Target: Montana District Judge John McKeon
Goal: Ensure that wild bison restoration efforts are successful
A Montana judge recently rejected an effort to classify the animals as livestock instead of wildlife under state law. The ruling is part of an ongoing, successful effort by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to transfer a group of wild bison from a quarantine facility near Yellowstone Park to the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Reservations in Montana. Judge McKeon should be commended for recognizing that these majestic animals should be restored as wildlife on the landscape, not treated as livestock to be used.
If the judge had ruled the other way, wild bison would have been treated as livestock under state law once the animals were captured and held in quarantine as part of the bison restoration process. Accordingly, jurisdiction over quarantined bison would have transferred from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Livestock. If that happened, it would have impeded any future plans to restore native bison as a wildlife species in their habitat.
Wild bison once numbered approximately thirty million across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, but they were almost hunted to extinction. By the turn of the twentieth century, only about twenty-five individual bison remained in the wild, located in Yellowstone National Park. Since that time, Yellowstone’s bison population has rebounded to approximately 4,000 animals.
Commend Judge McKeon for his ruling that wild bison are wildlife, not livestock. His decision will help pave the way for bison restoration efforts in Yellowstone and beyond.
Dear Judge McKeon,
I applaud your recent ruling that wild bison in Montana should be classified as wildlife, not livestock. Despite efforts by opponents of bison restoration, your decision has ensured that the wild bison population in Yellowstone National Park and beyond will continue to rebound.
The National Wildlife Foundation has worked with conservation partners and indigenous peoples for decades to restore bison to public and tribal lands. The quarantined group of bison in question represents that ongoing effort. Your ruling confirms a commitment to bring wild Yellowstone bison back to their ancestral home.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jack Dykinga via Wikimedia Commons