Friday News Roundup: Bison and borders

 

A final answer to where wild bison can roam won't surface until Montana develops a statewide conservation strategy for the mighty rangeland beasts. In the meantime, bison need a temporary home, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks is discussing where to put them. They say that may be Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian Reservations in Montana.

Although the herd up for placement has tested negative multiple times for brucellosis, deciding on a place it will settle for the next few years is still contentious. Montana legislators still worry about possible transmission of brucellosis to cattle and ranchers worry about damage to agricultural fields should the bison escape their interim homes.

Last week, Fish, Wildlife and Parks released an environmental assessment evaluating a plan to move about 150 disease-free bison (originally from Yellowstone National Park, now being held in quarantine and on Ted Turner's ranch) to Fort Belknap and Fort Peck and to the Spotted Dog and Marias River state wildlife management areas. The measure comes pending a statewide conservation strategy to be developed by 2015 that would identify permanent locations for the brucellosis-free mammals.

“Wild bison should be an integral part of America’s future, not just a relic of our past,” said Jonathan Proctor, Defenders of Wildlife’s Rocky Mountain representative. High Country News editor Sarah Gilman first reported on recent efforts to expand where Yellowstone bison could roam in May. But even without threat of brucellosis, approving a management plan remains difficult. The assessment's proposal of where to put the animals drew the ire of Montana legislators, including Sen. Gene Vuckovich. Vuckovich said the management plan developed for the Spotted Dog wildlife management area did not include bison, arguing their introduction “would conflict with deer, elk and antelope goals identified in that (management) plan” and that bison should have also been included in the purchase agreement for the property.

Though no startup costs are associated with holding bison on tribal lands, wildlife management areas would require additional boundary fencing and gates. Cost estimates for the relocation and containment structures were revised this week from more than $2.3 million to less than $1 million.

The public comment period for the assessment will close on Oct. 19. Wildlife commissioners could vote on the issue Nov. 13.

While bison may expand their borders, one Congressional representative wants to better protect the United States'. Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop proposed H.R. 1505, a bill that would give the Department of Homeland Security greater authority in public lands within 100 miles of the U.S. border. "The border will never be secure against illegal entry and drug smuggling as long as portions of the border are wide open," he said in a statement Sept. 13 reported by Energy & Environment News (subscription required)

The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act would waive 36 environmental laws on patrolled borderlands, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act. and the Clean Air Act. It would allow the department to construct fences and roads, conduct vehicle patrols and set up monitoring equipment on those lands. Federal agents are currently restricted to where they can patrol by car on federally designated wilderness, such as dirt roads. They also have to request permission from public land managers to establish operations bases or set up surveillance.

But those in opposition say the measure gives a single agency overreaching authority. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester described the measure as a "federal land grab at its worst." Opponents fear additional access will damage both natural and cultural resources, though supporters say public safety and national security should supersede other principles.

Bishop expects a markup session of the bill sometime before the end of this year.

Kimberly Hirai is an intern at High Country News.

Image courtesy Flickr user Katie & Ian and ChuckHolton.

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM ATTORNEY, NEVADA
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Staff Attorney who is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes River Conservancy in Bend, Oregon
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]