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National Park Service Helps Expand Bison Range North of Yellowstone National Park


A plan was announced Thursday to expand range for Yellowstone National Park bison north into Montana.

A $2.8 million agreement has been reached that will expand the northern range for Yellowstone National Park bison. Under the agreement, cattle will be removed from the Royal Teton Ranch for the next 30 years.

The agreement announced this afternoon in Bozeman, Montana, comes in the wake of a biting Government Accountability Office report that chided state and federal agencies for failing to make headway on a solution to fears that Yellowstone bison might spread brucellosis to Montana cattle herds.

This long has been more of a political problem than a biological problem, for there never has been a documented case of bison-to-cattle transmission of brucellosis, which can cause livestock to abort their fetuses. Nevertheless, fears of that occurring have led to the slaughter of thousands of Yellowstone bison in recent years. This winter alone nearly 1,300 bison have been killed in the name of brucellosis control.

Today's agreement was announced by Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis, Church Universal and Triumphant, Inc., President Kate Gordon, and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Under its provisions, the Park Service is providing $1.5 million towards the $2.8 million package being given to the church, which owns the Royal Teton Ranch.

Another $1 million towards the package has been pledged, but not yet obtained, by a coalition of state and national wildlife and conservation associations.

“This agreement is a major step forward for bison. We agree that the practical way to resolve the bison controversy is to provide winter and spring habitat outside the park," said Hank Fischer of the National Wildlife Federation. "Grazing retirements, negotiated with willing sellers, facilitate change without economic hardship.”

The expansion of grazing range for bison has been called for under the Interagency Bison Management Plan agreed upon in 2000. That plan is intended to produce an acceptable management plan for bison that routinely head north out of Yellowstone to their traditional wintering grounds. The plan specifically called for removal of cattle from the Royal Teton Ranch "to provide increased tolerance for bison outside the park's northern boundary," park officials said in a prepared release.

“The National Park Service deserves an immense amount of credit for securing $1.5 million to fulfill a key commitment of the Interagency Bison Management Plan.” said Tim Stevens of the National Parks Conservation Association. “We applaud Superintendent Suzanne Lewis for her leadership in helping to find positive solutions for bison.”

Added Craig Sharpe of the Montana Wildlife Federation: “This agreement moves us closer to managing bison like other wildlife species. It creates additional winter range for bison and an expanded opportunity for fair chase hunting on the Gallatin National Forest.”

While today's news addresses the perceived bison problem, it says nothing of how to eliminate the potential risk of brucellosis transmission from elk, which also carry the disease and which are suspected to have recently transferred the disease to cattle. And it provides no update on efforts to develop a brucellosis vaccine for bison.


This is an absolutely atrocious deal, and there are a lot of other environmental groups not quoted here (Buffalo Field Campaign, Gallatin Wildlife Association) who think this is a rotten deal. (For instance, read the comments on Ralph Maughan's wildlife Web site).

One, there already exist public access corridors. Paying off CUT was unnecessary; their few cattle would have been nothing that some fencing couldn't have fixed. This was plain and simple extortion.

Two, the number of bison let out of the park is minimal, and those going out will still need to be tested, and the females fitted with a vaginal transmitter. Only 25 are being let out of the park. This is essentially not particularly better than what bison west of Yellowstone face at Horse Butte.

Bison will still be slaughtered going north of Yellowstone, they will still be hazed, and the bison leaving the park will be a controlled population - not a wild one.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition and NPCA should be ashamed of themselves for selling the buffalo out. This is not a step; this is a political stunt. It divides support for the buffalo, gives the false impression that progress has been made, and further hurts buffalo. These organizations were very silent until recently; when they appeared, they ended up working as brokers of a deal that only lends credence to the IBMP. It's an atrocity, and I'm fuming at these organizations, as well as with NPS and the governor's office.

Look, the number killed now is 1,601 (more than 1/3 of the herd). Bison heading north have continued to be killed. The winter has been very harsh, especially the past month and a half. I read something this afternoon that has me stunned (and am looking for a source). Buffalo Field Campaign is reporting that the NPS has released a report saying that there are now only 1,436 bison left in Yellowstone National Park. 1, 436?!!! That's more than 2/3 of all buffalo that existed in the fall. The buffalo are famished. Mothers are giving birth in the park with nowhere to go. They are dying. I have heard anecdotally that the plows are having trouble not just because of the snow but because there are so many dead buffalo and elk buried in the snow that they have to move. These animals would have had a better chance if they had been allowed the habitat to get forage.

The lie is that this agreement actually provides that. It does not. It separates herds (see Bob Jackson's recent essays on this - I can provide links), makes them dysfunctional.

They are dying, they are being destroyed - they may recover, but the whole thing will only happen again.

It is disgusting.

And, the sad thing is - this isn't really about brucellosis. But, we'll have to pick that up another time.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

A quick follow-up on what I wrote.

By the way, I just received this regarding the number of buffalo. Here’s a bit more news. The slaughter apparently is over for the season on both boundaries. There will be hazing but no more slaughter.

The NPS is now claiming the number is down to 2,300, not 1,436. However, here is the relevant part of the report. I am going to post it soon to my blog in pdf.

“In the interior some mixed groups, totaling ~230, moving around Hayden Valley, the Lakeshore and in Pelican Valley. There are approximately 540 bison in the Geyser Basins. There are approximately 58 bison out of the park, west of Hwy 191 and on Hwy 191 itself. There are approximately 88 bison between 191 and Cougar Meadows inside the park. On the Northern Range bison are primarily utilizing Blacktail and Hellroaring slope with limited, but increasing use of Little America. There are now roughly 170 bison on Blacktail Deer Plateau. There has been some movement east from Gardiner to Blacktail with 3 radio collared bison, but movement has continued to the North, including two radio collared bison from Swan Lake. There are approximately 350 bison in the Gardiner basin, including ~135 in the Eagle Creek area.”

( 58 ) out of park

So, how incompetent are they? How is 2,300 when their own report says 1,436? What’s the truth? And, how can anyone feel good about either number?!

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

This deal is a joke! CUT can laugh, once again, all the way to the bank. If this "deal" had been in place this year, 1576 bison would have died instead of 1601! AT A COST TO TAXPAYERS OF 2.8 MILLION DOLLARS! PLUS, ALL THE HAZING, TRUCKING AND SLAUGHTERING GOES ON AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE!!
I live in Montana. If I want to keep cows off of my property, it is MY responsibility to erect a fence capable of doing that. That is the law. When my neighbor decides to move his cows, and he drives them by my place, and they destroy my garden, that's tough! Not his fault! Not the cows fault. It's MY FAULT FOR NOT HAVING A FENCE CAPABLE OF KEEPING THEM OUT! Should be the same for livestock producers. They sure as heck have more money than I. If they don't want MY wildlife mingling with their cows, or eating their hay, they should be required to put up a fence capable of keeping them out. I'm tired of subsidizing them.

i think it is a great idea!!

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