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Posts Tagged ‘Montana’

Credit: NPS.gov

Credit: NPS.gov

Last week, Montana State Governor Steve Bullock vetoed the remaining two bills that would have threatened the progression of wild bison reinstatement in Montana. Of the fourteen bills originally proposed, three made it through to be approved or vetoed by Gov. Bullock. The first of those three bills was vetoed in April.

The bills were part of a legislative effort to halt Montana’s efforts to restore free-roaming bison in areas around Yellowstone National Park and within the Fort Peck Reservation. The ‘anti-bison’ bills, including one that would have allowed farmers to shoot bison that wandered onto private property, could have derailed bison recovery efforts. Defeating these bills clears the path for ongoing and new bison recovery work, including management of the Fort Peck bison herd.

Link:

Defenders of Wildlife

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A new bill that would allow private landowners to shoot and kill bison found on their property is receiving mixed reviews form Montanans and wildlife supporters. The bill was created by Montana Republican legislator Alan Doane, and its main purpose would be to allow private landowners to shoot and kill bison found on their property. It would, by default, challenge elements of the recently overturned lawsuit between Park County Stockgrowers, et al and Montana Department of Livestock, et al.

Proponents of the bill point out that it protects landowners’ rights to manage their property and livestock, and that wild bison are dangerous and disease-ridden. Critics claim that the bill devalues native wildlife, and sets the precedence that killing wild animals is an appropriate solution to land conflicts.

 

The proposed bill brings up several valid arguments from both parties, those who support the bill and those who oppose it. While disease is an important and potentially devastating threat to ranching, one common criticism of this bill is that it fails to address elk, another wild animal that can transmit brucellosis to cattle. If the bill is primarily aimed at protecting cattle from disease, shouldn’t it account for both bison and elk? Nonetheless, it makes clear the importance of continued brucellosis research. Ranchers have a right and a reason to be worried about their cattle, their livelihood. However, there have been no documented cases of Yellowstone bison transferring brucellosis to cattle, so the weight of the bill’s argument seems unsupported. More research would help both bison advocates and ranchers understand the risks associated with the disease, and allow the two parties to come to an educated agreement regarding bison management.

Property damage is another argument found within the bill. According to residents in the area that the bill affects, bison cause significant damage to fences, land, and other property. They also create other disturbances, from congregating at a school bus stops to harassing horses and other livestock. There is no doubt that bison cause problems and create disruptions for local citizens. In fact, bison have become so disruptive that some residents are likening them to vermin. However, as the judge who dismissed the original lawsuit stated, Montana is a wild place, and those who live in the state must expect and be prepared to share their land and lives with wildlife.

Montana has done an excellent job in setting the precedence that native wildlife, especially bison,  is important. That being said, there are reasonable concerns in this bill that should be addressed, validated, and resolved. The common support of citizens of Montana will be key to the continued and progressive protection of bison. Although this bill is not likely to pass, I am curious to see what the next steps taken are to reach a balance between wildlife advocates and ranchers.

Links:

The Wildlife News

Missoulan

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