Yellowstone's bison get a time limit

  • Bison

    illustration by Roy Renolds
  Yellowstone National Park's long-awaited plan for managing its wandering bison herds hasn't made everyone happy.


The park's final environmental impact statement, released in early September, tries to satisfy both bison advocates and the Montana Department of Livestock, which kills bison it fears could spread brucellosis to cattle. The park's preferred alternative would allow a bigger herd and more bison outside park boundaries than that of the draft EIS proposed two years ago (HCN, 9/28/98). But the park's preferred plan also allows officials to capture, test, vaccinate and haze bison that leave the park, and it requires that all bison come home to the park 45 days before domestic cattle arrive in the spring. Bison that fail to comply would be killed.


"The government fails to maintain free-range aspects of buffalo and fails to protect livestock," says the Bison Field Campaign's Darrell Geist. He says the government is prepared to spend $2.6 million to $2.9 million per year to protect roughly 4,000 cattle that graze near the park's north and west borders. Instead, Geist says, the agency should act to accommodate bison. Geist adds that the Park Service has "contrived a risk" because no proof exists that bison spread the disease to cattle.


But Wayne Brewster, a Yellowstone official who has worked on the plan, says bison will have a better chance of surviving if Montana livestock officials approve of the proposal. He also believes the park is better off actively separating its bison herds from the cattle to keep the risk of transmitting the disease to a minimum.


The three-volume final environmental impact statement for the Bison Management Plan and its 97-page executive summary are available from the National Park Service (307/344-2159), which will accept written comments until Oct. 2. Send them to Sarah Bransom, YCR, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190.


*Tim Sullivan


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