National Park Service asks for input on draft bison management plan
The National Park Service on Thursday released a draft plan for managing bison within Yellowstone National Park. The plan includes options for increasing bison numbers, but not by as much as initially proposed.
The draft environmental impact statement analyzes three alternatives for managing bison within the park with numbers ranging between about 3,500-7000 bison after calving.
“This plan allows the NPS to evaluate bison management based on new scientific information and changed circumstances, explore ways to reduce bison being sent to slaughter, and to continue working closely with Tribal Nations and agency partners in management,” the park service wrote in a release.
The first option would keep managing bison in a population range similar to where they have been the past two decades: between 3,500-5000.
The second option would prioritize tribal hunting and transferring live bison to tribal nations, and bring the number up to around 6,000 animals.
Option three would cease the controversial management tool of shipping animals to slaughter, but says that could be reinstated if there are management issues. This option would primarily rely on natural selection and public and tribal hunter harvests, and increase the number to about 7,000.
The 7,000 number is about a thousand fewer bison than the highest range management option the park service had previously put forward in a January 2022 notice of intent to prepare the recently released environmental impact statement.
The intent to increase the amount of Yellowstone bison was met with resistance from Montana’s Governor and the Head of the Department of Livestock who requested that the park service withdraw its initial options and keep bison numbers closer to 3,000.
The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the proposed bison management alternatives during two webinars being held on August 28 and 29.
Comments are due September 25. The final bison management plan is anticipated to be released next year.