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Buffalo Field Campaign opposes all proposed federal Bison management plan options

“They need to be able to wander our continent again.”
Posted at 8:56 AM, Jun 28, 2024

WEST YELLOWSTONE — In Yellowstone National Park, a major shift is taking place in bison management. Some local activists aren’t too pleased with the proposed plans.

“As long as we’re under this current management plan, they’re never going to let the population grow,” said Mike Mease. “Yellowstone will always be the bison reservation.”

Mease has been working with the Buffalo Field Campaign for 27 years

Their goal is to create permanent year-round protection for bison and the ecosystem they depend on, including respect for the migratory needs.

“Yellowstone is not their natural habitat,” said Mease. “They need to be able to wander our continent again.”

Mike Mease

Historically, the park, along with other federal, state and tribal agencies, has limited bison expansion outside park boundaries. For years, the animals have been subject to a capture-and-quarantine strategy, hazed back inside the park, shipped to slaughterhouses, or shot by hunters, mostly tribal members.

In early June The park prepared its new bison management plan with 3 alternative options in response to brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can cause cattle to abort their young.

The new plan options will impact how bison are managed for years to come.

Alternative 1 would maintain a population range of bison similar to the last two decades (3,500 to 5,000 bison after calving), continue hunt-trap coordination to balance the population, increase the number of brucellosis-free bison relocated to Tribal lands, and manage the already low-risk of brucellosis spreading from bison to cattle.

Alternative 2, the preferred option, allows that Bison would be managed within a population range of about 3,500 to 6,000 animals to restore bison to Tribal lands and Tribal treaty harvest, and public hunting outside the park.

Alternative 3 states the park service would rely on natural selection, bison dispersal, and public and Tribal harvests in Montana as the primary tools to regulate numbers.

“What’s the difference,” said Mease. “They want to increase how many more can stay in the park and the state of Montana won’t allow that big number, but nothing’s going to change about letting them out of the park.”

Mease says the organization won’t give up.

“Until that changes, we’ll be here, looking them in the face telling them, there’s other ways, and we aren’t going away until times change,” said Mease.