Ted Turner bison, Montana’s proposal to send some or all of the brucellosis-free Yellowstone bison currently quarantined just north of Yellowstone National Park to Ted Turner’s Green Ranch west of Bozeman, Montana, and allow Turner Enterprises to keep up to 90% of the bison’s offspring has caused quite a stir recently. Some support the proposal, but many more, it seems to me, oppose the plan because it allows for the privatization of public Yellowstone wildlife.
What is NRDC’s take on the issue?
We want the quarantine feasibility study to be completed as
originally planned, and we want the brucellosis-free Yellowstone bison
that “graduate” from the study -- both the original entrants and all
offspring -- to be placed on public or tribal lands in the West to
reestablish wild herds of genetically pure bison. Needlessly
slaughtering any of these bison, which have been the subject of years of
scientific research and financial investment, should not be an option.
While we would prefer to see the bison that need to be moved out of
the quarantine facility transferred immediately to public or tribal
land, we would support moving the bison to Turner’s ranch for the
duration of the study -- so long as none of the originally quarantined bison or their offspring are privatized
or commercialized in any way.
Thus, because the two alternatives that give bison to Turner
Enterprises (one gives it all 88 bison and the other sends 14 bison to a
state park in Wyoming and the rest go to Turner) allow for the
privatization and/or commercialization of bison offspring, we oppose
both alternatives as currently written. We also oppose the other two
alternatives because both involve the needless slaughter of Yellowstone
Allowing public wildlife -- wildlife from America’s first national
park -- to be privatized and commercialized sets a dangerous precedent.
Forever removing public wildlife from the public domain violates the
public trust. Yellowstone’s wildlife belongs to all Americans, and
proposing to give away such wildlife as a form of payment is abhorrent.
Yellowstone’s public wildlife is not a form of currency. Turner
Enterprises should be compensated if it allows the feasibility study to
be completed at its Green Ranch, but it should be paid with money (or
some equivalent), not Yellowstone wildlife.
All of the invaluable brucellosis-free genetically pure Yellowstone
bison that emerge from the quarantine study should be transferred to
public or tribal lands to establish new herds within the bison’s vast
historic range. Under no circumstances should a private entity be
allowed to keep 90% of the offspring of 74 bison or 75% of the offspring
of 88 bison, as two of the four proposed alternatives allow. Such
privatization would limit the opportunities to establish new herds,
which would be especially problematic for Montana, where wild bison are
almost literally nonexistent.
Sadly, as the Draft Environmental Assessment
points out, “[i]n Montana, wild bison only exist within the designated
bison-tolerant zones near Yellowstone National Park.” (Page 27.) It is
amazing -- and almost inconceivable -- that in Montana, an enormous
state with significant public land and a rich history of public wildlife
and wildlife restoration, wild bison are found nowhere in the state
except for a few tiny “designated tolerance zones” near Yellowstone
National Park. Montana is The Last Best Place, and it is well past time
for the same to be true for wild bison.
The upside to Montana’s current dearth of wild bison is that enormous
potential exists for the state in the near future. With the
reestablishment of wild bison herds on public lands in Montana will come
significant values: ecological, economic, cultural, spiritual,
historical. Restoring wild bison herds around Montana will help restore
communities struggling in a changing economy. Tourism, fair-chase
hunting, eco-tours and wildlife-watching, new museums; the opportunities
It is also vital that new herds of genetically pure bison be
established from the Yellowstone herd in places outside the Greater
Yellowstone Ecosystem. Creation of such new herds will protect the
precious genetic value of the Yellowstone population, which is critical
for the long-term conservation of the species.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks should analyze which of Montana’s
abundant public lands are suitable for reestablishing herds of wild
bison (e.g., Wildlife Management Areas). And the ongoing
development of a statewide bison management plan, which is long overdue,
should not prevent transferring quarantined bison to suitable state
lands prior to completion of the
state management plan.
Transferring quarantined bison to tribal lands should also be a top priority. The Draft Environmental Assessment
states that the Fort Belknap proposal for quarantined bison “could meet
many of the quarantine monitoring requirements,” but Fort Belknap could
not accept the first cohort of bison in the necessary timeframe. (Page
17.) Because reestablishing a genetically pure bison population on the
Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana with the quarantined bison
would be a desirable outcome for many stakeholders, FWP should do all it
can to achieve a Fort Belknap translocation with these bison.
Allowing for the privatization and/or commercialization of
brucellosis-free Yellowstone bison when such bison could be used to
reestablish wild bison herds on public and/or tribal lands cannot
occur. Montana must creatively work to find alternatives to the false
choice of “either slaughter or privatization/commercialization of public
Other options we would support include, but are not limited to: (1)
temporarily sending the bison to the Green Ranch until Fort Belknap, a
Wildlife Management Area, or some other public or tribal land is ready
to receive the bison (and paying Turner Enterprises for the costs it
incurs, if needed); (2) temporarily moving the bison to other suitable
private property until Fort Belknap, a Wildlife Management Area, or some
other public or tribal land is ready (and paying the private entity for
the costs it incurs, if needed); (3) temporarily moving the bison to
suitable state property until Fort Belknap, a Wildlife Management Area,
or some other public or tribal land is ready; (4) leaving the bison in
quarantine until Fort Belknap, a Wildlife Management Area, or some other
public or tribal land is ready (assuming such readiness is imminent – e.g.,
Fort Belknap, as mentioned in the Draft Environmental Assessment); or
(5) transferring the bison to the Green Ranch for the duration of the
feasibility study and instead of compensating Turner Enterprises with
Yellowstone wildlife, pay Turner Enterprises for the costs it incurs in
being a steward for public wildlife and allowing the feasibility study
to be completed on its property.
Montana cannot set the dangerous precedent of allowing for the
privatization and/or commercialization of public Yellowstone wildlife.
Significant time, money, research, and resources have been invested in
the quarantined bison. These bison are too valuable, and too much
potential for reestablishing wild bison herds on public and tribal lands
exists for the state to squander this priceless opportunity. Montana
cannot let brucellosis-free genetically pure Yellowstone bison disappear
from the public realm.
Source : http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mskoglund/montanas_proposal_to_send_some.html