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Montana’s governor and two state agencies oppose Yellowstone’s draft bison plan

Elk sparring in the Canyon Village area of Yellowstone National Park, photo submitted by Rhiana Peck, Naturalist Guide for Walking Shadow Ecology Tours of Yellowstone
Jacob W. Frank
The east entrance into Yellowstone National Park.

The Governor of Montana and two department heads disagree with Yellowstone National Park’s plan to increase the park’s bison herd saying the park did not sufficiently analyze the potential impacts, among other concerns.

In a public comment sent as a letter addressed to Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly, Governor Greg Gianforte and the leaders of FWP and the Department of Livestock say that the park did not get meaningful input from the state of Montana before releasing a document outlining their intent to increase the bison population. They say the state’s goal is to keep the number of bison at 3,000 animals.

The park’s draft bison plan released this summer includes three options with varying management approaches where the population would range between 3,500 and 7,000 animals after calving.

In the letter, the state asserts that the park has not sufficiently examined how increasing the bison herd could impact potential brucellosis transmission to elk and that elk could then pass the disease to cattle.

“If bison populations are allowed to grow, and distribution expands, there must be analysis of where elk distribution might change, and whether any such change increases disease transmission to other elk or livestock herds,” they wrote.

The letter concludes by asking that the park reconsider the three options put forth in the draft bison plan, saying that if the park does not make significant changes, the state may pursue legal action.

Governor Gianforte and Yellowstone National Park declined to comment for the story on Friday.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.