Agreement reached to let Yellowstone Park bison to roam outside Park at Gardiner

Some good news at a time of general craziness-

A “Bison conservation area” will be established in the Gardiner Basin, and for the first time it looks like migrating bison that cross the Yellowstone Park boundary on the north end will be allowed to roam rather than be shot or trucked off to slaughter.

Although the area is a large 75,000 acres almost all of it is steep mountainslope that bison rarely use. The basin itself is a couple thousand acres along both sides of the Yellowstone River until the mountains squeeze it shut at Yankee Jim Canyon on the north.

A hunt will be established and the annual bison slaughter ended. Apparently an average of 400 bison will need to be killed each year to keep the current population in the Park about stable. In mild years, few bison migrate north, so obviously in some years no hunt is possible.

Tea partiers and cattle cranks in the Montana legislature have passed a number of anti-bison bills, so this announcement assumes that Governor Schweitzer will veto them.

I think this is something to celebrate at a time when radicals have taken over many state legislatures and weird, dangerous and mean spirited laws emerge daily.

Agreement to let Yellowstone bison roam in [Gardiner area].
Associated Press.



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  1. Virginia Avatar

    They want the hunters to be able to cross over YNP boundaries to be able to kill the 400 buffalo they still have to get rid of every year. What a great solution! Why can’t these 400 unwanted buffalo be sent to other places instead of using the killing option as the only option?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      This will probably drop out, in part because it is another very bad PR move, and one that would continue year after year.

      In the short run, though, talking about it is probably necessary given political conditions in the area.

  2. Mike Avatar

    Fantastic news!

  3. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    finally, some common sense emerges!!

  4. Mtn Mama Avatar
    Mtn Mama

    I recently drove through that area and saw lots of deer and yes a few bison. This is good news!

    1. Jim Macdonald Avatar

      If you look out from mile marker 3 at U.S. 89 at the McConnell’s Fishing Access, you can see Stephens Creek Capture Facility way across the river tucked against the mountains. There, you can see the 592 bison in captivity (the other 67 are in Corwin Springs on the drive, and they look awful). They look like sad ants on the landscape.

      We are seeing a lot of bison now out of the park in this area; we are also seeing the bison behind fences, some 250 of which may still face slaughter this year after May 15.

  5. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Some of the devil here is in the details (not printed in this article). What isn’t reported that we are hearing is that there is still a May 1 date for all bison here to be forced back into the park. That makes this like a large Horse Butte.

    Secondly, there will be no hazing of bison that pass the 13 mile marker; they will be shot.

    Ultimately, this still means no year-round habitat in Montana and still an arbitrary population quota system.

    Is this progress? Of course it is. Does this solve any of the basic problems for wild bison in Montana? Not by a long shot. The danger here is that people think that it is and fail to be vigilant when now more than ever pressure is needed. When you get any leverage, you need to use it all the more.

  6. ajax Avatar

    Given the almost mind boggling extremism going on in certain segments of various state governments across the West and across the nation, I think this is a very encouraging development, overall.
    I agree with above comments that we all must stay vigilant and continue to work for bison, but I think this marks the first time (correct me if I’m wrong) that Montana has ever budged from its zero bison tolerance policy.
    I am a bit confused about what should be realistic ultimate goals for bison in Montana; I’d be very interested to hear the take on this from people who know more about it than myself… my basic understanding of the situation in regards to available bison habitat in Montana outside of Yellowstone
    is this: winter habitat does exist for wild bison on the northwest side of the Park around and north of West Yellowstone; much less available habitat exists in the Paradise Valley due to development, lots of private property, and very little federal land within the Valley itself.
    Consequently, the public lands west of YNP in Montana are most conducive to wintering free roaming bison herds doing as they will; in the Paradise Valley, lack of public lands and unfenced habitat, coupled with extensive private property, makes bison management much trickier there and the amount of physical space that bison can actually occupy is far less there. Of course I am in favor of allowing bison to leave the northern border of Yellowstone without automatically being slaughtered or tormented back into the Park, but my understanding is that habitat is limited there.

    Is this perception of West Yellowstone area versus Gardiner area correct? If so, is there any reason to believe that the situation around West Yellowstone may change and bison permitted to enter Montana to winter in the Gallatin National Forest and other public lands in the vicinity?

    Thanks alot. I look forward to learning more.


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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