Montana's Wild Bison: The People Speak

Bison with calf, © Diana LeVasseurThis year, in an effort to make more people aware of the legislature’s repeated and aggressive attacks on bison, Defenders and our conservation and tribal partners tried something different. We put the question to the people of Montana, not politicians representing special interests. We conducted a statewide poll to understand Montanan’s views on bison and the results were astounding. Overwhelmingly, Montanans support bison restoration. Seventy-six percent support bringing wild bison back to Montana public lands. Seventy-two percent want wild bison to be managed like wildlife, not livestock. And, seventy four percent think decisions about wild bison should be made by biologists and wildlife officials rather than county politicians. Further, the poll found that Montana voters overwhelmingly rejected proposals to reclassify all wild bison as livestock.

The voices of individual Montanans had risen to a collective roar. We publicized the results of this poll just as Montana’s representatives were starting to sort through the myriad anti-bison bills…11 in all. We also brought the actual voices of Montanans to the public over the radio. The message that these anti-bison bills run contrary to where most Montanans stand on bison restoration had a clear impact in the state legislature. The 11 anti-bison bills that had been in the works either withered away or were never introduced for a vote. 

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