Montana's frantic stampede to stop wild buffalo

A seemingly frantic struggle is occuring in Montana against a miniscule return of wild bison in that state. This fight reminds me of the efforts to block the restoration of wolves and grizzlies, and also demonstrates the fear that some cultures seem to have of the natural world. It bothers me that some Montana legislators are quickly trying to enact legislation against wild bison without conferring with the Indian Nations located in Montana and the Indian citizens, who are also Montana citizens. Surely, there is room in Montana for the buffalo to roam wild once again.

The Great Falls (Mont) Tribune reported on this story on March 13 and the slew of state bills that are aimed at managing or limiting the spread of wild bison/buffalo in Montana.

 Tribal leaders and sportsmen’s groups came to the capitol to advocate tolerance for the native grassland grazer.

“There is an understanding that needs to take place that isn’t always considered,” Thomas “Tommy” Christian, a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribal Council, said during a two-hour rally in the Capitol rotunda. “We’re here to help you understand the significance of the buffalo in our culture.”

Indian leaders from the Fort Peck, Crow and Fort Belknap reservations joined wildlife advocates, sportsmen’s groups and conservationists in a demonstration against bison bills that are still making their way through the legislative process.

So far, there are 10 bills targeting bison, ranging from measures giving county commissioners the power to veto bison restoration plans that fall in their counties to a bill, that would create a zero-tolerance policy for free-roaming bison in the state, requiring Montana officials to “immediately” kill or remove all wild bison migrating into the state.

Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey, chair of the Senate Fish and Game Committee and vice chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee is an outspoken opponent of wild bison in Montana.  He argues that there are enough bison in Yellowstone National Park and on the National Bison Range. Brenden sponsored Senate Bill 143, that would forbid the translocation of wild bison anywhere in the state except the National Bison Range.

“I don’t think we can have free roaming bison in today’s modern society. That’s the bottom line,” Brenden said.

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