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FWP Director to Counties: You don’t matter in wild bison decisions

Montana FWP Director Martha Williams had a stark message for Montana counties in her interview on the Voices of Montana Program this week.  When asked if FWP would comply with county ordinances related to bison management, Williams revealed that her Department had no intention of doing so.

Voters in several Montana counties have enacted bison management ordinances, which require that all bison in the county, both domestic and wild, be tested for brucellosis, be branded or tagged and have their health status tracked.  Under these voter-enacted ordinances, entities that wish to graze bison in the county must have a management and conservation plan.

Bison management ordinances have been popular in the counties that have been targeted by FWP and APR for massive free-roaming bison herds.  For instance, voters in Phillips County enacted their bison ordinance with 79% of the county electorate in favor in 2016.  Several other counties have seen similar support at the ballot box.  The ordinances are authorized under state laws that allow county conservation districts to propose land use regulations for a citizen referendum. 

Williams’s unilateral decree that those local ordinances are invalid is legally dubious, and puts FWP on yet another collision course with landowners.

“The message from Martha Williams and FWP is clear,” said UPOM spokesman Chuck Denowh.  “They don’t care what the locals say, they’re prepared to shove it down our throats over the objections of both the county commissioners and the voters.”