Forest Service OKs bison fence leading north of Yellowstone Park

It’s a four-foot high, seven-mile long electric fence-

Forest Service OKs a long bison fence. Bozeman Chronicle.





  1. Salle Avatar

    And it says nothing about the fact that it really bears no significance to the actual situation of the plan nor does it say what RTR means. It says nothing about the intended hunting of these very bison, which means they will probably end up dead rather than returning to the park. It does voice a couple locals’ concerns that this fence will be on their property without their having any voice in the matter.

    Most of the locals on the western perimeter of the park want the DoL to go away and leave the bison alone. If they want to deal with brucellosis, they can focus on the elk and the damned cows. Many even go so far as to say thhat “the cows need to go, period”.

    One more example of the industrial voice having precedence, actually a strangle hold, over/on public lands and wildlife policy rather than the actual public who have many times stated that this is a ruse and that the policy making bodies need to be restructured…

    And get the state out of managing federally administered land and wildlife! Why doesn’t the GAO get this little tidbit?

  2. dbaileyhill Avatar

    Flower said that the RTR deal “is necessary to break the bison bottleneck”.

    What the heck! It’s creating a bottleneck for all wildlife not getting rid of one! This is absolutely pathetic.

    Have I missed something???

    One human trait that continues to both perplex and fascinate me is the ability to convince oneself of untruths. I do not understand how people can function living like that. And people actually find this acceptable.

  3. Salle Avatar


    I agree… maybe it’s part of the new world order…

  4. Dan Avatar

    Agreed, this fence doesn’t sound like anything I want to see go up, but I withhold judgment until I see more details. Does anyone have a map showing the exact location of these 7 miles of fence?

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    There’s a big problem here. Why focus on elk? As yet, there is no proof that elk were responsible for the two brucellosis incidents that cost Montana its brucellosis-free status. The epidemiological “report” put out by DOL last September is both incomplete and inconclusive. One interesting thing is that the strain of brucella found in the infected cattle is not distinguishable from that found in bison or elk. With the last case, the Burns incident, the strain found in the infected Corriente heifer is actually more similar to the strain found in bison in the Corwin Springs quarantine facility than to local elk.

    All the talk about elk serves to do is bolster the demand of the livestock industry to extend bison-style management to elk.

    Let’s pay attention to the facts.


  6. Salle Avatar

    Wow Robert,

    That’s interesting. I had not heard about the strains of brucella being distinguishable in any way, not that I felt it was or wasn’t, I just didn’t know that. Though I seriously doubt that the DoL would have any inclination or ability to try the crap they do with bison on elk for one simple reason, money. The elk have a big lobbying network with plenty of cash since they supposedly bring the big $$ for the outfitter industry and such. Not to mention that elk are plentiful all over the region (except for the herds decimated by wolves of course), unlike bison, and would cost far too much to contain them in large numbers… Wyoming has feed grounds but those are proving to be a hazard in themselves so elk would likely not be in danger of the same type of mismanagement as bison are subjected to. However, that’s not to say that attempts wouldn’t be made, these deparments have a way of coming up with some pretty insane programs after all.

  7. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Unless there is some kind of new fangled electric fence that gives off vibes, I can tell you from personal experience no NEW electric fence will stay up. There will be a lot of tax payers dollars spent on the labor of fixing the breaks in this fence every morning.

    White tail deer here in fence rich Iowa, of course, are very savvy to fences but whether it is summer or winter any new electric fence construction is met with daily maintenence for a month or so. Plus, when hunting season rolls around all those injuried deer who no longer can jump end up going through the fences not over them….whether the fence has been there one year or ten.

    We put up electric fence to keep neighboring cattle out of our bison herd (order seeks out disorder) when needed and we end up looking for electric fence wrapped around our bisons legs. In a case such as this, one has to shoot the animal for meat otherwise the wire constricts the blood flow so the leg falls off or the tendons are cut.

    Also winter time is the worst for maintaining electric fence. Any wet snow or ice storm shorts it out.

    In a place such as Yellowstone Valley I would have to say just about every form of hooved wildlife will be affected. This includes Big Horn Sheep. Any of those big rams hanging a hundred feet of wire (if that is what they are using) will make for a awful picture.

    If plastic tape is used then one gets into a situation such as outfitters and rangers do in the back country of Yellowstone. I’d be picking this stuff up from the woods far from the camp site. The wildlife don’t understand it and thus break it if any large area is enclosed and horses aren’t in the enclosure. One can imagine seven miles of it where many animals have to cross to get to the Yellowstone River to drink. Also plasic ribbon doesn’t contact like steel wire. The fur of bison will touch it and do nothing…until it breaks.

    Any heavy snow also drops this “wire” to the ground and again makes it useless.

    What I say about electric fence above every rancher in Montana could say more. They must be in every coffee shop laughing about this proposed fiasco.

    My thoughts are there are so many physical plant operations negatives to this corridor fence I have to wonder someone in Interagency management with prejudices against bison has to be plotting a “throw up your hands and say any management is hopeless. Bison can’t be controlled. just shoot them all”.

    In the end the Park and fellow Interagency cowboys will be herding the “chosen 25” through the lands North to mecca. Won’t that be a sight to see, moving some bison south back into the Park one day and the next trying to move disease free, but busted up families bison north. Talk about field level public servants becoming cynical!!

    But of course, hasn’t all of the bison plan to date been a fiasco?

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks, Bob.

    A fair amount of this seems obvious now that you’ve posted it, especially if you have seen electric fences in use or used them.

    You have to wonder why they are even trying? It does make me think of cynical motives.

  9. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Well of course DOL is going to go after elk. That’s the whole point of this exercise in blaming elk for the brucellosis incidents in Montana.

    With Glenn Hockett of the Gallatin Wildlife Association, I attended a brucellosis workshop in Billings earlier this month. It was held by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and sponsored by the Montana Stockgrowers Association, with all of the IBMP agencies participating. No conservationists or hunters were invited. Indeed, the fact of the workshop was kept secret but like most secrets, it leaked, and I badgered the RMEF until we got an invitation. Given that government agencies were there, it was a public meeting anyway.

    Interestingly, once Glenn and I showed up, the cops were called, ostensibly, so I was told, to protect everyone’s right to speak. I don’t believe that at all, since everyone there was going to speak with one voice until we showed up. Clearly, the cops were called to intimidate us. Since I don’t intimidate, I was mostly amused and edified at how transparent the lame attempt of intimidation was.

    In any case, the purpose of the workshop was to provide cover through the RMEF, ostensibly a hunting/conservation organization, for more intensive management of both elk and bison, primarily by gaining agreement on eradication of brucellosis in the elk and bison of the Greater Yellowstone as a goal and to revitalize the moribund Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee, revitalizing meaning the increase in funding for brucellosis research and management, that is, elk and bison control. There would have been “consensus” on this had we not attended to prevent it.

    Eradication of brucellosis, since all know that it’s impossible without eradicating elk and bison, has become a code word for “tightening the screws” on migratory elk and bison to expand the control the livestock industry has over land use and wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone. This is part of what I call the “fencing in Yellowstone” strategy being pursued by the livestock and other extractive industries to “protect” public lands around Yellowstone National for “multiple use.”

    Supposedly there was going to be a meeting between the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior after the workshop in which the two Secretaries would come to some kind of agreement on eradication as a goal and the GYIBC revitalization (i.e., brucellosis funding). The workshop was intended to provide support from livestock industry and conservation industry “leaders”in Montana and Wyoming and Idaho for such an agreement. I’ve heard nothing about this interdepartmental meeting. Also, the RMEF has promised a copy of the workshop minutes, but as yet I haven’t seen them. I doubt I will.

    The RMEF has put out a press release on the workshop; you can find it here: It reflects the typical collaborationist/brown-nosing approach to problems of wildlife and livestock that has so corrupted conservation throughout the country, especially here in the West.

    This is the context one has to place this latest decision to erect a “fence” to channel the movement of bison in the Yellowstone Valley. As Bob has pointed out, it’s absurd.

    Yes, Ralph, you can posit cynical motives for the fence.


  10. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Round and round we go, where it stops nobody knows, found this on the Daily Interlake this morning, looks like the cattle barons are going to continue with their war on the wildlife in the west..

    If the link don’t work, just search the AP

  11. Jack Avatar

    The entire project is about Montana receiving ‘federal pork’ money 2.7 million!Also $300.000 of sportsmens dollars.The fence is 48″ high. What about mule deer,elk calves,wild sheep and antelope? For example mule deer require a max. of 41″ with distance between 1st and second wire 11″ to prevent entanglement of hind legs.FWP used Robb-Ledford fences as an example and those fence still remain ‘wildlife unfriendly’. FWP did no literature search on the subject. Most important however is the fences violate federal law the unlawful Inclosures Act of 1885 as amended,the Camfield decision and the Red Rim decision “wildlife is guaranteed under the UIA of 1885 a federal law, free access to and from public lands”. Fencing wildlife in is rediculous!!The USFS also in violation of those federal laws in addition to ther Federal Data Quality Act and Title 18,USC The False Statements Act.What is the process for filing an ‘Appeal’ immediately tell us USFS and FWP. ‘Appeals’ must be filed to the USFS and FWP to stop this project in it’s tracks lets do it!!Bison are wild….as soon as the hit the fence the federal law is violated.Money before the welfare of wildlife that is what this is all about,get that federal pork!!.What did FWP do with the 12 million dollars of Homeland Security dollars for “genetic pure bison” at the old game farm? No one is talking.Domestication of wildlife is this the new FWP charge?

  12. Jon Way Avatar

    It is interesting to read the post’s on Ralph’s site. In summary, there is ongoing discussions and different viewpoints on wolves and predators with some completely against them off the ESA and others on the site thinking it is ridiculous that they are still on the ESA.
    However, it seems that every person on this thread thinks that everything to do with bison management is the most backward, non-democratic, waste of tax paying dollars, and insulting to the public, type of wildlife management imaginable. I agree…

  13. dbaileyhill Avatar

    Check out the new “Update from the Field” newsletter at BFC. It looks as though bison are going to be allowed to go to Horse Butte and the West Yellowstone area. This is the first I have heard of this deal.

  14. Salle Avatar

    Actually Jon,

    I personally think that most of the wildlife management policies and practices are ridiculous, pretty much everywhere, at this point in time.

    I am truly hard-pressed to find any that I can agree with.

  15. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    You might want to read the article that I posted the link to, it seems as if there has an injunction filed to prevent the bison from being allowed in that area.

  16. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Actually, the lawsuit referred to by SaveBears is an update of any earlier lawsuit filed by the Montana Stockgrowers against the Montana DOL, although anyone who knows the politics of brucellosis realizes that this lawsuit was cooked up between the Stockgrowers and DOL to attempt to get a Montana state court to sanction their opposition to even minor changes in IBMP operations on Horse Butte as a consequence of the highly critical GAO report.

    Legally, since DOL is a signatory to the IBMP, which came out of a settlement between the federal government and the State of Montana in federal court, I don’t see how Montana state courts have any authority to hear the case, much less rule in favor of the Stockgrowers.


  17. Salle Avatar

    It’s a ploy to make it look like it is a “state’s rights” issue that has no legal bearing here. What they seem to forget is that the national forests, BLM lands and national parks are federally administered as are the wildlife… This sorry state-wide special interest gang, the DoL, are only legally operating on these lands at the “pleasure of” the federal administrative bodies and can be removed from the “party” at any time should the feds choose to do so. If they don’t keep their activities up and make like they are doing something to protect against the spread of brucellosis ~ kind of like Bush saying that he’s made the country safer since 911 because there haven’t been any more terrorist attacks ~ then they can’t show that they have done anything with the taxpayer bucks they get every year to fund this fiasco. So the claim of no bricellosis infections is their ticket to carry on, only that has been jeopardized lately and they aren’t willing to let it go that easily given that for them, the stakes are too high. This must be the case for the charade to continue this long after the truth has been told over and over again for at least a decade.

    And you can’t get the mainstream media to cover it in any way, even NPR, recently, had a story on bison hunting in Alaska and the interviewee claimed that the bison were killed off because a new tanning process had been developed to make the hides softer and they became popular in Europe. This is a small and secondary story since the tanning process would not have been developed if the hides were not so numerous due to the mass slaughter based on a government ploy to remove incentive for Native Americans to leave the reservations to hunt as was provided in treaties that they never intended to honor. The Native Americans were removed for many reasons, one of which was to reinhabit the land with Euro-Americans and one incentive to bring them out west was the idea that they could have all the land they wanted for their cattle.

    The cover-up is completely “covered” by the media as part of it rather than being active in exposing it. They have no intention of informing the public, which is half their job/purpose.

  18. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Remember, at Horse Butte, all bison will still be forced back into the park after May 15. There are also restrictions on the numbers of mixed group herds.

    This really amounts to nothing to get excited about, but unlike the deal in the north, it truly is a step in the right direction. We still need to do much better.

  19. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I do not think montana BOL, as an entity, is conspiring with the Stockmens Assoc. in the lawsuits. Certain old time elements (members held over from the previous governorship appointments) are still of the iron hand and keep the course of old. They are the ones who communicate with the Stockmen.

    There actually is quite a split amoungst the new Montana BOL… and the few remaining old timers. However, the majority, the new appointees are at the politically tempered call of the present governor.

    That is how I see it from first hand presentations to the BOL and conversations with members after the meetings.

    As I see it the majority are tired of being labeled as the bad guys … and they realize they are out of their element when it comes to migrating bison. Public opinion has had lots of impact on them…and they do want to follow the steps of the Governor. That is why you see the Hegben Lake exception. It is not because of the Park Service. It is because the governor led BOL components are promoting it.

    Additionally, some of the hard core BOL employees in the field are more loyal to those with red neck cowboy attitudes and march to a different drummer than their bosses. The advise I hear them giving BOL board members is slanted and these farmer – rancher appointees don’t know how to respond to it.

    I think if activism is kept up it will have more of an effect than you think.

    The BOL, I feel, is not as much of a problem as Yellowstone Park administrators. They are the ones who should be defending their (our wildlife) but hide behind the cloak of the Interagency committee. For example, their capitulation to agreeing to vaccinate all the bison in Yellowstone goes absolutely against what the Park stands for …. when one realizes what horrible impacts any project like this entails. They know it won’t work, but are willing to try and carry out this hopeless program the same as electric fence is suppose to keep bison in line. Where are their convictions?

    Without the Park standing up for bison any element favoring letting bison roam on public lands in Montana BOL, Game and Fish or state vets has little strength to speak out.

  20. Buffaloed Avatar

    Montana Department of Livestock Mission Statement:

    To control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals.

    Notice there is nothing in DoL’s Mission statement about the general public. The DoL is only concerned about the welfare of the livestock industry and nothing more. Steve Merrit told me this very same thing.

    I wish I had a government agency that looked after only my self interests.

  21. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    You’re welcome to your opinion, but the nature of the lawsuit indicates a cozy conspiracy between the Stockgrowers and DOL. (Note that I didn’t say the BOL). This is clearly a friendly lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in the court of a judge who is a rancher to prevent any movement out of the IBMP phase I, that is, actual implementation of the adaptive management promises of the IBMP for phases II and III. The GAO report on the IBMP focused specifically on the failure of the IBMP agencies to move out of phase I after 8 years of the 15-year plan’s existence.

    The GAO report has had its greatest effect on the federal agencies, which still are in thrall to the livestock industry, but have the most to lose from a shift in public opinion about bison mismanagement. That’s why we’re seeing these cosmetic changes in the IBMP.

    Let’s not forget, ranchers and the DOL absolutely oppose the presence of bison in Montana, and are using brucellosis as the means of preventing bison migration into Montana. Were it not brucellosis, it would be something else. Ask the Stockgrowers and DOL representatives, if brucellosis were eradicated, would bison be thereby welcome in Montana? The grudging answer of course is no. While there may be some individual rancher tolerance for bison, that tolerance does not extend to policy. And it’s policy we’re concerned with.

    Originally, the lawsuit in question sought to enforce a date of 15 May when bison had to return to the Park. DOL had been forced by other agencies signatory to the IBMP to slide a little on this date; the purpose of the lawsuit is to shore up an ironclad date. Subsequently, the GAO report has increased pressure on the IBMP agencies to be more tolerant of bison presence in Montana, specifically on Horse Butte, since there are no cattle present and landowners want bison there. (Note, however, the Horse Butte decision would still enforce a 15 May removal date). So what we’re really talking about is a small wedge for the presence of bison in Montana through 15 May, not year round.

    However, even this small concession violates the livestock industry’s policy for no bison in Montana period. I was just recently in a brucellosis workshop with the Montana State Vet Marty Zaluski, and his absolute demand for eradication of brucellosis in bison (and elk), something we know is impossible to achieve, indicates a fundamental intolerance for any migration of bison into Montana. Period.

    There is no doubt in my mind that this lawsuit was cooked up between DOL and the Stockgrowers to keep bison out of Montana; to keep the IBMP in phase I where the livestock industry wants it. But, the livestock industry is slowly, slowly losing. Some of these people realize that.

    That’s not to say that Yellowstone NP is less guilty than the other IBMP agencies in permitting the mismanagement of bison. But in interpreting what is happening, we have to be objective, not subjective. We have to look at what is actually happening on the ground. We have to have evidence. This is one case where I think your history with YNP is affecting your assessment of the facts. I see no evidence whatsoever that the Horse Butte decision is being driven by Schweitzer and his hand picked members of the BO–rather, it appears to be driven by YNP–whereas, it’s clear that Schweitzer is wielding a heavy hand in the RTR decision.

    If you have evidence that Schweitzer and his BOL picks are behind Horse Butte, then perhaps you could release it to the rest of us.

    My own discussions with people in Montana indicate that the split between new-timers and old-timers on the BOL has much more to do with partisan politics in Montana than anything else. It parallels the split between the Montana Cattlemen and the Stockgrowers, which also tracks partisan lines.


  22. JB Avatar

    “I personally think that most of the wildlife management policies and practices are ridiculous, pretty much everywhere, at this point in time…I am truly hard-pressed to find any that I can agree with.”

    Salle, while I share your frustration with the direction of wildlife management (especially in the West), I think this statement goes too far. Every F & G agency that I have worked directly with is (1) actively seeking to acquire land for conservation purposes, (2) working with farmers and other rural land-owners to protect and restore habitat in sensitive areas, (3) have programs in place to protect and restore endangered species (most states have their own endangered species lists). I think these are all examples of policies that we all–or at least the vast majority of us–can agree with.

    I recently attended the Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference–a conference for agency fish and wildlife scientists and managers ( The three speakers who opened the conference at the plenary session gave impassioned speeches about the need to update the paradigm of F&W conservation in the U.S., which I believe were very well received. There is growing recognition that management for the traditional hook & bullet crowd will be insufficient for conserving our nation’s fish and wildlife resources. The problem is how to fund the conservation, protection, restoration and management of species in the future–what will replace hunting and fishing?

  23. mikarooni Avatar

    I don’t strongly disagree with much that is being said here; but, I would like to point out a couple of things, one pretty trivial and one that I feel strongly about…

    First and pretty trivial, my own experience with electric fences used to control bison is that they can work, but only under very limited circumstances. If a calf is exposed to the fence at an early age, it learns to avoid the fence without really testing it or getting angry at it and the fence works with that animal and its cohorts pretty well. However, when adult animals, more especially bulls at that 15 to 24 month stage during which everything looks like a fistfight to them, are exposed to it for the first time, my experience is that them will often, even to their own limits of pain, make a point of testing it, getting mad, and often just ruining it. You can always come back and get it up again and you have to do that in response to weather and other wildlife anyway; but, you have to patrol it pretty continuously during the time it is being subjected to the most damage; the process is labor intensive and expensive; and I’m not sure that it is a good return on the dollar.

    Which brings me to the important point. None of this deal is a good return on the dollar, for anybody but CUT. It is least of all a good investment for the bison; assuming we could of gotten access to this amount of money without it having to be a rigged pay-off for CUT, it could have been spent to benefit this pool of bison genetics in much more productive other ways. Look, I raise livestock, mostly to conserve odd/rare livestock genetics; but, I raise livestock. I am a rancher, prefer the term cattleman (all the twinkies can continue reading when they quit gasping; I’ll wait), and I know the relative value of grazing space. I also know CUT. They can try to get people to start referring to this as deal with the more romantic sounding “Royal Teton Ranch;” but, it’s a deal with the CUT and it was and remains a foolish deal given the amount of money being paid for what is being obtained.

    I haven’t had time to keep up with the exact figures; but, it seems that tens of millions of dollars have been and continue to be spent to get thirty years of seasonal grazing for a lousy 25 AUs. This amounts to hundreds and hundreds of dollars per AUM when the going rate in that area is what? …maybe $15 an AUM? Sure, there are some other advantages to getting an agreement on this land; but, the way in which this agreement was put together and managed, those advantages are illusory and obscenely overpriced and the whole deal went overwhelmingly in CUT’s favor, which is to be expected given CUT’s horrific history.

    At best, a small group of well-intentioned, but horrifically naive and overconfident, conservation-minded twinkies struck a deal with one of the most gruesome collections of filthy conniving grifters in recent history and we all, especially that poor pool of remnant pure bison, got taken to the cleaners. This deal sinks, always has; this fence will be expensive and stir up more trouble than it is worth; and continuing to pursue this stinky deal, continuing to pour good money after bad, will only give the bison conservation effort even more of a black eye, making it a laughing stock. I believe the focus should be on Horse Butte and on developing a case to sue CUT for fraud and try to recover whatever monies they haven’t yet been able to move offshore.

  24. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I was there the day (2007 not this year) the majority of BOL voted to allow bison to stay on Horse Butte until after the lawyers had a chance to talk further with the Galenis’s. This meant the bison would be after the time allowed in the Interagency management plan. A couple of old timers on the board objected vehewmently to the decision. Afterwards I saw these two talking with the Stockmens group. Next day the Stockmens filed their suit to insist BOL follow the Plan.

    I agree in the end the BOL will go with livestock interests. They do not like being labeled as the bad guys, however. That is why some of them sway. There are a couple on the board who did talk with me later about the benefits pursueing removal of cattle from West Yellowstone and allowing bison there. It was brought up with their initiative not mine. They also thought there should be 2 zones for brucellosis with one around the park the same as the Governor wanted.

    I bring this all up because I think there are elements in the BOL that can be cultivated.

  25. Jon Way Avatar

    I think there should be a tax on wildlife watching gear like binoculars, spotting scopes, mountain bikes and all the other non-consumptive uses. That would do 2 things:
    1. It would help pay for land conservation acquisions as hunting number plummer.
    2. It would give those users a voice in wildlife mgmt, one that they currently don’t have.
    I hope some of these new groups help promote this idea….

  26. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    To correct myself: It was May of 2008 we met with BOL, not 2007.

  27. Salle Avatar


    I’ve been hearing that same list of tired old songs for a long time now. It’s the policies that are what matter here simply because that’s where the protection in court takes place. Nothing else is suitable. All the good intentions of those who have little administrative power don’t amount to much until the actual policy changes, think “oath of office”.

  28. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I’ve talked with Becky Weed, one of Schweitzer’s appointments to the BOL, at the RMEF Brucellosis Workshop earlier this month, and quite frankly, she’s become enthralled with “why can’t we just work it out?” perspective that the collaborationists have been championing and far too many conservationists have adopted to let the ranchers off the hook from getting black eyes for the despicable actions taken by government in their interest. They deserve black eyes, and I for one am not interested in medical treatment.

    So, what are people like Becky, eastern wannabes, to be cultivated for? They have accepted without question the myth of the western rancher and livestock industry as something good–they have made it part of their identity. Yet, Becky is no less determined to control brucellosis than the old-timers; she cannot admit that it’s all about controlling wildlife instead of controlling disease. She demands that we conservationists acknowledge that brucellosis is a legitimate problem for the livestock industry. But it’s not. It’s wild, free roaming wildlife that are a problem for the livestock industry and ranchers, and nothing will change that fact.

    Until we get away from the question of brucellosis control and turn to the real issues of land use and wildlife control, to the determination of the livestock oligarchy to protect its illegitimate powers and privileges, and to questions of politics and policy, we’ll get nowhere.

    As long as livestock take priority over wildlife, we’ll get nowhere.

    We kid ourselves if we think that people like Becky Weed in positions of “authority” on the Montana Board of Livestock, or on any livestock industry governing board, will make decisions that will favor the public interest and the public trust over the interests of the industry. It simply isn’t going to happen. It’s a waste of time to try to move ranchers in “the right direction.” Even under the best of circumstances, they’ll never move far enough–“far enough” being changing the priority from livestock to wildlife.

    In any case, your account of the BOL meeting you attended seems to support my contention that the Stockgrower lawsuit is an action taken in collusion with the Montana DOL. Just because a few BOL members, ones appointed by Schweitzer, voted in favor of relaxed rules on Horse Butte doesn’t change that. To assume otherwise is to assume that a firewall exists between DOL and the Stockgrowers that even ranchers admit doesn’t exist.


  29. JB Avatar

    “It’s the policies that are what matter here simply because that’s where the protection in court takes place.”

    Salle: I’m not sure how to respond to this statement. Policy can be set by federal or state statute, or established by agencies (administrative). Thus, protection of species or populations can occur at any of these levels (federal, state, administrative).

    Regardless, management activities (e.g. land acquisition, habitat restoration, invasive species removal, etc.) all require funding, which (depending upon state) currently comes primarily from hunting and fishing (in the form of license sales revenues and federal excise taxes). The song may be tired, but the lyrics are true. If you want to change the priorities of F&W management, then you need to start by changing the funding source(s).

    Jon Way: I agree; though proposals for establishing such taxes have met with resistance in the past.

  30. Jack Avatar

    We have an overpopulation of bison and bison leave YNP to avoid starvation. The easement plan is a plan to provide money to the Royal Teton Ranch for grazing land for the overpopulated bison herd.We can’t hunt on any of it. It won’t work plain and simple.We should be talking about HUNTING BISON…..yes HUNTING BISON.The last thing on anyone’s mind is HUNTING. We hunt elk,mule deer,wild sheep and antelope so what is so evil about hunting bison?Bison are not threatened or endangered. Hunting will also keep more bison inside YNP. The bison problem is the National Park Service problem. Is FWP becomming anti-hunting ? Sounds like it to me. Lets have a plan for HUNTING THE OVERPOPULATED BISON HERD.The USFS & FWP doesn’t have a clue about fences. The high 48″ fences are illegal under federal law, 48″ is too high. No fence is needed and any violates federal law, Doesn’t the USFS & FWP have attorney’s? Do they read the laws? Do we have an Attorney General that understand and reads federal law? Start by reading the Unlawful Inclosures Act of 1885 as amended.What about HUNTING bison? This bison issue has turned into a circus!

  31. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Over Populated and Not Endangered? Jack, you REALLY need to read up on the subject some, captive Bison are not endangered. Those are bit more domestic than the wild bison that inhabit Yellowstone National Park. Another thing, since when did we start defining a population of between 3000-4000 animals as “over populated”? Now take into account when white men can to North America there were tens of millions of free ranging bison in North America…

    Now, I am not opposed to hunting bison….but only when we have sustainable populations with genetic diversity in the herds…

  32. Jim Macdonald Avatar


    The issue of overpopulation here is a red herring. According to the National Park Service, bison are not overpopulated, although this is not something that they even know. Because bison numbers have always been culled throughout the history of the park, because elk numbers have often been artificially high, bighorn sheep numbers probably lower than pre-park highs, what the range numbers should be for bison in Yellowstone have never been firmly established.

    From a policy standpoint, overpopulation has not been the determination for why bison are being managed the way they are under the IBMP. They are managed strictly for brucellosis. The target number of 3,000 (and so controlling the population to 2,100 or 2,300) is set not for reasons of range science but arbitrarily based on what are assumed to be the numbers when bison begin leaving the park in larger numbers. But, no one really knows whether that number is also the same as the range of Yellowstone.

    Also, no one really knows right now the population of Yellowstone’s herds right now. And, that’s a whole other issue where transparency has clearly been lacking.

    Whether Yellowstone’s bison population is overpopulated (and what that means as I have noted above is loaded – do we mean range consideration, do we mean disease consideration, do we mean some other ethically loaded consideration of what the proper population of Yellowstone bison should be), it wouldn’t matter to your point about hunting. Either Yellowstone has a population that is too low, in which case there should be no artificial boundary set at the boundary of the park; or it’s too high, and there should be no artificial boundary set at the border of the park. If it’s too low, they need the space to roam to re-establish their populations. If it’s too high, they need space in which to leave the park and establish herds in Montana.

    So, either way, the population issue is irrelevant.

    Now, as for hunting, the issue isn’t overpopulation in Yellowstone, the issue is habitat. What habitat do buffalo have in Montana? None. They are forced back into the park. So, how on earth can a buffalo hunt be justified in a state where there is no bison population? The Montana hunt is a farce; it’s merely an attempt to keep bison from establishing habitat in Montana, not a natural relationship between beings in a habitat.

    And, yes, I use my own ethically loaded term here (“natural relationship”), but that really gets the issue out in the open. Are we managing bison for disease control, or are we rejecting that whole way of relating with bison for some other reason? And, for all the supposedly scientifically charged words we throw down, the science still reflects the ethics.

    I don’t really know anyone in the bison movement in the Yellowstone area that opposes hunting per se; what people oppose is calling something a hunt when it’s not. That opens a pandora’s box of ethics because I doubt everyone agrees on what a proper hunt would be or the reasons why or what ultimately would constitute the “overpopulation” of a herd (especially since bison have not come close to establishing their historic range). What people do agree on – at least those who work against current management of bison – is that brucellosis is not a good reason to restrict the movements of bison into Montana and that the Yellowstone National Park boundary (or the seasonal fence in the national forest) is not.


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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Ralph Maughan