Federal Judge Overturns the Political Decision to Deny Endangered Species Protection for Bison


The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has funneled $10,381,534 in taxpayer money for the Montana Dept. of Livestock to enforce Mont. Code Ann. § 81-2-120.

Wildlife biologists recognize wild buffalo are vulnerable to “extinction or extirpation” in Montana and are listed as a species of concern.  The migratory species roams less than 0.4% of the habitat in Montana.

Since 2004, of 104,052 applicants, 593 hunters drew wild buffalo tags in Montana.

For Immediate Release

February 1, 2018


Media contacts:

Ken Cole, Buffalo Field Campaign, (208) 890-3666; director@buffalofieldcampaign.org

Josh Osher, Western Watersheds Project, (406) 830-3099; josh@westernwatersheds.org

Michael Harris, Friends of Animals, (720) 949-7791; michaelharris@friendsofanimals.org

WEST YELLOWSTONE, MONTANA:  In a fantastic victory, a federal judge ruled yesterday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally denied Endangered Species Act protections for the Yellowstone National Park bison population. The ruling overturns the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s negative 90-day finding, which concluded that there was not substantial information supporting the need to protect the bison under the Endangered Species Act. In 2016 the bison was officially designated as the National Mammal of the United States.  Only about 5,000 bison remain in the Yellowstone herds which constitute the only wild, genetically pure bison to continuously occupy their native range in the United States.

“This is a huge victory,” said Buffalo Field Campaign Executive Director Ken Cole. “This is a long battle but we won a significant round for the buffalo today.”

State and federal agencies have been killing bison in and around Yellowstone National Park in an effort to reduce the imperiled population and cater to unfounded fears of transmission risk to local livestock operations of brucellosis, a non-native disease brought to the region by livestock,. However, a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences found that of all the instances of brucellosis transmission from wildlife to domestic cattle, not one single incident was attributable to bison.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service made a political decision to suppress and ignore science in order to deny the Yellowstone bison the protection they deserve,” said Josh Osher, Montana director for Western Watersheds Project. “The administration is clearly bowing to the influence of the livestock industry and its agenda to minimize bison populations and their natural migrations, despite their status as the national mammal.”

The court ruled that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service improperly ignored an important scientific study that concluded there are two separate and genetically distinct herds of bison – the Central Interior herd and the Northern herd –  in Yellowstone National Park. The current plan treats bison as a single herd, failing to provide safeguards to maintain both herds as distinct and isolated units. Currently, the Central Interior herd may already be too small to maintain its viability from a genetic standpoint.

“This is huge that the Court recognized the importance of science,” says Michael Harris, an attorney with Friends of Animals who argued the case. “It sends a signal to the Fish and Wildlife Service that they cannot manipulate the science to serve political interests, like cattle ranchers.”

In his ruling, the judge stated, “If two pieces of scientific evidence conflict, the Service must credit the supporting evidence unless that evidence is unreliable, irrelevant, or otherwise unreasonable to credit.”

“This moves bison back into queue for full and fair consideration under the Endangered Species Act,” said Buffalo Field Campaign Executive Director Ken Cole. “That’s so important for these small subpopulations who are at grave risk of blinking out under current management.”

A copy of the court order can be found here.

The full petition submitted by Buffalo Field Campaign, Friends of Animals, and Western Watersheds Project can be viewed here. (PDF)

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West Yellowstone, Montana-based Buffalo Field Campaign is a non-profit public interest organization founded in 1997 to protect the natural habitat of wild migratory buffalo and native wildlife, stop the slaughter of Americas last wild buffalo and advocate for their lasting protection, and work with people of all nations to honor the sacredness of wild bison. www.buffalofieldcampaign.org a regional conservation organization with offices in Montana.

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental conservation group founded in 1993 and has field offices in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Oregon. WWP works to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands. www.westernwatersheds.org

Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals, an international animal protection organization founded in 1957, advocates for the rights of animals, free-living and domestic around the world. www.friendsofanimals.org.


  1. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Wow. How wonderful. 🙂

  2. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Thank you all.

  3. Nancy Avatar

    A copy of the link (in this thread) to the court order is incomplete:


    So, I have to ask, are native bison in Yellowstone, going to be protected from hazing & slaughter in the future?

  4. randall fischer Avatar
    randall fischer

    A great victory for the Bison and all Americans, but also for the organizations of Buffalo Field Campaign, Friends of Animals, and Western Watersheds: The exstentive amount of research and presentation of evidence included in the petition is testament to the unrelenting commitment and dedication of those organizations and supporters, including the likes of Comfrey Jacobs, who stand tall for ethics in wildlife management.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Yes. It’s a great wrong done to this country that may finally be righted.

  5. John Rust Avatar
    John Rust


  6. Dr. Georgie, MS,ND Avatar
    Dr. Georgie, MS,ND

    ok, that sounds good. So how is it the Interagency Bison Management Program IBMP can DECIDE HOW MANY BISON of yellowstone they can KILLED THIS OCTOBER 2018???? I received a video from Debbie Boone who attended the meeting for public comment, and it also showed the Inter-agency groups, meeting held in Bozeman Montana last week on July 30, the organizations were Montana Cattle industry, National Park Service, Yellowstone, National Forest, Montana Fish & Wildlife, USDA, Aphis(division for inspection and quarantine of DOMESTICATED animals; cattle), but they have CONTROL over quarantine and slaughter of WILD BISON, 3 tribal groups, Nez Perce, etc. So, how is Endangered species status is helping the Yellowstone bison from being quarantine, inspected and then slaughter or offer to hunters for killing them at $1.36 CENTS, which will save the Yellowstone Park service and Montana agriculture dept money for “Massacre” of bison by allowing hunters to have their THRILL KILL OF MOTHER BISON AND CALF FOR $1.36 CENTS ?????!!!!!

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