HB253 Will Remove Department of Livestock’s Management Authority

The Buffalo Field Campaign just sent out this press release. For full disclosure, I am a board member of BFC.



Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
(P) 406-646-0070
(F) 406-646-0071

Press Release

HB253 Will Remove Department of Livestock’s Management Authority

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 27, 2009
Press Contact: Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-646-0070

WEST YELLOWSTONE, MONTANA: The front lines wild bison advocacy group, Buffalo Field Campaign, announces support of HB253, the Wild Buffalo Recovery & Conservation Act of 2009. BFC joins with a diverse group of conservationists, private property owners, hunters, bison advocates and others in support of HB253.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Montana Representative Mike Phillips, and will be heard by Montana’s House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee in Helena on Thursday, January 29, at 3:00 pm in room 303 of Montana’s state capitol. A large public turnout is expected.

“HB253 takes a significant step in the right direction,” said BFC co-founder Mike Mease. “BFC supports the three critical elements outlined in this bill: 1) Removal of the Department of Livestock’s authority over wild bison management; 2) Respect for wild bison as a valued native wildlife species in Montana; and 3) Addressing concerns of private property owners who welcome wild bison on their land,” continued Mease, who will attend Thursday’s hearing.

The bill also addresses the concerns of private landowners, such as cattle producers, who may not welcome wild bison on their property. HB253, however, does not address year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana, which Buffalo Field Campaign would like to see included in the bill. The Horse Butte Peninsula is the ideal place to start, as the absence of cattle and overwhelming public support for bison make it a conflict-free area.

“Yellowstone buffalo are wildlife, and they should be managed by our wildlife professionals. The legislation also addresses private property concerns, allowing owners to have buffalo managed if on their property. It’s a win-win and a step in the right direction for wild buffalo management,” said Lisa Upson of Natural Resources Defense Council.

Currently, the Montana Department of Livestock manages wild bison that enter Montana, a role authorized under MCA 81-2-120. Under this law, crafted by Montana’s cattle interests, wild bison are managed as diseased pests and forbidden to enter the state without being subjected to harassment or death. HB253 would change that law by returning bison management to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

“It is a serious conflict of interest having the Department of Livestock in charge of managing wild bison,” said Mike Bowersox, spokesperson with Buffalo Field Campaign, “HB253 eliminates the foolishness of trusting the fox to guard the henhouse.”

American buffalo (Bison bison) are native to vast tracts of North America, including Montana, yet in the U.S. the last wild population exists only in Yellowstone and is currently ecologically extinct, absent from most of its native range. By recognizing buffalo as a valued, native wildlife species in Montana, the Wild Buffalo Recovery & Conservation Act begins to address wild bison restoration needs.

“HB253 will be a boon to Montana’s economy,” said Stephany Seay, a spokeswoman with Buffalo Field Campaign. “Tourists from around the world come through Montana’s gateway communities into Yellowstone to get a glimpse of these majestic, prehistoric wonders. By allowing wild buffalo to gain some respect in Montana, we are on our way to gaining them some ground. Wild bison are native to this state and pose an enormous benefit to the ecological, economic, cultural, and spiritual integrity of Montana.”

Since the Montana Department of Livestock has been in charge of managing wild bison (1995), 5,390 wild American bison have been eliminated from the last wild population in the U.S. Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild American buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their habitat and advocate for their lasting protection. For more information, video clips and photos visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

12 Responses to Buffalo Field Campaign Supports Montana Bison Bill

  1. Save bears says:

    I am glad to see that after all of this time that so many are actually saying Bison should be managed at wildlife..this is the ONLY way you are going to get control of them taken away from DOL. DOL has no business managing wild animals! I started saying we need to classify Bison as wildlife over 15 years ago and was scoffed at and said the only reason I wanted to see this was to hunt them, which is so far from the truth!

    Until such time as they are recognized as wildlife, the DOL will continue to manage them as livestock..

    DOL needs to be out of wildlife management and FWP needs to be out of livestock management!

  2. Salle says:

    Thanks Ken. I just received it too. Which reminds me that I have to make a couple phone calls in the morning.

  3. Ken Cole says:

    Like others I believe that this is only a small step and does not go very far in addressing the issue of where bison can roam.

    I think it is critical, and the only rational choice, that the livestock industry, if it truly believes that brucellosis is an issue, must manage their cattle in a way that avoids the possibility of disease transmission. The burden should not be on the public or its wildlife.

    I have a lot of friends who don’t know the first thing about this issue and when I try to explain to them the complexities of it I always start with this: “The reason that this issue is so hard to explain is that it doesn’t make any rational sense.” The way that bison are managed doesn’t make any sense because the underlying issues are not described truthfully. This issue is not about brucellosis, it is about control of land, wildlife, and grass, in other words it is about greed.

    I know that Gallatin Wildlife Association, Bozeman Allies of Buffalo, and BFC are on board with this bill. Does anyone know who else might be on board? Has WWP said anything? I would guess that GYC won’t touch this with a 10-foot pole and Defenders hasn’t said anything since last year when they used the mass slaughter as a fundraising tool. Where is Bear Creek Council on this?

  4. steve c says:

    Does this mean the hazing stops or that someone else will be doing it?

  5. Robert Hoskins says:

    I mentioned on another thread that this bill is more symbolic than actual. Here in Wyoming, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department has full statutory authority to manage elk as wildlife, but it still has abrogated that authority to manage elk according to the demands of the livestock industry. Even if the Montana bison bill were to pass, which is doubtful, it wouldn’t change FWP’s actions very much, if at all. Let’s not forget, behind all this is the spectre of APHIS and the livestock oligarachy, to which FWP has more than proven itself subordinate.

    What’s important about this bill is the recognition that bison are indeed wildlife and should be managed as such. In a larger sense, what it truly does is bring bison directly under the “shield” of the public trust–the sovereign duty of the State of Montana to manage wildlife in the public interest against the demands of special, private interests. The State of Montana is currently in violation of the public trust.

    In any case, perhaps “fulcrum” is a better word than “shield.” We still have to find the lever to move bison conservation, restoration, and management practically in the right direction.

    As to rationality, if one believes that the purpose of brucellosis management is to control disease, then yes, it’s irrational. Neither in Montana nor Wyoming has brucellosis management, despsite the thousands of animals slaughtered and the thousands of doses of vaccine administered and the millions of dollars spent, reduced seroprevalence in bison and elk one iota.

    However, if you believe that the purpose of brucellosis management is to control wild bison and elk, then it’s perfectly rational. For me, it’s clear that it’s all about control. The livestock industry is acting rationally, albeit a bit desperately, to protect its own political and economic interests as a fading oligarchy. It’s taking a big gamble that it can continue to control the game. But I wouldn’t bet on it.


  6. Save bears says:

    I don’t agree with all parts of this bill, but until such time as Bison are classified as wildlife, we are never going to have any breakthrough, I see the movements going on are going to accomplish the beginning of a change..

    We need to understand…you learn to walk, one step at a time, and often times there are many falls along the way..

    First step, classify them as indigenous wildlife..then DOL will loose much of their control over them and will have to fight from the cheap seats..if they are classified as wildlife, I see it as being a good dent in the DOL’s control..

    And I will add, that anyone that does not see this as a land control issue, has kept their heads in the sand for far to long!

  7. NRDC is on board.

    GWA says they are working on GYC … (*not holding my breath*)

    HOBNOB is on board.

    I’ve heard that Bear Creek Council supports this.

    There are also some sportsmen’s groups on board as well, but I’m not sure which one – perhaps the Safari Club.

    The Dome Mountain Ranch supports this as well.

    Okay, that’s what I know.

  8. Brian Ertz says:

    it’d be interesting to see what would actually change should the bill pass — in Idaho, the IDFG isn’t much better than its cousin at the state department of agriculture – and indeed, with management of bighorn sheep – the IDFG has hazed and killed bighorns to appease no more than a few powerful sheepman in the state — the Livestock lobbyists continue their political posture threatening to move management to the state ag department – but what would that really mean ? not a whole lot. the issue is federal as the conflict originates with federal land-use decisions.

    can someone explain to me how management of bison will change, whether more federal land will be appropriated as bison habitat, should passage of this bill take place ?

  9. A new article on this in tomorrow’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle :


    I think the biggest thing this does, besides changing the dialogue about bison, is to take DOL power over landowners that are friendly to bison. It’s a very small step, but we don’t have a lot of victories, do we?

    For me, just the buzz for the bill is a victory of sorts.

  10. Robert Hoskins says:


    Please note my post above. Any material benefit from this bill will come not from the language of the bill itself that would effectively change how FWP manages bison, but from moving bison closer to the public trust. The bill is a fulcrum for which we still have to find a lever. However, one of our problems right now is that we don’t even have much of a fulcrum.


  11. Another article today in the Great Falls Tribune:


    There’s no doubt that if this passed, it would create stronger arguments about what this means, as the agencies involved don’t think it would change much, either (this article is a good example of agency response). That would no doubt further anger the landowners at Horse Butte when a DOL helicopter shows up because of a certain interpretation of state law. That might be grounds for a lawsuit to settle the status of the IBMP as it is implemented and its inconsistency with state law.

  12. Robert Hoskins says:

    As I said, the bill is a fulcrum for future action.


January 2009


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey