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For Immediate Release

January 14, 2014
Steve Merritt
Public Information Officer
Montana Department of Livestock

Board of Livestock Backs No Action Alternative on Year-Round Bison EA

The Montana Board of Livestock has weighed in on a draft environmental analysis (EA) regarding year-round tolerance of bison outside of Yellowstone National Park by initially endorsing the no-action alternative (Alternative A).

“We’re keeping the door open, but the board unanimously believes there are unanswered questions that need to be resolved before we can do anything other than support the no action alternative,” said board chair Jan French, a cattle industry representative from Hobson, after the board concluded its meeting earlier today.

“Specifically, we’d like to see more information about bison population thresholds,” she said. “Would more habitat mean more bison? We don’t know, and with the park’s bison population hovering at near-record highs, it just wouldn’t be prudent to move forward without having more information on that and a few other topics.”

As such, the board directed Department of Livestock staff to work with the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks to try and come up with more details. French said the board will revisit the draft EA as more information becomes available.

“I would not at all be surprised to if we revisit this issue several times over the next few months,” French said. “It will, however, be difficult for the board to support anything that lacks specifics in regard to population management.”

The draft EA evaluated five options, or “alternatives,” allowing for increased tolerance of bison in the Hebgen and Gardiner Basins. It also includes a “No Action” alternative which would result in no changes to current bison tolerance zones defined by the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP).

In related news, the board approved that the department should conduct an update to the environmental analysis on vaccinating bison on the west side of Yellowstone National Park. An EA on vaccination was first conducted in 2005; the updated EA, which will be completed before vaccination begins, will reflect current the bison management situation and recent analysis on vaccination.

The board’s next meeting is March 17-18, 2014, in Helena.