Environment | Opinion | Politics

Opinion: Montana lawmakers try to hinder tribal bison efforts

"The Montana Legislature is considering numerous bills concerning bison in an astounding level of disrespect to the tribes of this state. Senate Bills 144, 207 and 212 and House Bill 318 would place hurdles or outright block our efforts to restore Yellowstone bison to our tribal lands. We call on the Legislature to kill these bills and on the governor to veto any that make it through.

After the bison slaughter of the 1800s, fewer than 30 wild bison remained in Yellowstone. Their descendants are some of the only bison on earth free of cattle genes and are critical to bison conservation. In 2005 an effort began to eradicate brucellosis in some of these bison and provide them as a source of disease-free Yellowstone bison to start new herds elsewhere. Tribal lands were at the top of the list of potential sites. Last year the first 87 were sent to Ted Turner. Now, another 60 are available. We have requested them. Our tribal councils have passed resolutions endorsing Yellowstone bison restoration. We have raised and spent well over $200,000 preparing for their arrival.

Senate Bill 144 would prevent Montana from relocating these Yellowstone bison to any place other than the National Bison Range in Moiese. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Brenden, R-Scobey, made his intent clear to the Senate Agriculture committee back in 2009 when he sponsored an almost identical bill: prevent bison relocation to Fort Peck Indian Reservation. We had to work hard to kill that bill in the 2009 Legislature; it is astounding that we have to do so again.

House Bill 318 would require county commission approval before bison could be moved. Senate Bill 207 would require Department of Livestock permits to move bison between counties. Both are attempts to block bison conservation and give others veto power over our plans to restore bison to our lands."

Get the Story:
Robert Magnan and Michael Fox: Let tribes restore wild, healthy bison to Montana (The Billings Gazette 3/19)

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