A hearing has been scheduled at the U.S. District Court in Casper, WY regarding a preliminary injunction halting this year’s Yellowstone bison operations.
The hearing is scheduled for February 5, 2016.
We previously reported journalist Chris Ketcham and wild bison advocate Stephany Seay had brought a lawsuit against Yellowstone National Park and the National Park Service regarding the Stephens Creek Bison Capture Facility. Specifically, Ketcham and Seay allege they were denied proper access to the facility to observe bison sorting and shipping procedures, in violation of their First Amendment rights.
Originally, when Stephens Creek was opened in the mid-90s, the public had been allowed “non-disruptive access” to see workers tag and sort bison. That access was ended in 2006; more recently, the NPS started holding guided tours of the facility.
In their initial complaint, Seay and Ketcham say they were denied access after petitioning the Park. Later, they were taken on a “sterilized” tour of the facility when operations were not running, prompting their lawsuit.
If granted, the injunction would halt operations at Stephens Creek for the foreseeable future, potentially for the rest of the winter season. Currently, bison operations are scheduled to start February 15, which will coincide with the end of the bison hunting season. As of writing, if bison operations are allowed to continue as planned, trapping and shipping would end March 31, 2016; depending on how long the injunction lasts, bison capture operations could be drastically shortened or suspended entirely this year.
“This court order is necessary to protect Stephany’s and Chris’s constitutional rights while the case is pending or until full and reasonable access to observe the cull can be granted,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) attorney Stefanie Wilson. “Given accounts of brutality during past culls, it is the public’s right to know what is happening to the cherished Yellowstone bison.”
Besides the ALDF, Ketcham and Seay are represented by a pair of University of Denver constitutional law professors and Jamie M. Woolsey of Wyoming law firm Fuller, Sandefer & Associates LLC.
UPDATE: U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl has denied Ketcham and Seay’s request to halt operations at Stephens Creek.