State postpones bison lawsuit until February

Explorebigsky.com Editorial Staff

After months leading up to an October lawsuit filed by the Stockgrowers Association and Park County against the state of Montana, one thing happened. Nothing.

The county and stockgrowers’ lawsuits regarding management of the Yellowstone National Park bison migration from the Park onto public lands during harsh winters had been condensed into one suit, with hearings scheduled for Oct. 26 and 27.

Proceedings were postponed as state attorneys called for the dismissal of John Bloomquist, the attorney representing the stockgrowers, and District Judge Wayne Phillips rescheduled the trial for February.

State attorneys said Bloomquist used to represent Montana in defending the state’s management of bison, and had a conflict of interest.

“They argue he switched sides and he shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” said Mark Pearson, conservation director at Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

What used to be a single lawsuit brought to the state by two groups has been split into two, with the Stockgrowers’ Association settling with the state out of court, Pearson said.

Ranchers allege bison damage their property, breaking water lines and fences, and could potentially spread the disease brucellosis to livestock.

[cds_p]Pat Flowers, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Supervisor for the region, has been working closely with ranchers in the Gardiner Basin to address those issues.

“There’s been some new fences installed and some landscaping protected with fences and so forth,” Pearson said.

Postponing the lawsuit poses potential problems for the bison this winter. Weather forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association predict another winter of heavy snowfall in the area, and the bison could likely migrate into the Gardiner Basin before the a settlement.

But FWP is conducting an environmental impact study in the next few months that will look at impacts of allowing the bison grazing rights in the area. An FWP stamp could help work toward state regulation in the future.