Re-Wilding Montana

An Event in Missoula, Montana on October 25, 2010

It never fails. Every time I find myself driving across the immense open space and undulating landscape of the front range in Montana, I puzzle myself over the absence of bison. And each time I hear about the threat posed to livestock by wolves, I wonder how different it would be if bison were out there. Just today, I was speaking to Chief Jimmy St. Goddard of the Blackfeet Nation about restoring balance to nature (versus plopping species down onto landscapes), and he stated “wolves will go where the bison are.” Humans, being lazy by nature, tend to think that given the choice between cows and bison, wolves would favor the slow, dumb ones. But we’ve never given them that choice. Since wolves co-evolved with bison, I tend to think Chief Jimmy knows what he is talking about.

Last year, WWP’s Montana office premiered “Lords of Nature” in Montana, a film documenting the importance of top predators like wolves to healthy ecosystems. Scientists were surprised to learn after reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone that there was a dramatic improvement in riparian ecosystems, benefitting fish and birds and creating a cascading beneficial effect on the food chain. Then we had a lively panel discussion that included Montana Wolf Coordinator Carolyn Syme. In arguing for management authority in federal court, Montana emphasized how “all species fit together”, with the wolf being an “integral part” of the ecosystem. But when asked why bison should not then be welcomed back to Montana, Syme refused to answer, pretending the question was a matter of opinion, not science.

This year, we are presenting two films with a panel discussion. We’re excited to show the new High Plains Films documentary on bison, “Facing the Storm.” According to the filmmakers, the film shows that “the American bison is not just an icon of a lost world, but may very well show us the path to the future.” In a second theatre, we will be showing a film that premiered at the Wildlife Film Festival last year, “The Wolf that Changed America.” It’s a remarkable story about a wolf bounty hunter named Ernest Seton who was hired in 1893 to kill America’s last wolf, a notoriously crafty and elusive wolf named Lobo, and was so changed by the ordeal that he became a global advocate for wolves and helped spearhead America’s wilderness movement. Afterward, there will be a panel discussion with George Wuerthner, author of “Welfare Ranching”, Richard Manning, author of “Rewilding the West”, FWP Commissioner Ron Moody, and Chief Jimmy. Buffalo Field Campaign Spokesperson Stephany Seay will moderate the discussion.

According to recent scientific studies by independent experts, wild bison present almost no risk whatsoever of transmitting brucellosis to livestock. So the kind of balanced wildlife management approach we intend to discuss in this public forum is socially feasible, scientifically justified, morally compelling, and economically smart. Please join the dialogue.

Tom Woodbury, Montana Director, Western Watersheds Project.

WHAT: Western Watersheds Project & Wolf Warriors are sponsoring a Public Forum on the future of Montana’s wildlife that will include simultaneous screenings of two documentaries followed by a panel discussion (infra.) with audience participation. The films are:

“Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison” – the new documentary from High Plains Films that will be premiering nationally on PBS at a later date.

“Lobo: The Wolf That Changed America” – A “Nature” film that premiered at the Wildlife Film Fest, documents the story of Ernest Thompson Seton’s transformation at the hands of Lobo, the wolf he was hired to track and kill in New Mexico in 1893.

WHEN: 7 PM, Monday, October 25, 2010.

WHERE: Roxy Theatre, downtown Missoula.

WHO: The Panel Discussion will be moderated by Stephany Seay, spokesperson for the Buffalo Field Campaign, and will include:

Richard Manning, award-winning environmental author and journalist, author of “Rewilding the West” & “Grassland”

George Wuerthner, ecologist/author/photographer/journalist, author of “Welfare Ranching”

Ron Moody, journalist/sportsman, FWP Commissioner

Chief James St. Goddard (Ee-Suk-Yah), hereditary Chief of Blackfeet Nation, former member of Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.


  • The State of Montana (FWP) is in the early stages of crafting a conservation strategy for bison that will examine where bison fit on Montana’s landscape
  • The wolf management issue de jour tends to be viewed in isolation from its ecology. There are some who believe restoring bison to Montana’s landscape is not only the right thing to do, but will also go a long way toward resolving conflicts between wolves and livestock and elk, since bison and wolves co-evolved, and bison were one of the wolves primary protein sources. The focus of this forum is to conjoin these issues, and to begin discussion what a natural wildlife heritage would look like in Montana.
  • The Native American perspective is consistently ignored by the media and governing bodies in regard to these two species, which happen to be central to Native American cultural practices and beliefs. We are honored to have Chief St. Goddard on our panel, as he is an eloquent spokesman not just for Native Americans, but for his brothers bison and wolves as well.

(This event is free and open to the public. However, there is a suggested $5 donation for the films, with any excess proceeds to benefit High Plains Films.)



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  1. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    “Lobo: The Wolf That Changed America” is an amazing documentary. I think anyone who is anti-wolf should try watching this and not have at least some respect for wolves after seeing it.

    1. jon Avatar

      I watched it a few days ago pro wolf. It was amazing. I doubt anti wolfers are going to change their opinion on wolves after seeing this. They only see the wolf as vermin who is eating the deer, elk, and moose that they feel only belongs to them and only they should be entitled to them.

  2. Rita K. Sharpe Avatar
    Rita K. Sharpe

    Thank you,Ken.Sad that the bison are held captive and they can only roam in places where man sees fit or suits him.

  3. Mike Bickley Avatar
    Mike Bickley

    ‘Lords of Nature’ is being broadcast again on PBS & Nature this fall. It is an excellent film screen-written by William Stolzenburg who has written an equally excellent book on our vanishing top predators, ‘Where the Wild Things Were’. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the regulators of ecosystems.

  4. pointswest Avatar

    By far the best documentaries are BBC documentaries that air in England. American documentaries are usually produced for a 12-year-old audience. BBC documentaries are usually on a much higher level of intellect and are more in depth.

    You can download and watch BBC documentaries. Some PBS documentaries are good and some National Geographic but my faves are the BBC documentaries.

    One is this 3 part series on Yellowstone. It is in HD and is spectacularly filmed during the heavy snow year of 2008 I believe. A similar documentary aired on Animal Plant (it was co-produced) but was only a one part documentary and not nearly as interesting.

    BBC Yellowstone (3 part)

    This BBC doc is good on wolves. It is not only about American wolves but also about wolves in the Carpathian Alps.


    Some other non-BBC docs are…

    In the Valley of the Wolves

    Wolf Pack

    Great one on the evolution of bears…use to be small with long tails and lived in trees.

    National Geographic – Evolutions (2008)

    There is at least one “torrent” link on each one of the above pages. You only need a bit-torrent program to download. I like uTorrent. I have a networked blu-ray player that will play divx, Xvid, avi, mp4, and mkv files on my HDTV so I watch these nice documentaries on my HDTV. I just download them onto my hard drive and can access them with the remote control for my LG blu-ray player. You do not need to network but networking DVD players are becoming common. You can also burn them onto a re-writable CD or DVD or onto a thumb drive. Not all are in HD but nearly all of the new ones are. Many mkv files are of a higher quality than what I get over my AT&T fiber optic U-Verse service.

    There are tons of great BBC documentaries out there on wildlife, geology, life science, Yellowstone, Natural History you name it.

    If anyone is interested, I will write a little more about downloading and watching videos. Many are perfectly legal to download and watch.

    1. pointswest Avatar

      Wow…I didn;t notice this. The wiki article for the BBC Yellowstone Series that aired in the UK says, ” the series was the [BBC channel 2’s] highest-rated natural history documentary in over five years with audiences peaking at over four million.”

      This gives us some idea of how important Yellowstone is to Europe and the rest of the world. The local yokels around the Park probably do not know what they are dealing with when they act like they could careless about what outside folk think of wildlife in the GYE.

      I read elsewhere this BBC Yellowstone series was picked up and broadcast all over Europe, Asia, and South America.


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.

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Ken Cole