Public comments on potential plans to manage Yellowstone bison who leave the Park year-round will be extended by a month after requests from conservation organizations.
Officials with the Interagency Bison Management Plan have prepared an Environmental Assessment on Yellowstone bison management and had solicited comments from the public, with a deadline of Aug. 15. Although there have been 1,000 or so comments, the groups sought and received a new deadline of Sept. 15 in order to prepare a more detailed response.
The idea of exploring where and when to possibly allow free-ranging bison in certain areas was raised about a year ago by a citizens’ advisory group. The state went through the public scoping process, where it received more than 3,500 comments that helped craft the current 120-page draft document.
The draft EA provides information and analysis to determine whether taking one of the proposed actions would result in a significant effect on both people and the landscape.
Currently, bison that migrate west and north out of the park into Montana are hazed back into the park by mid May. On the northern boundary, when hazing is no longer effective, the bison are kept at a holding facility. Captured bison that test positive for exposure to brucellosis are taken to slaughter.
Maintaining the status quo is one option, but not one backed by science. It’s based on the belief that infected Yellowstone bison can transmit brucellosis to cattle. There’s not been a documented case of bison transmitting brucellosis to cattle, and scientists post the more likely source of brucellosis for cattle are elk, who also freely flow through the region.
Six alternative plans range from basically limitless roaming of bison to very restrictive boundaries before the bison are rounded up or hazed back into a small area.
Image of bison courtesy National Park Service.