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UPOM Oped: Don’t transport bison out of Yellowstone Park

Eastern Montana Shadows by Loren Kerns

UPOM’s Mark Robbins responds to the Billings Gazette’s call for transferring YNP bison to Eastern Montana.  Here’s an excerpt:

The Billings Gazette editorialized in support of creating a brucellosis testing facility on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. (“An Alternative to Yellowstone Bison slaughter” Feb. 14). Rather than addressing the root problem —poor federal management practices that has led to a severe overpopulation of bison in the park — the Gazette advocates simply moving the problem somewhere else.

It’s a ludicrous proposition. It won’t fix what’s wrong at Yellowstone National Park. And worse, it will create the exact same problem in northeastern Montana.

And let’s correct one big point the Gazette got wrong. These are not animals that have been proven brucellosis free. That’s the whole point of a “quarantine facility;” it’s a place where they’ll be tested to see if they have the disease.

It’s like saying I’m going to take care of my leafy spurge infestation by transferring a few hundred plants over to my neighbor’s pasture. Rule one in preventing disease transfer is to isolate the disease.

This proposed transfer is doubly problematic because the bison in question would be classified as wild free-roaming bison, not livestock. That distinction makes all the difference in the world.

A livestock classification means that some entity is responsible for the animals. If they get out onto neighbor’s property then there’s someone to call to come and get them. And moreover, there’s someone liable to pay for any damage they cause.

It’s the opposite for wild bison. If they roam onto your property, then you eat the cost of any damage they cause, which can be substantial. As wildlife, there’s no one to call to come get them. Like any other wildlife, as a landowner you’re expected to tolerate them—but of course, bison are not like other wildlife.