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Yellowstone National Park Prepares New Interagency Bison Management Plan

Caption for Photo: Bison herd in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. PHOTO COURTESY OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

FEBRUARY 15, 2024

Except from Article in Explore Big Sky

By Benjamin Alva Polley, EBS Contributor

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the world’s first National Park by an act of Congress, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant. A century and a half ago, the park’s founders didn’t have the foresight to expand its boundaries to include wintering ranges for antelope, bison, elk and deer. Ungulates like bison often migrate out of the park’s boundaries each winter to escape deep snowpack, seeking greener pastures at lower elevations. Much of the land outside of the park is owned in checkerboard sections by different landowners, including Custer Gallatin National Forest, the state of Montana and neighboring ranchers.

Historically, ranchers have expressed umbrage with sharing grazing rights with bison, fearful of the brucellosis transmission to their cattle, as well as destruction of property and fences. Elk also migrate out of the park and can transmit brucellosis. However, they aren’t as aggressively managed by the state as bison, which are either quarantined, killed by the state of Montana, allowed to be hunted by eight Western tribes, or transported to other tribal reservations.

Eastern Shoshone Tribal member and vice president of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, Jason Baldes, said that dealing with the state has been a challenge.

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