HELENA – Yellowstone bison may eventually inhabit lands adjacent to or near the border of Yellowstone National Park year-round.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Montana Department of Livestock are jointly conducting an environmental review on a proposal to change the Interagency Bison Management Plan and allow for expanded bison ranges in parts of the Gallatin National Forest.
Under the proposal, the animals would be allowed in the following areas year-round: the Hebgen Basin, the Cabin Creek Recreation and Wildlife Management Unit, the Monument Mountain Unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area, the Upper Gallatin River corridor, and the Gardiner Basin (for bull bison).
The agencies released a scoping notice on July 23 intended to solicit public comment regarding the proposal. The agencies want to address the following issues during the environmental assessment and public scoping process:
• How would the year-round presence of bison affect public safety?
• What are the effects to private landowners in the vicinity of the year-round bison habitats?
• Would the year-round presence of bison provide for additional bison hunting opportunities?
• Would the bison move back into YNP over time without hazing activities?
• Would there be a measureable change in seasonal bison movements if there was year-round habitat available?
• How would the year-round presence of bison affect local livestock operations?
• How would the year-round presence of bison affect other wildlife and habitat?
• What is the likelihood that bison will move beyond the proposed boundaries, what are consequences of these movements, and how will they be mitigated?
Public meetings are planned in West Yellowstone (Aug. 20, 6 – 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn) and Gardiner (Aug. 21, 6 – 8 p.m. at the Gardiner High School Theatre). The public scoping period will end Aug. 24, with a draft EA expected by late October. Public comment on the draft EA is expected to close in late November, with a final decision on the EA expected by mid-December.
Comments and questions can be directed to:
Bison Habitat EA
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
PO Box 200701
Helena MT 59620
Montana Department of Livestock
PO Box 200201
Helena, MT 59620