Tribal representatives hoping to house Yellowstone bison on the Fort Peck Reservation have met pushback from Montana’s Board of Livestock.
According to KHQ, leaders of the Fort Peck Assinboine and Sioux Tribes appeared before the Board earlier today, asking them to approve the transfer of 49 Yellowstone bison from the Stephens Creek Bison Trap to the Fort Peck Reservation in eastern Montana.
According to Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure, the reservation is equipped with a $500,000 facility to ensure the animals won’t wander off the reservation. However, the Board declined the tribes’ request. From KHQ:
But state veterinarian Marty Zaluski told livestock board members that state law prohibits moving the bison until they are certified as disease-free.
Zaluski says the animals need to remain in quarantine inside or near Yellowstone for up to two-and-a-half years to be certain they’re not infected.
Many Yellowstone bison carry the disease brucellosis. There have been no recorded transmissions from bison to livestock.
Quarantining Yellowstone bison outside the Park has been debated for several years. The last big push came in 2014 when the NPS called for public comment. Early this year, following the announcement from Montana governor Steve Bullock that bison would be permitted to roam in parts of southern and southwestern Montana, the issue was brought up again for public comment.
State veterinarian Zaluski has spoken out before against proposals to both quarantine and extend tolerance of bison out of Yellowstone National Park. Earlier this year, the Montana Stockgrowers Association criticized the quarantine program and also called for a full Environmental Impact Statement into the Fort Peck facility; it had previously been subject to an Environmental Assessment.
For decades, Montana tribes have fought either expand bison tolerance out of the Park and/or receive permission to quarantine them on reservations.
Bison are a central part of many tribes’ cultures, providing both physical and spiritual nourishment.