« Return to this article

Know the West

The Latest: Interior commits to restoring bison on select lands


Just a few free-roaming bison herds remain in the West. Roughly 4,000 bison inhabit Yellowstone, but they are hindered by ranchers who fear they spread brucellosis, which can cause cattle miscarriages. The park and state agencies limit the herd's roaming and remove "excess" animals by hunting, slaughter and transplanting to other areas ("The Killing Fields," HCN, 2/06/06). But in 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar directed his department to identify lands where Yellowstone bison could be relocated.

In early July, the Department of Interior released a report committing to restoring bison on parcels of public and tribal land through collaborative projects. The agency proposes to quarantine Yellowstone bison so that they can be verified as brucellosis-free and be safely relocated to up to 20 locations in the West and Great Plains. It's a big step forward, conservationists said, but the agency still hasn't expressed specific goals for transplants and hasn't consulted adequately with tribes that want bison.