Bison (what now?)
Perhaps some of you saw the Montana Fish and Wildlife released the new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Final Record of Decision for bison as wildlife in Montana. It was a long in the making or maybe it is better to say a long time before being released. The process for this EIS started way back in 2012!!
This EIS Decision basically sets up the format for which organizations or groups can present a plan they have for bison restoration here in Montana. It is complex, lengthy, and thankfully requires local input, and the final approval by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, but there are situations where the EIS does not apply or have authority.
Here is a little timeline of Marias River Livestock Associations tracking and involvement in the Bison drama.
-In May, 2012 Marias River Livestock Association (MRLA) Directors BJ Brown and President Maggie Nutter attended scoping meetings on bison reintroduction as wildlife.
-MRLA Director Marvin Kimmet and President Maggie Nutter attended and testified at the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks two-day Bison Discussion Meeting in Lewistown September 2013.
-MRLA Board of Directors have given written comment to Montana FWP repeatedly on bison issues.
-MRLA has continued to monitor the Blackfeet Tribes effort. With assistance from NGOs, the Tribe has worked to develop a plan, and move forward, with the Iinnii Initiative. MRLA has continued communicate the landowners concerns to other Agriculture organizations, the Department of Livestock, Montana FWP and Ervin Carlson, Intertribal Buffalo Council.
-MRLA has attended many of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (http://www.ibmp.info/ ) meetings to stay abreast of and comment on the management of Yellowstone bison, brucellosis and quarantine prior to transportation of the bison from YNP and the land they are allowed to roam outside of the park.
-MRLA hopes to continue to give input from the rancher/landowner’s point of view on Bison management and restoration.
In the search for a bright side it might help to ponder this thought…..”
The EIS Final Decision has been released at the time Governor Bullock is termed out, and will simply leave it as someone else’s problem to deal with.
Picking through the Questions and Answers portion of the Montana Fish and Wildlife release, I thought the following was most relevant to our area. (The four counties Marias River Livestock Association members hail from – Toole, Glacier, Liberty and Pondera)
What about ongoing efforts to restore bison in Montana?
In early 2016, the Blackfeet Nation translocated 89 bison from Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada. These bison are genetically pure and free of reportable diseases. The Blackfeet tribal government intends to manage them as free roaming wildlife. Tribal intent is to eventually have bison restored in one or more of three areas: the culturally significant Badger-Two Medicine portion of the Lewis and Clark-Helena National Forest; Glacier National Park; and lands north of the park toward culturally significant Chief Mountain and into Canada.
This restoration of bison to Blackfeet lands is part of a larger cultural restoration project entitled the ‘Iinnii Initiative’, and the state views this restoration of wildlife as it would the restoration of any native species by another sovereign jurisdiction. In preparing for the potential movement of bison off of tribal lands, it is the Department’s desire to work cooperatively with the Blackfeet Nation and other stakeholders, and within the mandates of state law.
This Blackfeet restoration effort falls outside the bounds of the final EIS while bison remain within reservation boundaries where the tribe has full jurisdiction. Efforts to restore domestic and cultural herds on other tribal lands also fall outside the bounds of this EIS as Alternative #3 calls for restoration of a publicly managed bison herd on tribal lands. No such effort currently exists.