Mark Azure: Let Montana tribes manage their own bison herds

"Once again, the Montana Legislature is considering bills that would block tribes from restoring wild bison to our own tribal lands. By generally banning wild bison from Montana, House Bill 249 and Senate Bill 143 represent an astounding level of disrespect to the tribes of this state. We call on the Legislature to defeat these offensive bills and on the governor to veto any that make it through.

After the great bison slaughter of the 1800s, fewer than 25 wild bison remained in Yellowstone. Their descendants are some of the only bison on earth free of cattle genes and the only continuously wild herd in America. They are critical to bison conservation, yet thousands have been sent to slaughter over the years for roaming outside the park. In 2005 an effort began to quarantine some of these roaming bison rather than send them to slaughter. Those that proved free of disease would start new conservation herds elsewhere. Tribal lands were at the top of the list of potential new sites.

On March 19, 2012, 61 of these bison returned to their historic range at Fort Peck Reservation amidst a great community celebration. Tribal members from Fort Belknap Reservation helped with the transport and attended the celebration. We are next in line and have spent more than $100,000 for bison fencing and infrastructure in preparation. Now, some in the Legislature want to put an end to this dream."

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Mark Azure: Let tribes restore wild, healthy bison to Montana (The Billings Gazette 2/8)

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