Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yellowstone's Bison to be Moved Up to Montana's State Lands

Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Recently, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission (FWP) had approved proceeding with consideration of moving Yellowstone's bison onto state lands. The agency will conduct an environmental analysis, and will also include an extended comment period before any decision is made. Several bison, who were waiting to be relocated were tested negative for brucellosis at the U.S Department of Agriculture's quarantine facility north of Yellowstone National Park. Although this seemed like a joyous moment for bringing an animal that had once disappeared back to its ancestral range, it became a source of debate between conservationists and representatives of the state's cattle industry.

Cattlemen and two Montana state legislatures stated that the cost of having bison on public lands would be expensive, a threat to public safety, and would harm the relationship between the state and landowners. Stan Frasier, a vice president of the Montana Wildlife Federation's board of directors, made his statement concerning the impact of brucellosis and that whether the bison will be allowed to graze on public lands or not. In addition to that, tribal representatives emphasized that their lands should be considered as relocation sites for the animals. In their statement, moving bison onto their lands would be equal to privatization of public wildlife. According to Joe Maurier, director of FWP, the commission had identified reservations as possible sites. However, he had to change his thinking due to a lawsuit challenging last year's relocation of 86 bison on Ted Turner's ranch. In his testimony, Mr. Turner agreed to take the animals in exchange for 75 % of their offspring. This led to opponents suing, saying that the bison should be on public lands and not part of some private enterprise. Similarly, Mr. Maurier was worried that a similar complaint would be filed if bison would be relocated to tribal lands. He stated that the lands will be considered once the lawsuit is dropped. Commissioner Ron Moody of Lewistown stated comparing this bison relocation and the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone is wrong. He added that having bison in Montana would be a step to avoid another wolf problem, saying that the state needs to be in the front of the change and master it rather become a victim.

I'm happy to see that some groups of people are taking this consideration of bringing the bison back into its ancestral lands where it once roamed centuries ago. In my opinion, it also shows how the Yellowstone National Park is managing its bison population and preventing it from suddenly breaking from its borders. However, I also feel that the best strategy would be to relocate the animals in lands that are not used by cattle for grazing. If bison and cattle rub shoulders with one another, the consequences are severe (brucellosis). I also hope that conservationists and representatives of Montana's cattle industry would come up with some sort of agreement, which allows the bison to share their habitat with cattle safely and peaceably. The reason is because the cattle industry has experienced major problems from wolves attacking cattle. Bringing the bison back to Montana would be beneficial for the wolves such that they will not go after cattle and cause further trouble to both the citizens and the industry. In addition to that, the idea of bringing bison on the state's Indian reservations goes to show how these people have relied on the animals for food for generations. I think this idea would be fair, knowing that it would help keep the balance in bison population in Montana. I also hope that, according to this plan, the bison will be brought to the state's local national parks and state parks. This way, it will boost Montana's tourist industry as everyone in and out of U.S will have a chance to see one of the nation's most iconic animals in other interesting places as well as Yellowstone.

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