Bison management riles folks, again

25- 100 bison to be allowed to wander north of YNP this winter-

Most folks will remember this, but if not, last winter a very expensive deal with made to allow a limited number of bison to leave Yellowstone near Gardiner to wander northward.

The female bison will be fitted with vaginal transmitters to warm us of conditions there (“cyberbison? !!”).

Then, to recap, bison will allowed to migrate west of the Park to Horse Butte for the first time.

The deadenders in the Montana Stockgrowers Assn. are suing to try to stop these modest reforms.

Story in the Bozeman Chronicle. Bison management riles folks, again. By Jessica Mayrer staff writer


  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Here is my letter to Ms Mayrer regarding this story:

    Dear Jessica

    I read your story (included below) about the CUT deal this morning in the Bozeman Chronicle. Perhaps I can add a Wyoming perspective to better explain the “conflict.”

    The alleged purpose of the IBMP is to protect the livestock industry against the economic threat of brucellosis and ensure wild, free-roaming bison. It has done neither, obviously, and cannot possibly do either the way it is structured, that is, “adaptive management.” The true definition of “adaptive management” is management by scientific experiment. Are the IBMP agencies doing science? Not at all. At best, what they’re doing is pseudo-science.

    The agencies’ idea of adaptive management is that the only changes in the IBMP they’ll make are the ones driven by politics–that is, changes they’re forced to make. Science has nothing to do with it, and even the IBMP agency biologists, who by and large are good people, realize this. That’s why conservationists are so heavy on the science of bison, particularly genetics, which is being done mostly at universities. You might want to check out this powerpoint presentation on genetics by the Park’s Rick Wallen, which I have attached. As you can see, the IBMP–in particular, the slaughter–is actually having a serious negative affect on the genetic diversity of Yellowstone bison, which is fragile enough as it is.

    Given the threat to genetic diversity of Yellowstone bison, just how is the IBMP supporting the goal of wild, free-roaming bison when it is actually damaging their long-term survivability?

    In fact, protecting against brucellosis and managing for wild, free-roaming bison are not the true goals of the IBMP at all. The purpose of the IBMP is to keep bison out of Montana to serve the interests of the livestock industry. That’s it. In this case, the interest of the livestock industry is to maintain its political power and economic privileges where land use and wildlife management are concerned. The only reason the “gridlock appears to be easing,” as Amy McNamara of the GYC erroneously claims in your story, is political pressure on the agencies from the GAO report that found fault with the IBMP, as well as the support of Horse Butte landowners for bison, not to mention the courageous advocacy for bison waged by the BFC, the ITBC, the GWA, and various individuals around the country for the last ten years. (Notice that I don’t include the GYC in the pantheon of courageous advocacy).

    In short, neither science nor adaptive management have had any impact whatsoever on the IBMP. It’s been politics that’s influenced the IBMP, mostly for the bad, but to a degree that conservationists can make their views known through the hard work of advocacy, for the good. The GAO report is an example of the latter.

    That’s where the CUT deal comes in. First, just what benefits have accrued from the $13 million already handed over to CUT in 1999? Grazing was supposed to end then and habitat opened up on the Ranch to bison. Neither happened. Why might that be? And now just what is the additional $3 million going to accomplish for bison? An easement to nowhere for vaccinated, tagged, vaginally-implanted cyber-bison. Wild, free-roaming bison they will not be.

    Glenn Hockett’s criticisms of the CUT deal, as outlined in the attached document, are absolutely accurate, and I won’t repeat them. Let’s just say, the CUT deal’s just fluff, propaganda, with no real benefits to bison conservation, just like the proposed opening up of Horse Butte to bison is all fluff and propaganda. The latter is merely a response to the GAO report, that is, unflattering political attention on the failure of the IBMP. This “change” doesn’t open up Horse Butte year round, which would truly be an example of adaptive management under the IBMP, an adaptation to the fact that there are no longer cattle at the Munns place, now owned by the Galanis’. But we can’t have real adaptive management, can we? That’s the point.

    Don’t forget, the Montana Stockgrowers have this “buddy-buddy, wink-wink” lawsuit against the DOL designed to get a state court’s sanction for an absolute deadline of 15 May when any bison in Montana must be forced back into the Park, including bison on Horse Butte. Talk to Tim Preso at Earthjustice about this lawsuit, as conservationists applied to intervene in the lawsuit. This absolute “out of Montana” date of 15 May is not a part of the IBMP, since it would obstruct the ostensible adaptive management provisions to eventually move bison into Montana once brucellosis seroprevalence declines (which it won’t, by the way, something the agencies understand but won’t admit). But, remember the livestock industry doesn’t want bison in Montana at all, but political pressure to make the IBMP function as the agencies promised it would is backing the ranchers into a corner. This lawsuit is just an example of the livestock industry trying to get its way when things don’t go its way. In a sense, the lawsuit is an attempt to get the DOL out of its overt agreement to coordinate all of its activities with the IBMP members. I think this is additional proof of the true purpose of the IBMP–to keep bison out of Montana at all costs–at least from the livestock industry’s perspective, and it’s the livestock industry (DOL/APHIS) that’s driving this, isn’t it? The Park, the Gallatin NF, and FWP aren’t. On the other hand, these latter agencies are more vulnerable to public criticism and legal challenge, which is coming, by the way.

    Then there’s the overall claim that brucellosis is a serious economic threat to Montana’s livestock industry. That’s false. Please follow this link to a column I wrote this past Spring on the subject for New West:

    Finally, you wonder about the threat of brucellosis to the livestock industry when you consider that here in western Wyoming, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department is running 22 elk feedgrounds. These feedgrounds are the continuing source of brucellosis in the elk of the Greater Yellowstone and have been implicated in brucellosis outbreaks in Wyoming in 2004 and 2008, the outbreaks in 2004 costing Wyoming its brucellosis free status that I discuss in my column. Yet, all calls from conservationists to close feedgrounds have been rejected. Why? Because the feedgrounds accomplish two goals for the ranchers of western Wyoming: 1) feedgrounds keep elk from accessing forage reserved for cattle and 2) the feedgrounds, as a subsidy forced upon the G&F by the livestock industry through a state law requiring G&F to pay landowners for game damage, actually serve as a weapon for keeping the G&F in line politically, that is, subservient to the livestock industry on a host of issues, such as wolves and grizzly bears as well as elk and deer and pronghorn and grazing. Disease control is not an issue. Elk control is the issue. Just the way that the IBMP is about bison control, not disease control. It’s all of a piece. That’s why I refer to the GYE’s alleged “brucellosis problem” as the “brucellosis fraud.”

    And of course, there’s the looming threat of a chronic wasting disease epidemic on the feedgrounds. This doesn’t bother ranchers at all, and G&F is keeping its head in the sand over CWD.

    To put it bluntly, ranchers aren’t the wonderful conservationists that they and collaborationist support groups like the GYC claim. All interests aren’t being served by brucellosis management either in Montana or Wyoming. Only the interests of the livestock industry are being met.

    That’s why the IBMP must be scrapped in toto and why Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds need to be closed. We have to get the livestock industry out of bison and elk management if we are to protect and conserve bison and elk as wild, free-roaming animals.

    I’d be more than happy to talk with you further about these issues. Please contact me if you’re interested.

    Robert Hoskins

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Those who want to see Rick Wallen’s 2 October 2008 powerpoint presentation on Yellowstone bison genetics should follow this link: and scroll down to YNP Briefing and click on genetics powerpoint.

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    For those who want to see Glenn Hockett’s comments for the Gallatin Wildlife Association on the CUT deal, follow this link:

  4. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    What the heck! Let’s see if the Obama transition team would find this of interest. I am going to contact and see what happens. At least they should be aware of the great wildlife debacle.


  5. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    Who decides 25 or 100? What happens to number 101? This sounds like another disaster waiting to happen…

  6. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    It is all symptom management. As Anton Chirgurh said to the gas station guy (who married into it) in the movie, No Country for Old Men, … “You do not know what you are talking about”. That is what I feel when I read Rick Wallen’s power point (whih I’ll probably have to see still again at the ABS conference coming up (govt boys plug in the same old tape for whatever the meeting).

  7. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    We have only your word for it that we don’t know what we’re talking about. Quite frankly, given the tenor and content of your previous comments on Ralph’s web site, I’m beginning to wonder if you know what you’re talking about. I’d like some proof rather than constant attacks on those who disagree with you.


  8. buffalorunner Avatar

    Thanks Robert for such thorough and intelligent comments regarding this latest newspiece, and the links to relevant information. Much of what you have to say is spot on!

    You are quick to criticize science because you apparently have no education in this area. And if you check the American Bison Society (ABS) website and look at the most recent agenda posted today, you will see that the folks who are studying bison genetics are presenting talks in this area, and that Rick Wallen is actually presenting a talk on bison management in a mixed jurisdiction landscape…NOT genetics (See link below).

  9. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Only part of my post got sent. But then again I need to get going so I won’t try to recreate it.

    Basically what I am saying is that according to the folks into genetics there is supposedly only random chance and mutations that allows for genetic vitality.

    Nature has a lot better plan than the luck of the draw. She actually allows animals to make the choices. It happens in the extended family arena. If one would only try to apply human stirrings the answers would be there for genetists. I ask you to look into why the guy or girl at the neighboring school looks better than the ones in your own school. Or why, unless the person is a real nerd, why the new kid in school draws a lot of attention. T

    he different schools represent artificial extended families and the new kid represents the travelling single wolf.

    And yes I do get preturbed when I see so many people treating animals as freak shows. They deserve so much more … and random selection and “mutations’ is a slap in the face to all living things out there. There is no respect.

    I think everyone on this site wants bison to be free roaming in and out of Yellowstone. No one wants this more than I do. Bison represents what this country is unique for. I ask that each of you who is hanging on to genetics that will enable bison to stay on public lands to look beyond what I see as the desperation of hoping this avenue works. Over the past week or so I pointed out a lot of the failings in these plans. If I was a teacher I would give an A to all for trying, however.

    I am almost sorry I seem to be the only one on this site promoting or looking at social order for answers to yellowstones dilemna. I wish there were others. I will continue to address it and if I get a bit angry i don’t ask anyone to feel any different than they should. I guess sometimes one has to have a bit of anger to carry on. Hope to see some of you at the conference. Bye

  10. buffalorunner Avatar

    Genetic studies are important because they can help us understand the effects of culling to genetic diversity and the ability to adapt and survive. If these studies demonstrate that culling operations on lands outside the park are having a detrimental effect on genetic diversity, then this could lead to greater tolerance of YNP bison and the designation of winter ranges within Montana to support a large enough bison herd to minimize genetic losses.

    Increased access to winter ranges will also provide YNP bison the opportunity to exercise their innate social bondings and group structure on a year-round basis.

    A united voice for free-ranging YNP bison beyond the proposed 25-100 on CUT land and the limited seasonal access on Horse Butte. needs to be heard

  11. vickif Avatar

    Robert and Bob,
    As I read through the web-site I am always learning from both of you. You both represent very strong points about bison management.
    I know RH is educated, both in life experience and otherwise. I know this because he has told me so, and I chose to believe him. In the past, he has made me feel quite the say way as Bob appearnatly made him feel on this thread.
    I don’t think it is intentional, as the people who often post here as so highly knowledgable that they often come across as a bit -for lack of a better phrase-elitest.
    As far as Bob’s knowledge, I doubt there are many people who have had as much time in the field observing bison, their behavior, their individual traits….he has hands on, Like RH, he is educated by experience.
    If people really want to progress and do the best possible job on behalf of bison, we have to stop fighting amongst ourselves and direct our attention toward a practical plan to defeat those who really oppose bison-ranchers.
    Guys, this is not a competition between you, it is a place where we can gather the best info possible, from the most well intended folks, and push toward a viable solution.
    As someone who is less educated than both RH and Bob Jackson, I am glad for all of their in put and find it invaluable. I also appreciate the input of Jim, Buffaloed, and many others.
    At the end of the thread though, those opinions which stick are those that come from people who have posted because they care, regardless of how technical their knowledge is….people who post just to say “I support bison and think the treatment of YNP’s bison is wrong.” Honestly all, when you get too indepth or come across as too superior you can cause people to feel too uninformed to participate in a dialogue….that is how you lose their support. Is it not better to educate and collaborate than alienate?
    You are all on the same darn side.

  12. vickif Avatar

    p.s. after I got to know a bit more about where RH was coming from, I found him a very invaualble resource. I had a very enjoyable, but muddy and messy hike in an area he recommended. I also know that he lives very close to a place that I find enchanting and he is passionate about preserving it. So when I have questions about the Dunoir, I can defer to him.
    I also learned a bit about bison from Bob, and was able to actually see how the behavior carried out in YNP…it made the bison far more fascinating when I realized their was some method to their behavior..I was able to see that their actions had meaning, it personalized their plight for me.
    You guys are some serious powerhouses of info. Thanks.

  13. Bonnie Avatar

    Well said Vickif.

  14. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    I live in Massachusetts, and I have been facinated over the last few years with the struggle over bison and wolf management in the West. I called the Montana Dept of Livestock and got into a very heated exchange with some rep from that department last week. I asked him a simple question -why a state livestock agency was controlling a wild bison mamagement program. I also asked him why they were fighting bison migration to Horse Butte- when he became combative on the phone. I told him that his hat might be a couple of sizes too small and that it was affecting circulation to his brain! After hanging up with this idiot, I called the Gov of Montana’s office, where a secretary told me that brucellosis was the reason they were killing bison- when I questioned that statement she told me she could transfer me to an expert. She transferred me to the Dept of Livestock- where i got the same person that I had talked to ten minutes earlier!!! You people have your hands full with this political bureaucratic nightmare.

  15. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    If more people went through this all too typical rigamorole, it would be another way to build a greater constituency for bison.


  16. vickif Avatar

    Do you mean you’d like more folks to call the Dept. of Livestock?
    We really need to develope a phone tree via this site. It is an excellent was to create a verbal ripple effect. Maybe we need a phone/email tree?

  17. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    The BFC is the group that has this kind of thing well in hand. They organize frequent phone sessions with the political and bureaucratic mandarins, which are announced through their updates. Go to the BFC website and sign up!


  18. vickif Avatar

    Ofcourse! Will do.
    Perhpas it is a method that could be used for other issues as well.
    Have a good day!


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Ralph Maughan