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New judge appointed for Gardiner Basin bison trial



By Taylor Anderson

A new judge was appointed today to take over ruling in the Park County Stockgrowers Association lawsuit against agents managing bison in the Gardiner Basin.

The suit was one of two approved by District Judge Nels Swandal attacking the agencies in charge of managing the free-roaming bison outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.

A request by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to replace Judge Swandal was approved before the original hearing on May 25, and today Swandal appointed 10th District Judge E. Wayne Phillips as his replacement.

“We have no particular reaction at this time. It’s standard procedure,” said Bob Lane, Chief Legal Counsel for FWP.

A scheduling conference has been set for June 14, at which details for the trial will be set.

Three conservation groups in the area asked in May to participate in the hearing. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Bear Creek Council and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition each asked to oppose the lawsuit.

Mark Pearson, conservation director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said Tuesday he has high hopes for intervening in the case.

“There was a similar lawsuit filed in 2008 in West Yellowstone” in which the group was able to intervene, Pearson said. “I think we were able to raise some pretty persuasive arguments that the judge considered.”

The judge is expected to make a decision on the requests to intervene in the coming week.

The Big Sky Weekly was unable to reach Judge Phillips’ office on Tuesday.

Reporter Taylor Anderson can be reached at (847) 902-7110, or

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