Bison Advocates and Horse Butte Landowners Call For Changed Management

The news release below was posted March 4. This morning, this article appeared in the Billings Gazette. Activists try to stop bison hazing. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette. The headline is poorly descriptive.
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For release. March 4, 2008

Timothy Preso, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699
Michael Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign, (406) 646-0070

Bison Advocates And Landowners Call For Changed Management

Buffalo Field Campaign and Horse Butte landowners seek increased tolerance for bison in cattle-free zone outside western boundary of Yellowstone National Park

West Yellowstone, Montana – A coalition of bison advocates and local landowners today called on federal and state officials to stop capturing and slaughtering Yellowstone bison in a cattle-free zone outside the western park boundary pending a review of options to give bison more room to roam in the Horse Butte area.

“The government has been killing our nation’s last remaining wild bison, claiming it is necessary to prevent the spread of brucellosis to cattle on the Horse Butte Peninsula,” said Michael Mease, campaign coordinator for the Buffalo Field Campaign. “There are no more cattle on Horse Butte, so that excuse rings hollow. It’s about time the people in charge get behind the locals who support wild bison being on Horse Butte without harassment by the government.”

Horse Butte is a peninsula consisting of federal and private land that extends westward from the west boundary of Yellowstone National Park into Hebgen Lake. The peninsula is surrounded on its north, west, and south sides by the lake. Yellowstone bison typically migrate to the area in late winter and spring seeking forage that they need to survive the harsh winter conditions of the Yellowstone plateau. However, the bison are met by state and federal officials operating a bison trap that has already been used this winter to ship 30 wild bison to slaughter.

Recent land management changes have entirely eliminated cattle grazing from the Horse Butte peninsula. A court order stopped cattle grazing on a National Forest grazing allotment on Horse Butte in 2002. Last year, new owners purchased the sole remaining cattle grazing operation on the peninsula, removed the cattle and declared their property open to Yellowstone bison.

Those purchasers, Rob and Janae Galanis, are among 39 Horse Butte landowners who joined the Buffalo Field Campaign in calling for a halt to the capture and slaughter of bison on Horse Butte given the complete absence of cattle from the area year-round.

“When we purchased the Munns Ranch, one of our goals for the property was to willingly remove the last cattle from the Butte. However, yearly cattle grazing on the ranch has kept the grasses down, which has helped deter potential grass fires on both the ranch and the Butte and has also kept down the spreading of noxious weeds,” said Rob Galanis. “For these reasons, we believe the ranch must continue to have a grazing component, which we hope to achieve naturally by allowing the bison to continue migrating out of Yellowstone National Park and on the ranch, as they have historically always migrated. To help achieve this goal we renamed the ranch ‘The Yellowstone Ranch Preserve’ (the YRP) and posted the YRP as a ‘Bison Safe Zone’ to create a sanctuary for bison activity. In order to achieve this goal the hazing and slaughter of bison by the Department of Livestock on the Butte must cease.”

The bison advocates submitted their request to federal and state officials in the form of a letter written on their behalf by the non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice. The letter asks the officials to stop capturing and killing Yellowstone’s bison and to initiate a new environmental impact study to assess changes to an Interagency Bison Management Plan in light of the changed circumstances on Horse Butte. To read the letter, click here:

“The government promised the public an adaptive management plan for bison; now it is time for them to adapt their management,” said Earthjustice lawyer Tim Preso. “The government’s bison plan was created at a time when cattle grazed across much of Horse Butte every summer. Now that the cattle are gone the plan needs to be changed to become more tolerant of Yellowstone’s iconic bison.”

The bison advocates noted that, in addition to its unnecessarily brutal treatment of bison, the government’s continued implementation of aggressive bison management is a waste of taxpayer dollars. State and local governments spend more than $2 million each year to haze, capture and slaughter Yellowstone bison in the interest of an ever smaller group of livestock operations outside park boundaries.
“The government is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to protect cattle that aren’t even here,” said Mease. “It doesn’t make sense and it is no way to manage some of our nation’s most revered wildlife. The bison slaughter on Horse Butte should stop.”Background:Horse Butte Peninsula is 24,000 acres of wildlife rich habitat, located north of West Yellowstone, Montana. Native bison that migrate from the Yellowstone Plateau following the Madison River winter in the upper Madison Valley. In spring time, pregnant females seek out early green-up on Horse Butte to calve. Consisting of mainly Gallatin National Forest lands, Horse Butte is also home to a small village of local residents who generally support wild bison in their neighborhood.Horse Butte is prime calving habitat for the Yellowstone buffalo, as the peninsula has south-facing slopes that green up early in the spring. A diversity of plant and wildlife species, and habitat types, occupy the peninsula. Hebgen Lake and riparian wetlands along the Madison River provide habitat for trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, bald and golden eagles, and moose. Grizzly bear, grey wolf, elk, black bear and coyote also make their home there, as would bison but for government hazing, capture and slaughter operations.Bison attempting to migrate to Horse Butte in the winter are met by state and federal agents carrying out a lethal control program that is ostensibly aimed to protect domestic cattle from the theoretical threat of infection with a disease, brucellosis, that is carried by some wild bison. Transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle has never been documented in the wild, and bison and cattle generally are not in the park boundary area at the same time – bison seek to use the area in winter and early spring, and cattle are trucked in for summer grazing. Nevertheless, for the sake of a small number of cattle grazing operations in boundary areas, agents use helicopters, snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, and motorcycles to haze bison that leave the western Park boundary. Agents capture those bison that do not flee from this hazing and test them for exposure to brucellosis; those testing positive are shipped to slaughter. During winters, such as the current winter, when the Yellowstone bison population exceeds 3,000 animals, agents are authorized to capture and ship to slaughter all bison leaving the west park boundary, without testing any for exposure to brucellosis. Agents shoot bison that cannot be hazed or captured.



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  1. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    YES…! Great news today…! Thanks to Tim Preso and everybody at Earthjustice, thanks to Michael Mease and everybody at BFC and thanks to Rob and Janae Galanis for moving this issue forward…!

    “The letter asks the officials to stop capturing and killing Yellowstone’s bison and to initiate a new environmental impact study to assess changes to an Interagency Bison Management Plan in light of the changed circumstances on Horse Butte.”

    YES…! Possible changes to the IBMP…!

    Thanks to everybody who’s ever worked to move this issue forward to a final resolution…!

    America’s bison are such a national treasure – they deserve the highest degree of respect. We’re getting closer…

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own

  2. Buffaloed Avatar

    Don’t get too excited Mack. We are still dealing with the Montana Department of Livestock and Governor Do Nothing.

  3. Concerned Avatar


    I have to agree with Buffaloed, I applaud their efforts, but will wait to see what happens, I have been fighting for Bison for over 15 years now and have seen many starts, and not many finishes, I do hope their letter calling for change does move us down the road to the next step, but I also know the DOL as well as the Governor’s hollow promises…

  4. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Hey, Buffaloed, I’ve been called an “infernal optimist” more than once…!


  5. Buffaloed Avatar

    I hope that this does some good but this issue seems to be one of those that people love to use to further their own standing. The governor has used it to get elected but can’t or doesn’t seem to do anything, other politicians have proclaimed that the issue is resolved due to the CUT land deal, and they have used the fear of brucellosis as a cudgel to kill buffalo and disregard public opinion and private property rights.

  6. vicki Avatar

    I see this as huge progress, because land owners in the area are becoming actively involved in denouncing the practices being used. If it opens new doors, well great. If nothing else,, it shows that not everone is against bison in their backyard. It shows that their are rational people willing to say “no” to b.s. policies that aid in the raping of public lands and policies at the hands of cattlemen, and misguided public officials.

  7. Buffaloed Avatar

    The argument is pretty strong to stop this crazy practice but logic doesn’t seem to prevail with these idiots in the livestock industry who want to kill everything to protect their “way of life”.

  8. Monty Avatar

    Thanks to all of the folks who have been in the forefront of the bison wars. While most of us set on the sidelines, the few make the sarifices that will eventually bring about a rationale Bison managment policy. Thank you!

  9. kim kaiser Avatar

    did anyone read this from the article comments? as i dont know what or who gives good info on this,, what is the crux of the paper,, that this is a new migration phenomonon or is it like predicting weather, where more than 20 or thirty years is needed to find trends,,


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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