Environment | Law

Montana court upholds transfer of Yellowstone bison to tribes

The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that bison from Yellowstone National Park can be transferred to two tribes.

Citing environmental and disease concerns, ranchers and property owners sued to stop the transfer of bison to the Fort Peck Tribes and the Fort Belknap Indian Community. The Montana Supreme Court, however, ruled that state law does not bar the animals from being placed in Indian Country.

"The Legislature has specifically provided for the transfer of bison to tribes," the decision stated. "We therefore conclude that the Legislature did not intend that the phrase 'private or public land in Montana' include tribal lands," it continued.

Some 61 bison were transferred to the Fort Peck Tribes when the dispute arose. As a result of litigation, none of them made it to the Fort Belknap Community.

The state will be able to transfer more bison to the tribes under the ruling in Citizens v. Maurier.

Get the Story:
Bison transfer legal, Montana court says (AP 6/19)

Montana Supreme Court Decision:
Opinion - Citizens v. Maurier (June 19, 2013)
Synopsis - Citizens v. Maurier (June 19, 2013)

Related Stories:
Ryan Dreveskracht: Another threat to bison and tribal rights (05/13)
Montana tribes battle opposition to bison restoration efforts (04/02)
Mark Azure: Let Montana tribes manage their own bison herds (02/08)
Montana bill authorizes year-round hunting season of bison (02/01)
Native Sun News: Fort Peck buffalo caught in the line of wildfire (10/02)
Bison herd grows on Fort Peck Reservation amid legal dispute (08/14)

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