Official disagreement whether Interagency Bison Management Plan is worthwhile

In fact, the Montana state veterinarian and MT Dept. of Livestock are the only ones who think it has worked-

Interagency Bison Management Plan or IBMP is the controversial bison management plan adopted in 2000 to keep brucellosis from spreading from Yellowstone Park bison to cattle outside the Park.   No brucellosis has spread from bison, so a few Montana state officials say that means it has worked. However, there are almost no cattle in the area that the bison would occupy if they were allowed to leave the Park.  It is a great irony that the disease itself has spread from the area’s wide ranging elk to cattle on several occasions.

The IBMP has cost over $20-million and taken a huge toll on what could be free roaming bison.  It has also been a great cost by generating public resentment and conflict and violations of local people’s private property rights, civil liberties and the wild integrity of Yellowstone Park itself.

The plan should be abandoned.

Hazy results: Officials disagree on whether program to keep park’s bison from spreading brucellosis has been successful. By Eve Bryon, Helena Independent Record.




  1. mikarooni Avatar

    Oh, I think, if you add up and analyze all the money that GYC and others have funneled through them, CUT would have to think that the IBMP and the panic and ritualized mayhem that it has orchestrated has certainly set the stage for some very profitable opportunities for CUT; but, I can’t see the IBMP doing anything for the bison. The IBMP just gives the public the delusion that something organized is taking place; but, in this case, it’s just a silk veil hiding corrupt chaos. Sometimes no deal can be the best deal.

  2. Pronghorn Avatar

    MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks (the would-be wildlife managers) doesn’t have any answers for the “wildlife” part of its name (and apparently little in the way of leadership). Chief Ranger Reid has some Orwellian idea that “managing” 3000 wild bison and killing the rest is a plan that works and results in “good science.” State vet Zaluski thinks the plan works just fine, thank you, since cattle are protected from something that has never happened in the 80-some years before the IBMP existed. (Kinda like if you recite special incantations every day to keep zombies away and then believe whole-heartedly that it works because you never see any zombies.) What a fraud.

    Thanks are due to the reporter for an even-handed story. When I became involved in this issue several years ago, news reports mostly regurgitated whatever the agencies gave them. Now there is much more nuance–and truth– in the reporting. Thanks also are due to Buffalo Field Campaign for keeping this issue alive, documented, and in the public eye for over a decade. The day of the public land cattle baron is coming to a close. Wild bison will prevail…they’ve got endurance on their side.

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    We need to be clear about things. The IBMP is accomplishing precisely what the livestock industry intended–control of bison both in the Park and in Montana and of land land use in Montana, not only around the Park but throughout the entire state. The IBMP truly has nothing to do with brucellosis; brucellosis is just the legal justification for control of bison. It is a bison management plan. If it weren’t brucellosis, it would be something else.

    DOL and the Stockgrowers are in charge and the other agencies are just playing along.


  4. Elk275 Avatar


    How are we going to have free ranging bison north of Yellowstone National Park? After Yankee Jim Canyon the Yellowstone River Valley becomes what is known as Paradise Valley, the Valley floor is private land and even up on the mountains is checker broaded National Forest lands with some forest lands having no legal access.

    Once the buffalo leave Yankee Jim Canyon are they going to go back up the mountains immediately? If they go up Tom Miner Basin, it is all private land until mid way up the mountains, fences to be broken down, cattle scattered and horses gored or cut on downed wire fences. No. Bison are plains animals and will stay on the valley floor, even if they would immediately return to the National Forest lands, there are many, many additional fences that have to been cross or broken down. Landowners will bison proof fences at a large cost to the landower to stop bison from trespassing on their property, which will funnel bison through private property with weaker fences or down US 89. Besides Paradise Valley everyday is being subdivided and re-divided and new homes are being currently being build even in this down economy.

    Eventually the Bison will reach Livingston, Montana and where are they now going to go? The Shield’s River Valley would be excellent Bison range but the entire valley is private property with National Forest lands starting on the base on the mountains and the Crazy Mountains are checker boarded all the way across.

    It is possible that bison could go up Eagle Creek across Dome Mountain and on to the state wildlife lands. Any further north the bison will hit a deep chasm called 16 Mile Creek and will turn back to the valley floor. Herds of bison grazing the ditches of US 89 and county roads is not going to be allowed. There is no where for the bison to go or if there seek the few places they could occupy, soon they will graze it down or winter will come and they will seek the valley floor, where they are not welcomed by the large majority of landowners and definitely the larger landowners will not allow them either by laws, courts rulings, guns or bison proof fences. Remember bison proof fences will stop the normal migration of deer, antelope and elk.

    When I worked in Yellowstone Park in the first 3 years of the 1970″ there were about 500 bison, everything was ok. Then the bison herds were allowed to expand into the thousands with out anywhere to go. I would love to see the free range bison in herds of thousands but that is not going happen with the Yellowstone bison ever again. The west has been settled, land patented, rail roads given every other section, bottom lands cultivated and now subdivided into 2nd homes or early retirement homes.

    I do not sell real estate but have been an petroleum landman for 10 years and a real estate appraiser for 20 years. I do know western landownership and the land ownership of Paradise Valley and the Reynolds Pass area very well. I would guess that the best and maybe the only option for free roaming bison in the State of Montana is with the Prairie foundation in Phillips County. There is a lot of anti private property feelings on this forum.

    Apparently, Save Bears spent a considerable amount of time looking for places that bison could roam. I do not think that he found any bison’s “glory holes”, but then glory holes are kept secret until the proper timing. I hope that it is out there somewhere.

    1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
      SEAK Mossback

      Elk275 –
      Unfortunately, I have to largely agree. It was a very sad thing when the Forbes Ranch was sold to the Church Universal and Triumphant for their world headquarters site because congress fiddled around for too many years. Of course, it doesn’t say much for old Malcom Forbes either for such a wealthy guy to leave that kind of miserable legacy bordering on the nation’s oldest park. At least that’s one area where bison should have been able to go, on that side of the river up to the canyon. I got to hunt on the Forbes Ranch when I was 12 and 13 (before moving over to Wyoming) with one of the few locals with permission to hunt there. It was great. I understand the RMEF has been able to buy a sliver of it, at least.

  5. Alan Avatar

    Elk 275: All the bison need is winter forage. Just as far as Yankee Jim, though not ideal, would be a huge step in the right direction. Then Montana could have a legitimate hunt to keep numbers in check. You talk like as if you let them across the northern boundary of the Park and they will take over the world. They aren’t some horrid, unstoppable virus that will march to the sea. Right now Montana is fraudulently selling bison tags because there are no bison, and there is no bison habitat, in this area. The hunt relies on whether or not the winter is severe enough to drive animals across the border. Then they are tolerated only for the hunt. This is a fraud and it is immoral. There would not be massive herds of bison running the streets of Livingston. Bison often wander into Gardner as well as West Yellowstone and certainly Mammoth etc. They don’t trample every fence in sight. They graze and move on.

  6. Elk275 Avatar


    Yankee Jim Canyon is a very narrow piece of geography with US 89 on one side and the old railroad bed on the other side. Where are they going to graze? Private of public lands. Maybe on the OTO Ranch or the Tressle Ranch, both now owned by the forest service. That area is very dry and there is a limited amount of grass available unless there is irrigation. The only grazing before the canyon are two pieces of irrigated land at the check station on either side of the river. After Yankee Jim Canyon where are they going and if Montana is going to have a hunting season they will be shot in the open on the road like in the old days.

    If Bison move north of Yellowstone in the winter months are they going to return to Yellowstone or are they going to graze and move north. There is better grass in the valley why return to Yellowstone. There would be no reason to return. At one time antelope must have migrated from Yellowstone down Paradise Valley now they are confined south of Paradise Valley, I have only seen antelope in the valley a dozen times. No, they are not going to invade and take over Livingston unless there is no hunting of them for many years. They will summer in Paradise Valley on private land and all private land is fenced and the only way to private land is through a fence and I as a land owner (which I am not) bison would not be welcome. Why, because the forage that is available would be for horses or cattle. If they get into Paradise Valley how, are they going to access grazing beyond the road right away’s without going through a fence? The entire valley is fenced with 4 strand wire.

    Do you put in for the bison hunt? I do and I do not think that it is a fraud or immoral but maybe a very long shot or impossible shot and if drawn probably to much of a hassle. One would be better buying lottery tickets but it is the hunters who support the fish and wildlife. Buffalo are not virus and they are not going to take over, but there is at the present a very limited amount of suitable public land out side of Yellowstone. Yellowstone can only support so many bison and elk. People think it is great the wolves are reducing the elk population and the change that has been bought on the landscape, but it seems that bison are blessed.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Alan and Elk275,

    It seems to be that most of the free-ranging bison range outside the Park is to the west and northwest of Yellowstone. I mean the rest of the Madison Valley (to the west of West Yellowstone), the Madison River canyon to Quake Lake, the upper Gallatin Canyon which is likely to soon be cattle free and for summer range the meadowy highlands between the Madison Range and the Monument Peaks to their east.

    Bison crossing barriers would have to be installed at Quake Lake, Targhee Pass, Yankee Jim Canyon and a few other places.

    Paradise Valley has no potential. It is too developed and fenced.

    Some think think the area to the west of Raynolds Pass is suitable. I hope they will tell us why.

    There would be generous bison hunt, of course.

    I remember the several years in the 1980s when the bison roamed free. There were a lot of them west of West Yellowstone until early summer and in the upper Gallatin Canyon. I certainly enjoyed seeing them.

  8. Alan Avatar

    Right now they are hazed back when they are still on Park Service land, in the so-called “new” area of the park. Elk, pronghorn, bighorn and an occasional moose graze along 89 as well as west of the river. Even a few bison before they get “caught”. Yankee Jim is a natural “bottleneck”.
    What we are doing now is like having someone stand in front of your cupboard, and evertime you went to get something to eat they “hazed” you back into the livingroom. It is immoral.
    A ranger told me once that, in his opinion, they should plant and irrigate the “new” area for winter forage. I know all about the problems in Wyoming with supplimental feeding, but if you are not going to allow animals to reach winter feeding grounds, what do you do? Such planting and irrigation would be more “natural” than trucking in food; and, one would think, discourage bison from roaming further.


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