Park County and the Park County Stockgrowers Association had asked District Judge Nels Swandal to issue the TRO, though at this point it’s really more for symbolic affect than anything else: on May 1 the Interagency Bison Management Program (made up of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Montana Department of Livestock and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes and the Nez Perce Tribe) had already begun hazing bison back to the Park.
The plaintiffs are seeking to have the state agencies reverse the IBMP decision to allow Yellowstone bison to graze in 75,000 acres 13 miles past the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park, encompassing most of the Gardiner Basin and ending at Yankee Jim Canyon. Fencing was erected at that point to keep bison from heading further north into the Paradise Valley. The rationale: there would be minimal contact between cattle and bison, so any brucellosis concerns would be mitigated.
But, apparently, not to the point desired by the stockmen, who in their court filing highlighted the difficulty of brucellosis management when brucellosis-carrying bison are wandering the Gardiner Basin. Add to that the safety concerns expressed by Park County officials (according to the brief, “large numbers of bison now regularly congregate at school bus stops and other locations, interacting with children, elderly, and other individuals that live in the area to a degree not previously encountered”) and you have the basis of a lawsuit.
Whether it’s a good lawsuit or not remains to be seen. Any brucellosis link between Montana cattle and Yellowstone bison is extremely tenuous at best: there’s been no documented case of a Yellowstone bison transmitted brucellosis to cattle, and it would take some extremely unlikely circumstances for it to happen (basically, cattle would need to eat the fresh placenta of a birthing bison), and the best science available indicates elk are by far the more likely transmitter of brucellosis in the region. And the impact the bison had in the Gardiner Basin remains pretty minimal; yes, we are talking bison here, so there was undoubtedly some fence and property damage, but citizens were more at risk from yahoos firing rounds into a bison herd than from any possibility of being trampled. (There are probably some jurisdictional issues as well; the two Montana agencies named in the suit certainly did not act alone.)
RELATED STORIES: Captured Yellowstone Bison to Be Released; Members of Congress: Scrap the IBMP; Yellowstone Bison Killer: It Was Self-Defense; Two Roaming Yellowstone Bison Killed in Gardiner; Legal Challenges to Yellowstone Bison Accord Possible; Final IBMP Approval At Hand for New Yellowstone Bison-Management Plan; Montana, Feds Discussing New Bison Grazing Outside Yellowstone