Forest Service finally closes Horse Butte to livetock grazing

There haven’t been cattle on it for 8 years, but now it is officially closed to grazing-

Despite the absence of cattle on the butte, its official status as a grazing allotment allows Montana Department of Livestock and the Montana Stockgrowers Assn. to bleat about the dangers of brucellosis from the bison that migrate out of Yellowstone every winter (and especially spring) onto the butte. Now their propaganda is even more just thin vapor.

Horse Butte is used by all kinds of rare species the Forest Service says in addition to bison. Much of the Butte is also private and owned by a family that supports free roaming bison.

The difficulty closing this area officially to grazing underscores how hard it is to get livestock off any public lands regardless of the other more important values of a place.

National Forest closes Horse Butte grazing. By Daniel Person. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer.

The south side of Horse Butte in April. The snow melts earlier here than anywhere else. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Added. Here is the actual Forest Service Horse Butte-suitability analysis


  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    Don’t forget HOBNOB. Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo. It is a group made up of homeowners who live in the subdivision on Horse Butte. They support free roaming buffalo here.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I like your story. Thanks for the link.

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I wonder what bearing this decision will have on the “friendly” Stockgrower lawsuit against DOL on the 15 May cutoff date for bison being forced back into the Park.


  4. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    This is great news!

  5. Rolling Mountain Avatar
    Rolling Mountain

    Person’s article left out the fact that Earthjustice successfully litigated the Horse Butte allotment, and a Federal District Court judge vacated the allotment and permanently enjoined the Forest Service from re-issuing it again without proper environmental analysis. Earth justice! Thanks!

    The Horse Butte closure adds to the list of allotments that have now been closed in the last couple years on the Gallatin National Forest: Park, Sentinel Butte, Little Trail, Cedar Creek, and Canyon in the Gardiner basin, Horse Butte in the Hebgen basin.

    Several more public lands cattle grazing allotments remain vacant from non-use or the permit has been waived back to the Forest like Cache-Eldridge in the Taylor Fork. (Thanks to all you hunters out there!)

    By my calculations of Forest Service data, the Gallatin still allots more public lands to grazing cattle – over 45,000 acres – then buffalo are permitted to roam year-round, which remains Eagle Creek at about 23,000 acres where buffalo are now hunted.

    When Horse Butte peninsula becomes open to wild buffalo year-round that would add another 9,600 acres to buffalo habitat on the Gallatin National Forest and several thousand acres of private lands where people want wild buffalo – at no charge to the public treasury.

    This grass roots local support for wild buffalo is often overlooked and stands in stark contrast to the over $14,000,000 in taxpayer money pumped into Church Universal & Triumphant coffers to protect several thousands acres of wildlife habitat along the Yellowstone River and to this day not one wild buffalo has roamed freely on these lands protected by all Americans.

    Montana livestock inspectors shoot them.

    Yellowstone National Park rangers intercept buffalo for just walking in the direction of places like Devil’s Slide and force them back into the Park, or capture them inside the Park for shipment to slaughter houses where over 2,600 wild buffalo have gone – a whole buffalo population wiped out from the one remaining that retains their identity as a wildlife species.

    Attorneys from Western Watersheds Project now have the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service in court to answer for their actions impairing wild buffalo inhabiting Yellowstone National Park, and not managing habitat to sustain populations of wild buffalo and sage grouse on the Gallatin National Forest. Thank you!

    The point is we all need to get more people behind the collective push that will dislodge the government mind-set that the interests of a few livestock oligarchs must be served and favored first. Our natural heritage is wantonly destroyed – paid for by loot from the public treasury – and public institutions and the people in them corrupted by such ill-gotten influence.

    It has been the dogged persuasive power of a whole bunch of folks who have made this change on Horse Butte. Thank you all for your dedication to protect wild buffalo in their native habitat, and endless persistence in the face of such adversity.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Rolling Mountain,

      Thank you for this important additional information about status of livestock grazing allotments on the Gallatin National Forest. I hope a lot of folks read your comment.

  6. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Now, the question is will they finally allow buffalo on it. I hope Buffalo Field Campaign is all over this.

  7. Salle Avatar

    Yes, indeed. Will they allow bison on the butte, but also…
    will they have personnel on the hwy (US191) to deal with traffic when they are crossing the road? Especially at night.

    It appears that most of the landowners are quite willing to host the bison during the few months that a lot of them are there. One or two bulls will hang out during the year anyway.

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Salle, I think the most important thing will be to post speed limit signs and have plenty of warning about buffalo crossing. Trying to staff the area may not go over as well.


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