BIG HORN BISON CONSERVATION HERD
Yellowstone bison are unique in that they represent the last remaining truly wild, ecologically viable, genetically pure, wide-ranging population of plains bison in existence. As such, we believe that wild Yellowstone bison that have been certified as disease-free through an appropriate and science-driven quarantine process, are the most suitable source for restoring bison populations elsewhere in Montana and North America. GYC has long advocated against the slaughter of Yellowstone bison and we believe it is an unacceptable approach to wild bison management, whether for perceived disease risks or population control. Using Yellowstone bison to establish conservation herds may also provide a much needed “pressure release valve” that helps to manage population numbers at the same time it restores bison to their native ranges while preserving the rare and unique Yellowstone bison genome.
Using disease-free Yellowstone bison to establish other tribal and conservation herds will not only contribute to the conservation and restoration of the species but it will also…
1) Serve as an alternative to shipping bison to slaughter,
2) Support the culture and nutrition of Native Americans, and
3) Help preserve the unique Yellowstone bison genome.
The EA analyzes three alternatives to evaluate such a program at one or more new quarantine facilities, which could be located within Yellowstone National Park, on tribal lands, or elsewhere. The NPS preferred alternative includes conducting a quarantine program on the Fort Peck Reservation where there is already a facility built and they are ready to receive bison.
Regardless of the facility location, we support a quarantine program if it’s done right. Outlined below are our concerns and suggestions for the proposed Environmental Assessment (EA).
The quarantine and translocation program should be science-driven and appropriately managed with opportunity for public engagement.
The quarantine and translocation program should not guide Yellowstone bison management or come at the expense of continuing efforts to expand habitat for bison to use year-round outside the Park.
Quarantine and translocation should only be considered a tool when bison removals are deemed necessary and all fair-chase hunting opportunities have been exhausted. Additionally, it should be used only to protect genetic diversity and expand wild bison populations in appropriate areas. Regardless of the facility location or managing authority, there should be a clear commitment to transfer bison to public and tribal lands within the historic range of plains bison for conservation and cultural purposes. Priority should be given to sites committed to managing bison as “wildlife” on a large landscape and that keep wild bison in the public trust.
The quarantine area should be sufficiently large enough (something on the order of several thousand acres) to allow bison to freely move and maintain their wild character.
Bison should spend the minimum time required (as science dictates) in quarantine to ensure disease-free status.
There should be a clear process for what happens to bison once they have completed quarantine and appropriate restoration sites selected and management plans in place before bison enter quarantine.