Montana Governor Steve Bullock has decided to allow Bison to live in and roam through parts of Montana outside of Yellowstone National Park — breaking a deadlock in an impasse that has lasted for decades. Bison may still be killed periodically when roaming outside Yellowstone in search of food, but the governor’s decision allows them to linger year-round on an area north and west of the park that is estimated to encompass about 400 square miles.
Conservationists have been supporting the move for a long time, while on the other hand, ranchers remain deeply opposed. The ranchers near Yellowstone say they are concerned that diseased bison may infect their cattle. They’re also worried about the bison grazing too much and not leaving enough for their own livestock to graze.
The democratic governor is expected to put pressure on the National Park Service to help lower the bison population from about 5,000 to a target of 3,500 animals. The target comes from previous statements Gov. Bullock had made, as he did not mention the figure in his most recent announcement.
The governor promised that the livestock industry’s concerns would be taken into account, saying he was merely making a “modest expansion” of the bison’s territory by allowing them to live outside Yellowstone.
In contrast, supporters of his move played up its significance. Stephanie Adams of the National Park Conservation Association referred to the governor’s decisions as “a historic step forward for bison.”
It’s a historic step forward for bison.
The decision still requires final approval from federal officials and representatives of American Indian Tribes that work with the state government on bison. However, there is expected to be little no opposition from either.
Yellowstone remains one of the world’s foremost habitats for bison. However, more than 6,300 have been slaughtered in the past 30 years or so. Hunters have killed almost 1,900 bison, mostly as a response to concerns over the spread of disease.