Environmental Assessment in July 2013 outlining five alternatives for expanding the current tolerance zone that is adjacent to and outside of Yellowstone National Park, and one “no action” alternative. In January, the Montana BOL voted unilaterally against expanding the tolerance zone. Today’s lack of action means that the Board’s previous vote prohibiting the expansion of habitat for bison outside of the park remains intact.

The Yellowstone bison population is the most important bison population in the United States, and with about 4,000 animals, it is the largest wild population left in the nation. These bison – continuously wild and genetically pure – are essential to the restoration of the species. Without an expanded tolerance zone for wild bison outside the park, it is likely that the on-going controversial shipment of bison to slaughter program – implemented by federal and state agencies to reduce the Yellowstone bison population to the arbitrary goal of 3,000 – will continue in future years. In the first few months of 2014, this capture and slaughter program resulted in the shipment to slaughterhouses of 258 wild Yellowstone bison. 

Jonathan Proctor, Defenders of Wildlife’s program director for the Rockies and Plains, issued the following statement:

“The Board of Livestock’s ongoing refusal to allow an expanded bison tolerance zone is disappointing. Delay in implementing this common sense proposal does not solve this decades-long conflict and does not serve the interests of the wildlife or the ranching community.

“Instead of working with partners to find common ground, the Board of Livestock continues to pursue a purely political anti-bison agenda to score political points with the more extreme elements in the livestock industry, who view any progress on wild bison management as unacceptable.

“Defenders of Wildlife and our conservation partners will continue to move forward by investing in landowner-led projects to prevent conflicts with roaming bison in the proposed expanded tolerance zone. Enhanced fencing around trees and shrubs, gardens or backyards has proven effective in addressing local landowner concerns, while simultaneously giving Yellowstone bison the room they need to roam. 

“Defenders and our conservation partners are offering landowners half the cost of fencing to exclude bison from private property, up to $1,000 per landowner. Coexistence is a win-win for charting a path to resolving the decades-long conflict over Yellowstone’s wild bison.”

Background: Native American tribes, conservation non-profits, and thousands of Montana’s citizens support a proposal to expand the tolerance zone, allowing management flexibility for Yellowstone’s bison. The Board of Livestock’s “no action” decision comes after Montana’s Governor Bullock received significant pressure earlier this month to stop the annual shipment to slaughter program of Yellowstone’s wild bison.  

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.1 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 www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

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