HB249 would allow Montana landowners to kill bison for any reason-

2012, and it looks like 2013, is shaping up to be another year of livestock interests trying to repeal a generation or two of progress in the management of wildlife.

Alan Doane,  a Montana Republican legislator, has a bill that would allow landowners to kill wild bison on their land for any reason.  He is pushing the bill  as a private-property protection law.  The Montana House Ag Committee held a hearing in Helena yesterday (Jan. 22) on the bill. Proponents made the same arguments they have for years but which were recently rejected in full by a Montana State district judge.

The bill, HB249 is also an effort to repeal an important 1940 court decision (State v. Rathbone) as well as the 2013 decision (Park County Stockgrowers, et al. v. Montana Department of Livestock, et al.)

To quote from State v. Rathbone:

Montana is one of the few areas in the nation where wild game abounds. It is regarded as one of the greatest of the state’s natural resources, as well as the chief attraction for visitors. Wild game existed here long before the coming of man. One who acquires property in Montana does so with notice and knowledge of the presence of wild game and presumably is cognizant of its natural habits. Wild game does not possess the power to distinguish between fructus naturales and fructus industriales, and cannot like domestic animals be controlled through an owner. Accordingly, a property owner in this state must recognize the fact that there may be some injury to property or inconvenience from wild game for which there is no recourse.” 

The long used arguments that bison are diseased and dangerous to property were raised by a number of the same people who were on the losing side in the recent court case, thus the effort to legislatively repeal the court decisions.

The Helena Independent Record reported, however, that there was a good deal of testimony in opposition to the bill. More specifically, Shane Morigeau, of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes testified that the bill would reduce wild bison, and by generalization all wildlife, to the status of vermin on private property.

The Wildlife News has argued that there is a more general right wing effort afoot in the land to privatize, and thus eliminate, animals as wildlife — all would be legally viewed as  vermin or else as livestock.

It appears this bill will upset s0 many court precedents and other laws and agreements on wildlife management that its enactment into law, signed by the new governor, is not likely.

An online message to a Montana state legislator or to the Ag committee as a whole is available at this link:  http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/63rd/legwebmessage.asp . It is an open question if  non-residents messages would be viewed with favor, though an officer of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks noted that Montana’s past episodes of bison killing had not been viewed favorably by national and international audiences.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

19 Responses to Legislative effort in Montana to repeal all free roaming bison protection

  1. jon says:

    Bill Hoppe who is mentioned in this article calls bison diseased, destructive, and dangerous. He says similar things about wolves. This man is good friends with Bob Fanning. I hope this bill fails. Bison are not vermin and they have a right to be in Montana.

  2. CodyCoyote says:

    New slogan for Montana : Beef For Brains ( and I don’t mean the prime choice cuts, either ).

  3. Ida Lupine says:

    You know, the Pacific Northwest is looking more and more like a good place to visit. Their wolf management plan looks pretty good? At least compared to MT, ID – and WY for sure. Plus it’s got the ocean, the mountains, and a perfect climate. I won’t spend my money where the environment and wildlife is being destroyed.

    • savebears says:

      Perfect Climate? I grew up there and I can’t say that is the perfect climate! There are many areas that are quite beautiful, but I am glad I no longer live there.

      • Nancy says:

        “There are many areas that are quite beautiful, but I am glad I no longer live there”

        Afraid I have to say the same thing about the area (northern VA) that I grew up in SB.

        The beautiful areas there, have turned into shopping malls, mega subdivisions and 4 lane highways. The “one lane” bridge on my road, hung in there a lot longer than I thought it would but eventually lost out to the “I ain’t got the time to wait even one minute” crowd 🙂

  4. Kathleen says:

    “Wild game existed here long before the coming of man.” –State v. Rathbone
    Since “game” is a human construct, it seems that “wildlife” or “wild animals” would have been the better word there…just an observation.

    I listened to a very brief portion of that hearing yesterday–enough to hear a couple of tribal people speak against it, and to hear a question from a legislator regarding brucellosis directed toward a livestock industry mouthpiece–“can humans catch brucellosis?” Yet again we have to waste time on this bs where pro-livestock/anti-wild bison bills are concerned. At least Mr. Livestock (C. McKay?) was honest–it’s very rare anymore, he said; comes primarily from unpasteurized milk, etc. etc.(Eight-some years ago, when I started in bison advocacy, transmission to humans was routinely used as a scare tactic.) Even so, the questioner followed up with “what are the effects in humans?” and then we were treated to the symptoms of undulant fever and its “lifelong effects” blah blah blah. A crafty little tactic to make that the take-away message because it’s the last thing you hear.

    IMO, Buffalo Field Campaign is in large part responsible for changing the narrative (over these many years) away from the lies and scare tactics of the livestock industry to an accurate portrayal of wild bison issues. If anyone would like to support BFC by sending a hand-crafted valentine to the recipient(s) of your choice, check it out… https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2426/t/11564/shop/item.jsp?storefront_KEY=1046&t=&store_item_KEY=4560

  5. Nathan Gunter says:

    Diseased,destructive and dangerous. Thats exectly what these people are.

  6. Kayla says:

    Good Grief! When will this war against the Bison ever stop!

  7. Richie G says:

    With Montana having a population of under a million people and forth largest state in size why can’t these people Ranchers just get along with the wildlife,how much land is enough?

  8. Richie G says:

    Ida great point really, excellent point !

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Thank you Richie!

      Brrrr….it’s only 17 degrees today where I am, so I am not going anywhere. 🙂

  9. savebears says:

    I can almost bet you, if this passes, you will see very similar legislation introduced that will be targeted at wolves. There are really only two areas that this would do anything and that is west of Yellowstone and north of Yellowstone when it concerns bison, I suspect that west of the park, it will not do much, many private landowners there actually like bison

  10. Chuck says:

    So those ranchers that hate bison would be allowed to kill any bison that came onto their land. What about the landowners that are ok with bison being on their land and have to put up with DOL trespasser’s.?
    Ok time to get down off my soap box before I say something bad.

  11. alf says:

    Sadly, the Montana legislature, starting in 2011, has become as badly infested with extremists and demented lunatics as Idaho’s has been for decades.

    One of Montana’s major advantages over Idaho is that they appear to have a reasonably rational governor, who would probably (hopefully) veto such an extremist piece of crap. Our idiot, “The Butcher”, would probably gleefly sign it.

    • jon says:

      The Montana legislature is mostly republican. There you go. The Montana legislature did just kill a bill that would allow hound hunters to use their dogs to chase and harass black bears. This was killed because of the grizzly bear population. There is also a bill that would let trappers trap mountain lions. I expect this bill to be killed as well as there is not a lot of support for it.

      • john says:

        head of dept of interior is a dumbacrat, and he has done wonders for the environment, don’t you think,, so STOP blocking up people

    • jon says:

      That’s because Bullock is a democrat.

      • savebears says:

        I am not so sure Jon, behind the scenes there is more support than you can imagine, especially since this bill concerns private lands.

  12. john says:

    just curious, does this mean if bison feed on my downtown gardener lots, i can shoot them and the Dept of livestock will haul them off? if so, that is absurd..i am glad i wrote my letters to the park county legislature people telling them i am completely not in favor of any legislation that supports hazing killng or harassing bison.. btw,, I’m republican


January 2013


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey