Montana governor blocks shipments of Yellowstone bison to slaughter, suggests Park feed the bison

This is a strange turn of events.

Montana gov blocks shipments of Yellowstone bison to slaughter, suggests park feed animals.
Matthew Brown – Associated Press

Here is the actual executive order signed by Brian Schweitzer:
Governor Schweitzer Stops Importation of Bison into Montana for 90 Days

Feb. 16. Schweitzer halts bison slaughter. Bozeman Chronicle. By Carly Flandro. (added by Maughan)

Governor Schweitzer Stops Importation of Bison into Montana for 90 Days

Sarah Elliott 406-444-9725
Jayson O’Neill 406-444-9844

(HELENA) – Governor Brian Schweitzer today issued an Executive Order (below and attached) stopping the importation of bison into the State of Montana for a period of 90 days.

Executive Order language below:


WHEREAS, brucellosis is an infectious disease and Yellowstone National Park bison exhibit a brucellosis sero-prevalence rate of approximately 50%; and
WHEREAS, the Montana Department of Livestock has adopted a surveillance program that has been highly successful in detecting brucellosis-affected herds and preventing the exportation of diseased livestock from Montana; and

WHEREAS, the United States Department of the Interior has recently indicated its intent to transport Yellowstone bison into Montana for slaughter at Montana facilities, which presents an unacceptable risk for the transmission of brucellosis to Montana livestock; and

WHEREAS, Montana legislators and livestock interests have expressed grave concerns that because of the high incidence of brucellosis in Yellowstone National Park bison, the importation of any bison from Yellowstone National Park into Montana presents an unacceptable risk for the transmission of brucellosis to Montana cattle; and

WHEREAS, several pieces of legislation have been introduced in the 2011 Montana Legislature that propose sweeping changes to bison management in Montana; and

WHEREAS, for over ten years management under the current court-ordered Interagency Bison Management Plan has resulted in no reduction in the prevalence of brucellosis in bison, nor has it resulted in a sustainable population control model for Yellowstone bison; and

WHEREAS, under Mont. Code Ann. § 81-2-112, the governor may issue a proclamation prohibiting the importation of diseased animals to Montana.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BRIAN SCHWEITZER, Governor of the State of Montana, by virtue of the authority vested in me pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. § 81-2-112, do hereby declare a prohibition on the importation of Yellowstone bison into areas of Montana that are outside of the designated surveillance area as designated by the Department of Livestock through administrative rule for a period of 90 days.






  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    My impression is that it is a very clever move by the governor.

    1. william huard Avatar
      william huard

      Ralph, I always thought the Governor was all about livestock and didn’t care about bison. I wrote him a letter and I received a response about a week ago. To summarize the letter I was surprised to find that he was looking for ways to increase tolerance of bison and that he wasn’t a fan of the IBMP. He said it was a balancing act to deal with the ranchers and conservation advocates and that “step by step we are making progress on what has been a very complex and confrontational issue for many years, and we have moved it beyond a stalemate.” I agree with you I think this is a shrewd move on his part

      1. Elk275 Avatar

        I have met Brain several times and I like him and voted for him for the senate and governor twice. Governor Schweitzer is one shrewd politician and some say he is a bully; he is definitely assertive and egoistical. There is definitely more to this than his love or want for free ranging buffalo.

  2. Cindy Avatar

    Am I reading this article correctly? Although I believe it’s due to ulterior motives x 10, has Gov. Schweitzer actually made a stand of some sort on the well being of our “time-honored” bison herds??????????

    1. Christopher Harbin Avatar
      Christopher Harbin

      It does make one wonder what’s up his sleeve. Nonetheless it is a positive development regarding the Yellowstone bison. Gotta enjoy these small wildlife victories as they are so rare of late.

  3. Ken Cole Avatar

    I’ve updated the link to the article to a more fleshed out version.

  4. Jane Avatar

    Yeah!! Woo Hoo!!

  5. Alan Avatar

    I would like to see some opinions about feeding park bison. First and foremost I would like to see free ranging bison able to migrate to winter feed grounds and an end to all the capture, haze, slaughter nonsense. But assuming that is not going to happen, and also understanding all the reasons that feeding wildlife is a bad idea; and God knows not wanting Montana to turn into Wyoming with their elk feedlots, spread of disease etc., is there any way that this could be done safely only in bad winter years such as this?
    The status quo is grotesquely inhumane. Animals that want nothing more than to eat being hazed, slaughtered, captured, shot, you name it. Imagine someone standing guard at your kitchen door, allowing you to wander freely in your living room, den, bedroom, bathroom; but whenever you try to go to the kitchen you are hazed back into the other rooms, and if you do sneak by you are shot for your efforts!
    Bison already congregate since they live in herds. How about dropping hay near herds still deep in the park? Feeding in the “new” area of the park north of Gardiner? Maybe summer irrigation of the “new” area to encourage plant growth? Gotta be cheaper than capture, slaughter, haze?

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      I might be wrong, but then again I might be right. I think we are really at an evolutionary crossroads here in terms of ecology in this country. It’s a branch of biology that is relatively new. We now have wolves, and the discourse on them will continue for some time, we have a governor who has seen the tragedy in the making with what has been happening with an indigenous species, and finally decided to do something about it…

      We are at an ecological crossroads with our wildlife. So many industries in this country have taken a hit, and though those effected may have been hurt, things change. One of the things that separates us “humans” from the other animals is our flexibility. Ranchers may soon have to adapt to a myriad of new situations such as wolves, elk, and bison for the betterment of all folks. I liked Salle’s point in another comment…why does 3% of the livestock industry require so much more land than their 3% represents?

      I think we are at one of those Waterloo moments where a lot of angst and argument acts like a vortex and pulls us in. Communication media such as this blog site gives us so much opportunity to express our opinions, educate and give direction.
      Kind of adds some excitement into our lives.

      At least for the moment, thanks Gov. Schweitzer

  6. WM Avatar


    Just to have a better understanding of this, would these bison be entering Montana via federal land or non-federal land (private or state)? And, what is the basis that MT would use to claim they cannot enter MT?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      Most of the bison walk out of the Park onto land owned by the Royal Teton Ranch (owned by the Church Universal and Triumphant).

      Some walk near the highway on public land and various pieces of private land.

  7. jon Avatar

    I’m shocked by this, but I give brian credit. You’d never see a republican/conservative pull a stunt like this.

  8. eva Avatar

    The executive order does NOT say anything about slaughter, hazing, shooting or killing. It only addresses “importation.”
    The bison in Yellowstone, specifically those in Steven’s Creek trap, can all be shot. Governor B.S. is completely empty as always.

    1. Alan Avatar

      Wow! Now I think THAT would cause public outrage. Hundreds of bison being shot in an enclosure INSIDE Yellowstone National Park on the evening news.

      1. Savebears Avatar

        Yes it would, which is the reason it won’t happen, the Governor is actually doing something to stop this mess, in the only way that was feasible..I have known Brian for over 10 Years now and have been very disappointed in the way he has handled the bison issue, but it seems as if he has found a way to stop and re-evaluate this…

  9. freeanclear Avatar

    As opposed to a federal administration who has just ignored it and argued for the contours slaughter as well as current admin that still argues for wolf delisting as well as denying other western wildlife protections so what’s your point about a conserv repub not doing anything! Who needs an enemy when you have an admin in washinton like this one for wildlife.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Not so many folks here like the Obama Administration. Did they just announce something?

      1. freeanclear Avatar

        Response was to someone up above suggesting somehow sweitzrs actions were some mind of action that only a democrat would take and that we all know current administration is hardly if any better than prior one. I would be sleeping with one eye open if you think sweitzer is a good bed partner on this one

      2. Savebears Avatar

        I think your response was directed at me….

        I learned a long time ago, to sleep with one eye open..

        After my life in the military, then my life working for state game agencies, it is only prudent to keep at least one eye open…if not both!

  10. MrKnowItAll Avatar

    All of you fine citizens that have wrote to, met with, and voted for the Honorable Governor, should be aware that he has had a plan for solving the brucellosis in elk, bison, and cattle, since 2009, on his desk. So get those communication lines fired up, and we can stop this mess!

    1. WM Avatar


      Just where would one find the plan to solve all this, if they wanted to read and know more?

      1. MrKnowItAll Avatar

        WM, When the check clears the bank. Just like Microsoft, you get to use it but you don’t know how it works.

  11. freeanclear Avatar

    I would suggest watching state wolf plans, and managing of same. Now that he has put a.bind on the fed, they may lower the bar on managment of wolves now. Sweitzer is a politican. He is setting up a bargain for something an I would suspect it has do with bison being bison

  12. petticoat rebellion Avatar
    petticoat rebellion

    I hear that the Gov’s decision has essentially killed the IBMP…Hmmmm…I think I can hear Dorothy, the scarecrow, the lion, the tin man, and the munchkins singing in the background.

    1. Savebears Avatar

      Time will tell….

    2. WM Avatar

      Maybe I am being oversimplistic, but still I wonder how a state can stop these bison from moving/being moved under a statute that is intended to keep diseased animals out of the state (as is stated in the resolution), when they are moving on to private land (according to Ralph’s post to me above) which is mostly under a federal conservation easement (with Royale Teton Ranch).

      I will admit to not knowing the specific of this, but, here we have an exercise of federal – state cooperation under the IBMP, and then an independent assertion of the state to over-ride it asserting state sovereignty.

      Now we have an example of state – federal relations where the state is flexing its muscle over the feds and my friends here are cheering for this fact as a victory of sorts. Ironic, isn’t it, given that most of the rhetoric here produces a consistent tone directed at how the federal government, acting on behalf of “the American people” should keep the states in a role subservient to its wishes?

  13. Mike Avatar

    This is awesome news.

  14. Ken Cole Avatar

    I still haven’t figured out what this all means. While I think that this is a good thing for the short term I don’t know how long this will work. I don’t like that the bison will be confined and fed which will have repercussions for brucellosis which is the driving force behind this BS in the first place.

    I’ve heard that the majority of these bison are from the Hayden Valley herd which has a low number of the healthy mitochondrial DNA as described in Pringle’s study. This means that a slaughter could effectively eliminate that component of the herd.

    By my read of the articles and statements made about this, and understanding of the rules surrounding this issue, it appears that Schweitzer has effectively stopped the slaughter but I don’t like the rationale he used to do it. It perpetuated the brucellosis myth but there may be something more to this.

    I’ve also heard that the USFWS may be about to issue its 90-day finding on an ESA petition submitted last year. I don’t think they are going to give a positive finding because I don’t think the petition was adequate but this could be why he took action. It could also be that he does give a crap about bison afterall.

    This is a strange turn of events but I’ll take a win right now, even if it is temporary. Gawd knows what happens next.

    1. Alan Avatar

      “It could also be that he does give a crap about bison afterall.”
      It could also mean that he doesn’t have to worry about re-election, and that he doesn’t want another massive bison slaughter on his resume’ if he decides to run for national office.
      Why not just release any bison that test negative to exposure, mark them in some way so they are not recaptured, thus making room in the enclosure for additional bison that test positive? Hold only animals that test positive until Spring?

  15. Ballgame Avatar

    Although his language (perpetuating the brucellosis myth) is somewhat strange, at least the Governor has stepped up to the plate on this one. I received a “form email” in response to a letter I sent him a week ago, and needless to say I never saw this one coming. He didn’t knock this one out of the park, but he did give us some hope–especially in the short term. However short lived, we all have cause to celebrate this morning!!

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      The governor is someone I sometimes like and sometimes don’t, but he is faced with a legislature that is right wing crazy. They are trying to pass flat out anti-bison bills amidst all kinds of other weird, grasping, or dangerous things.

      I don’t think he is in a position to address this directly.
      – – – –
      For legislative silliness, folks might want to check out the controversy in Helena over adopting the “Code of the West.”

  16. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    Ralph—the ever-wise Wyoming Legislature did that ” Code of the West ” thing last year. I’m still snickering. Montana does not have a monopoly on a ” right wing crazy” state lawmaking country club. I think Wyoming beats ’em hands down.

    Our Lej has spent an inordinate amount of time grappling with the Big Issues of modern times, like disallowing gay marriage but more importantly inserting the State edgewise into same sex DIVORCES ; registering teen sex offendors, suing the Fed over Obamacare ; INCREASING the number of liquor licenses allocated by unit of population ( what DUI epidemic ?); online betting on Wyoming horse races , and some other frivolous conservative dogma.

    At least our ever-wise State Legislature has not ( yet) replaced the Great White Bison emblem on the Wyoming state flag with an Angus or Hereford. Unlike Montana, our state still has SOME respect for Bison…

    ( Uh-oh…did I just provide a hint to them ? Dang…. )

    1. JB Avatar

      “At least our ever-wise State Legislature has not ( yet) replaced the Great White Bison emblem on the Wyoming state flag with an Angus or Hereford.”

      Nah, that would be honest.

  17. freeanclear Avatar

    He just dropped a big log in the fed, dpt of interior punchbowl. Embarrassed the nps, left them with no answer. Essentially defied.a.federal.judge in the most basic level. He has always deferred to the middle of the fence when pressed foe the most part. I just suspect there is more than love and happiness for the bison and there is a shoe waiting to fall. Btw, for anyone who has griped about state rights, it did you a favor yesterday by him at least stepping in for a moment anyway.

    1. WM Avatar

      ++Btw, for anyone who has griped about state rights, it did you a favor yesterday by him at least stepping in for a moment anyway.++

      I see no one appears to step forward to acknowledge that such a concept exists, and yet it is the very basis for what the governor is doing (good or bad in the end).

      Even JB has been silent.

      1. Nancy Avatar

        WM – I emailed Gov. SCHWEITZER today and thanked him for putting this horrific situation on hold but I also asked why anyone in local politics would consider it a “time honored” tradition unless it was too tied into that other “time honored” tradtiion out here in the west called grazing rights.

        Also asked for a response other than the “time honored” form response so typical of politicians “thanking you” when you email them.

      2. WM Avatar

        Nancy –

        Good luck with receiving a “customized” response. Most politicians do the broad form reply because they are usually researched just enough to give them the weasel room to squirm out of a tight spot with giving you their true view on the matter. It makes them nervous to say anything more concrete. LOL

        While this reprieve seems like good (temporary) news – because there is no buffalo slaughter today – I am enough of a critical thinker to want to know the rest of the story and where this is ultimately going. It still might end badly unless someone gets creative and truly tries to solve the problem.

    2. WM Avatar

      And, do you suppose those feds are standing inside the Park, scratching their heads saying, “Can the governor really do that?” Maybe the legal team is assembled in the break room, figuring out a response.

      1. Savebears Avatar


        With the rising tide of Nullification that is happening in Montana right now, I really bet they are scratching their head, there are many calling the legislature nuts, but this move just reinforced their resolve! I have a call into Brian to see if I can talk with him for a few moments and try to figure out what is really going on!?

  18. Steve C Avatar
    Steve C

    Is this good news or just “not bad” news? Does the hazing stop?

  19. Virginia Avatar

    This story is featured on the Huffington Post today so I hope other people in this country will see this outrageous treatment by the MT DOL and YNP of our native bison.

    1. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      A front page ad on the Huffington Post can cost $90,000/day. Can you imagine how many unique hits you have to generate to charge that much?

  20. MrKnowItAll Avatar

    Savebears, Tell the Governor I said hello, and I am wanting for the bank to call!!!!!

    1. Savebears Avatar


      I have known Brian for over 10 years now, I have no idea if he will call back, normally he does, but this time we will see..

      1. Elk275 Avatar

        Call him at home he was listed in the phone book. I do not know if he is still listed now or not.

      2. Savebears Avatar


        I have not been able to get him at home for quite a few months now…


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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