Ranchers oppose bison relocation

Opposition to restoration of genetically pure bison to Fort Peck once again shows the real agenda-

Ranchers from nearly empty NE Montana are opposing the restoration of bison (derived from Yellowstone) to the remote Fort Peck area.

Once again they cite brucellosis, even those these bison have been quarantined for three years. They obviously think they can ride the fear of this not so fearsome disease another mile or two trying to hide their true agency of showing us all who is really the boss in Montana, including Native Americans who refuse to take their subordinate position.

Ranchers oppose bison relocation. By Tom Lutey. Billings Gazette Staff

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A reminder on tomorrow’s (Jan. 5) bison rally.

WHO: Buffalo Field Campaign, Buffalo Allies of Bozeman, and everyone who cares about restoring wild bison in Montana
* WHAT: March & Rally in Defense of Wild Bison in Montana
* WHEN: Monday, January 5, 2009. 9:00 am – 10:30 am
* WHERE: Meet at Women’s Park in Helena, located between Neil and Fuller Avenues, then march to the state capitol around 9:30 am.

Link to Buffalo Field Campaign.

Note: I don’t speak for the Buffalo Field Campaign or Buffalo Allies. My opinions about the motivation of ranchers is my own. Ralph Maughan



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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    You are right that this is one more example of the true purpose of brucellosis management: control of wild free-ranging bison (and now elk) for the benefit of ranchers and the livestock industry.

    One thing that people can do to help break this pattern of control is to push the US Fish & Wildlife Service hard to reintroduce bison to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR), which is in north central Montana along the Missouri River. The CMR has recently embarked on its legally mandated “comprehensisve planning process.” Check out the URL here: http://www.fws.gov/cmr/

    The Refuge has said it won’t consider bison reintroduction unless Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks asks for it. However, since this is a NATIONAL wildlife refuge, the State of Montana has no legal authority to mandate or control wildlife management on the Refuge, including bison reintroduction. Given the FWP’s total political capitulation to ranchers over brucellosis, we can wait until the cows come home for a FWP request for bison reintroduction to the CMR. But it isn’t necessary.

    Another thing we can push, which will take Congressional approval, is for the transfer of BLM lands adjacent to the CMR to the CMR. This would block up the shape of the CMR to make it more amenable to the movement of bison and other wildlife.

    Of course ranchers would scream bloody murder about this proposal too.

    Any more questions, give a holler.


  2. buffalorunner Avatar

    The Montana Livestock Growers Association represents a group of ranchers who would argue against bison restoration on public lands no matter where the source population came from from two primary perspectives. I know this from first hand experience with some of these MSGA folks.

    Argument A: Wild bison would be competing with their cattle for grass on these public lands. Oh, boo-hoo. The real reason for this argument; The reintroduction of bison is also perceived as a repatriation of Native American culture to the land. Because bison are so closely associated with Native American culture, restoration of this species represents a return of the Native footprint to the land.

    Argument B: Brucellosis or some other disease.

    There are some ranchers who do not care to see restoration of Native American culture or species anywhere in our state and will fight it any way they can, including the use of the lame brucellosis argument. The Disease Argument (B) falls flat in the face of agency support (including MDOL!) for moving quarantined Yellowstone bison to reservations or public lands! And if brucellosis wasn’t an issue, it would go back to Argument A, the poor ranchers losing money by having to compete with bison for public grass for their welfare cattle. What a sad song…(insert sarcasm here).

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    So they are a pack of racists too!

  4. Salle Avatar


    Yes, that’s true. I visited with the my friend from the Wind River today and we talked about the wolves, grizzly bears and bison and how they are being trapped behind fences, just like his people have been… It’s a fear of the white folks, that “others” will come and take back what was stolen from them. Like any thief, the fear that they will meet with rectification is the ultimate negative for them. It means that they didn’t get away with it after all… Let’s hope that THEY are “brought to justice” after being unaccountable for their incredible crimes in the near future.

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Here is a copy of the letter I sent to the Billings Gazette in response to this article:


    Bison restoration is land restoration, and the restoration of everything healthy land supports.

    It doesn’t surprise me that cattle ranchers oppose the transfer of wild bison to be freed from the Yellowstone brucellosis quarantine prison to the Fort Peck or Fort Belknap Indian Reservations or even to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, as reported in your 4 January story “Ranchers oppose bison relocation.” What conservation measures in history have ranchers ever supported?

    Ranchers quoted in your story call bison restoration a “cockamamie idea” and claim they don’t “want to be experimented on.”

    What experiment? Since when is healing the land an experiment?

    There has been no greater experiment in Montana and the West, and no more disastrous one, than the brutal expropriation of land from Native American tribes who had lived on the land for hundreds of generations, the replacement of native wildlife with an alien species, the cow, and the introduction of dangerous livestock diseases to remaining wildlife.

    The ecological and cultural sins of the livestock industry are many and great. Ranching has proven to be an experiment that failed in only little more than a century. Unfortunately, it will take longer than a century to repair the extraordinary damage it has caused. The sooner restoration begins, the better.

    Bring the bison back now.

    Robert Hoskins

  6. JimT Avatar

    If wild bison restoration is wholly or partly a racist issue, the more imperative it becomes to name a Native American to the BIA position at the very least. That person could then advocate for logical and legal treatment of Native American tribes and issues, whether it be the travesty of billions of dollars of lost funds, or the right to manage the lands in a more ecologically sound manner. The Echohawk family is one very good place to start.

  7. Chris Lunn Avatar

    There’s a million reasons to bring large herds of bison back to the state both political and conservational but the one reason that’s going to win the most support of your rural living local folks who may now be anti is the dollar that a herd of 5000 bison will bring in as people from all over the world will want to come and experience a large herd of bison. I’ve seen big herds of bison on the flying D ranch 3000 animals at one time it’s a spectacle believe me.
    The town of Brinkley Arkansas knows this well as the Ivory Billed woodpecker was rediscovered nearby and it brought an a small economic boom to that little town in the way of people traveling there spending money in the restaurants and hotels and shops. The people of Brinkley love “their bird.” The birders that traveled to Brinkley were not necessarily counting on getting a glimpse of this extremely rare bird but just to walk in the swamps in the shadows of giant old growth cypress trees and feel the excitement and hope that this iconic species might still be around.
    People that have no philosophical attachment to an animal or the earth like extractor industries and people associated with those industries who only see natural resources as something to cash in on can be shown the light when they see the bison pay for themselves we’re not going to make them see the beauty and sense in restoring native species and that’s the cold hard truth of modern day wildlife management stories around the globe $$$. Africa especially. Small villages in africa will vehemently protect wildlife species from poachers if the presence of those animals brings economic gain to that village in tourism or providing guides etc. Its just a changing perspective of land use and it will take time to ease into this seemingly new tradition for those that are oppose the ideas maybe even generations. There will always be haters but I believe that people in Montana that support restoration of indigenous species far outnumber those that stand in the way and therefore it’s important to speak out and unite. The times they are a changing!!

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Chis Lunn,

    You are right, and Montana DOL and the Montana Stockgrowers know it. They don’t want local people to begin making money off of bison, whether it by hunting or sightseeing.

    They want local people to see bison as a financial burden.


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