DOL looks at stemming bison migration out of Yellowstone

Montana DOL throws cold water on several years of progress-

This was to be a year when bison could legally migrate freely out of Yellowstone into the area west of the Park, especially Horse Butte where they are welcome.  All the cattle are gone from area.  The Gallatin  National Forest approved of the migration. Now Montana DOL says “no.”  Of course, it is apparent to almost everyone not associated with livestock now that brucellosis is just a smokescreen for retaining the unbridled power of the cattle industry in Montana.

This sad development was reported earlier by the Buffalo Field Campaign.

DOL looks at stemming bison migration. By Daniel Person. Bozeman Daily Chronicle.



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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I wonder if they can spell J-A-C-K-B-O-O-T-ED T-H-U-G-S at the Department of Livestock.


  2. Brian Ertz Avatar

    when you’ve got a state agency whose sole mandate is to cater to a marginal private industry, this is the trash that takes place.

    these guys just keep diggin’.

  3. Jon Way Avatar

    Following the article below this one on wolves: “Why must Montana be kept free of bison?”
    (yes, i know the answer but really now…)

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Wild bison permanently in Montana would mean the livestock industry is truly losing its oligarchical grip over land and wildlife, not to mention the institutions of governance. It’s a big deal.


  5. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I quit the Idaho Governor’s Bighorn/Domestic Sheep working group for similar reasons. The woolgrowers went around us and worked directly with the legislature. Now when Bighorns and domestic sheep come near each other in Idaho, IDFG kills the Bighorns. Sharing the public range with wildlife is not something domestic livestock producers do well.

  6. JimT Avatar

    I wonder if we didn’t have a cowboy at the helm at DOI if Montana would be allowed to do this kind of crap. All I read in the article are general assertions, but no numbers and no facts to back up DOL. Robert Hoskins is exactly right.

    Is any kind of civil disobedience action feasible to making the slaughtering impossible, or at least viewable to the world via YouTube, etc. ?

  7. Mike Avatar

    It sounds like Montana needs a revolution.

  8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    When Yellowstone bison are slaughtered, they are sent to an undisclosed slaughterhouse under Homeland Security and other law enforcement escort. The destination is treated as Top Secret, and it too is under guard.


  9. John Avatar

    I would say that Montana is definitely ready for some sort of…. something. Ask the big horns they killed up Rock Creek this past week. Domestic sheep in the bottom, vs. big horns, take a guess at who will win. As far as I know, Buffalo Field Campaign does a pretty good job bringing the Horse Butte problem to light, but it is not the only place where these land use issues crop up.

  10. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    These complex inter-related problems, the root of which is in the livestock industry, is what has led me to conclude that our strategy should be to destroy the political power of the livestock industry to control land use and wildlife management. Everything we do should be oriented toward that goal. Obviously, that means rejection in toto of the capitulatory, collaborationist, undisciplined, expedient strategy that is so popular with mainstream “conservation” groups, but so ineffective.

    We see the benefits of the disciplined strategy in the successes of the Western Watersheds Project. We see the costs of the undisciplined strategy in the failure of the Defenders of Wildlife’s wolf depredation compensation program. The difference between the two groups is glaringly obvious.


  11. mikarooni Avatar

    Collaboration sounds great in theory and I fantasize that it’ll work someplace sometime; it’s just amazing how it always seems to come out so icky in practice.

  12. Elk275 Avatar

    Jim T

    “Is any kind of civil disobedience action feasible to making the slaughtering impossible, or at least viewable to the world via YouTube, etc. ?”

    The last time someone tried civil disobedience they landed in jail for 30 days.

    ++Is any kind of civil disobedience action feasible to making the slaughtering impossible, or at least viewable to the world via YouTube, etc. ?

    Bozeman, M.: Joe Strusz is currently serving 30 days in the Gallatin County Detention Center, and has been given a $600 fine, for peacefully protesting at the Horse Butte Bison Capture Facility. He locked himself to the trap on April 2, 2002, in order to deter the Department of Livestock from capturing and killing Yellowstone’s Wild Buffalo.

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Civil disobedience is not an effective tactic unless 1. the media picks the story up in a big way, and 2. there is public sympathy for the person who broke the law.

    I don’t think no. 1 would happen. Number 2 is hardly guaranteed. That’s what the brucellosis story is for — to make the casual public think maybe there is a public health issue of importance at stake.

  14. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Those damn cows are too big to shoot, shovel and shutup, or that might be an option. Using a backhoe to dig holes on cattle range would be pretty obvious.
    Cows that have been worked with dogs will run if you throw a couple of rocks and yell sic- em boy. Once they start moving, they will keep going for miles. I once moved several hundred cows out of Muldoon Canyon in Copper Basin that way. The cows had eaten the grass to the ground where I was hunting elk and I stopped in Mackay to complain. The forest service told me that the cowboys were scheduled to move them to a new pasture the next day. I went back up to my camp just to watch. When the cowboys came up the next day, opened the gate and left, leaving the cows to find their own way out of the allotment, I moved the cows for them.

  15. JimT Avatar

    RH, I think your idea of yanking the fangs of the livestock industry legally is ultimately what needs to be done. I think you start with regulatory reforms..too hard to amend FLPMA, for example, at this point in time. Or, use some of the federal land conservation funds to buy out permits based on a history of violations. Despite what the ranchers claim, these are NOT in fee property rights, and the courts have repeatedly rejected any kind of claims to that end.

    Unbelievable Homeland Security is involved in this…I think sometimes on these issues we are living in some sort of Fellini movie…

    With regards to civil disobedience, Ralpy, I was thinking more of a membership kind of issue, not just one person. More likely for national media to pick it up if the protest and witnessing is done by hundreds of folks, and really, less likely for arrests to happen or jail time. Perhaps Tim Egan would like to pick this issue up in his NYTimes blog…

  16. JimT Avatar

    LOL..sorry, Ralph…I hit the wrong key. Or maybe I was channeling The Honeymooners show…;*)

  17. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    You’re showing your age if you remember the Honeymooners …


  18. JimT Avatar


    I mean, I read about them in a history book….;*)

  19. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    I would like to see multiple lawsuits against MT and the Feds over this situation. Anything in the works there?

  20. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Steve C

    Western Watersheds has already filed a lawsuit against Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin National Forest over their involvement in the IBMP. Bison conservationists have also intervened (through Earthjustice) in the Montana Stockgrowers’ “friendly” lawsuit against Montana DOL to “force” DOL to keep bison off Horse Butte after 15 May. Finally, we are beginning the legal process against the Turner decision for quarantine bison with a formal appeal of the decision to the Montana FWP Commission.

    You can get involved in only so many lawsuits before you lose track of them.


  21. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Montana BOL is concerned about animals moving off Horse Butte….and “that this allowed area for bison can hold only so many”.

    I am not saying there can be assurances of bison staying only on the Butte but I can say those out migrators (rather expansionist herds looking for a home…migration has little to do with it) will stay a lot closer to their “intended” spot if bulls seen in this area are not allowed to be shot.

    In other words the matriarchal components need the protection and security of these role players. Take this away from any uncertain and non secure “home” and those intially wanting to take root here will move on to some other location…maybe close, maybe 20 miles away.

    The hunt and killings by BOL of these bison is causing the “problems” BOL is experiencing. Whether they really care to solve their stated worries of animals moving here and there is another thing. Alarmist views and prediction of worst case secenarios always excites those uneducated (ranchers).

    Also those advocating the bisons ” return” need to get a bit more into management of the herd in leiu of Wildlife agencies capitulation lack of knowledge. BFC says the Nez Perce didn’t find any buffalo to shoot this year. Has BFC informed these tribesmen their last hunt …where they shot the only two bulls in an expansionist satellite group …..was the very reason those matriarchal components left vamoosed the next day to Yellowstone Park…something no one wanted whether BFC or the tribes? These activist folks have a lot on the plate already but without coming up with alternate plans all “management” is left in turmoil.

    The hunt has to be cancelled for a number of years if BOL or any environmental organization wants stability of bison herds outside the Park. And BOL has to stop shooting bulls that are in the designated allowance areas. If they want to shoot scout bulls that have moved well off the intended areas of expansion (Ennis etc.) that is another thing. Maybe “special hunts” in any of these far off areas will accomplish two things, satiate the blood seekers (hunters) and allow BOL to assure ranchers of West Yellowstone enclosure of bison.

    The way it is managed now assures instability of those expansion bison herds.

  22. Steve C Avatar
    Steve C

    Robert thank you for the info. Not being involved firsthand all of these lawsuits are very confusing. It also seems neverending. When a lawsuit is successful they think of another way to change the rules resulting in more lawsuits…

  23. JimT Avatar

    That is the nature of litigation; it never seems to end. and that is a bad thing, and I say this as an ex-litigating attorney. Litigation is a sign that things are broken, never a good thing. But, sometimes circumstances dictate that a suit be brought because you have run out of alternatives, and the harm being done must be stopped.

    And lawsuits must be strategic, a fact that some of the grass roots folks have a hard time with when a lawyer or a firm says it doesn’t think it is a good case to bring despite the harm being done. One always has to consider the precedent being set, and the risk that bad law can be made, especially with the dominant conservative, anti-environmental mindset that dominates most Federal district courts due to the Regan and Bush appointments.

  24. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    The hardest thing I’ve faced since coming to the West 18 years ago is getting conservationists to think strategically. As an Army officer it’s fundamental to me, but civilians just can’t seem to get the idea of strategy through their heads. They just want to put out fires. You’re right, some fires you let burn.

    At the same time, I find lawyers too conservative. A perfect example is the National Elk Refuge vaccination lawsuit in 1999, in which the State of Wyoming sued the Refuge to force vaccination of elk against brucellosis. We already knew at the time that the Wyo. G&F elk vaccination program on the State feedgrounds was a failure, even a deliberate scientific fraud. The Refuge manager properly told the State to go pound sand, so the State sued.

    The big issue of course is state control over management on a national wildlife refuge. I think most conservationists would agree that imposition of State control over a refuge is a core threat to the national wildlife refuge system.

    The feds won this lawsuit–in Clarence Brimmer’s Cheyenne court, no less–mostly due to the intervention of Earthjustice on the side of the feds. (The fed lawyers did a horrible job; while the Earthjustice legal work was brilliant, as usual). The feds also won in the 10th Circuit, with one issue remanded back to District court for trial. The laws under which the refuge system operate are quite clear about federal supremecy on refuges.

    That should have been the end of it. Then, of course, George Bush (illegally) enters office, and he picks a political lawyer hack from Cheyenne, Tom Sansonetti, to serve as Dep. Asst. AG for Natural Resources in DOJ. Next thing you know the lawsuit, which the State had lost hands down in court, is settled in favor of the State, and the State begins vaccinating on the Refuge.

    Now, Earthjustice had formally intervened in the lawsuit, but oddly, Earthjustice didn’t raise a peep against the settlement. Not one peep.

    Almost ten years later, I have yet to receive a rational explanation for this failure to block the settlement. It seems to have had something to do with judicial politics, as if protesting the settlement would have offended the judge. It was all very ambiguous. I’m still in the dark, even after talking it out with the Earthjustice attorney.

    The outcome of course is that the State began vaccinating elk on the Refuge, with the main practical effect of increasing brucellosis seroprevalence among the Refuge elk. The larger outcome of course is that the State successfully asserted its authority over a NATIONAL wildlife refuge.

    Needless to say, I was pretty pissed off. The settlement did tremendous damage to conservation, primarily by allowing the livestock industry, represented by the State of Wyoming, to impose livestock style management of wildlife on the Refuge. There’s also the problem that the settlement increased disease risk on the Refuge. All so the cowboys could whoop it up with the elk on the National Elk Refuge.


  25. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Bison News – in the Bozeman Chronicle today they have their daily online poll regarding the Bison to Turner issue – currently 62% in favor of the arrangement. Clearly not a scientific poll but, figured a few may be interested.

  26. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Such polls are marketing ploys, and so are meaningless. I don’t attend to them.



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Ralph Maughan