Posted January 5, 2016
Two weeks ago, the State of Montana made history when Governor Steve Bullock announced the state was moving forward with providing year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park.
This is huge, huge, huge news, and it’s a giant step forward for bison management and the State of Montana.
(For coverage of the decision, see the AP article, Bozeman Daily Chronicle article,NRDC press release, Todd Wilkinson column in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, andBozeman Daily Chronicle editorial.)
Conservationists, bison advocates, hunters, landowners, business owners, and other concerned citizens have been advocating for years that it was time for Montana to provide year-round habitat for wild bison outside Yellowstone National Park in Montana. As I have previously explained, a number of changes have occurred in the “bison world” over the past 15 years, and, as such, it was time to respond to these changes, stop adhering to the rigid deadlines and boundaries used to confine Yellowstone’s bison to the Park (via hazing and slaughter), and update bison management. (See these previous blog posts of mine for more details: one, two, three, four, five.)
In response to all of these changes, a diverse group of stakeholders (myself included) got together at the end of 2010 to see if they could find some common ground on a better way forward for bison management. The state, federal, and tribal entities that collectively manage Yellowstone’s bison population supported us and provided a highly respected facilitator to help the group move forward. The group came to be known as the Yellowstone Bison Citizens Working Group, and it worked hard in 2011 and 2012 to provide citizen input on bison management in Montana.
The Citizens Working Group ultimately developed some strong and sensible consensus recommendations, and in response to our recommendations as well as all of the changes over the past 15 years, the State of Montana announced its year-round habitat proposal in July 2012 and then issued a draft environmental assessment with detailed alternatives in July 2013.