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Montana Governor Ends Bison Plan In Effort to Protect Ranchers


On April 20th, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte stated that he’s ending the bison management plan which he stated: “didn’t do right by farmers, ranchers, and private property owners.” The goal of the initial movement was to allow bison to spread throughout more of Montana, and ultimately help wild bison herds grow, and better the ecological movement.


Why the Bison Plan Was Initially Considered

The initial reasoning for the decade-long Bison Plan was to restore bison in Montana outside the Yellowstone National park. By moving the animals, the bison would remain free-ranging, be able to expand, and promote better ecological growth. Activists were enthusiastic about the push for animals to be more free-ranging rather than livestock by local farms. Chamois Andersen with the Defenders of Wildlife stated the group’s goal was to return bison to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, and Blackfeet Indian Reservation in central Montana, and that the canceling of this plan ultimately sets back years of progress.


Why the Plan Was Ended

Governor Gianforte said he was doing best by the farmers, ranchers, and property owners in canceling this bill as it did not account for negative impacts to the local communities. Gianforte stated that the bill failed to consider the risk of disease transmission between wild bison, and livestock owned by bison farms. It is this writer's understanding that the main concern of the canceled bill was that brucellosis can spread from wild bison to local cattle or bison farms. Chuck Denowh, policy director stated, “This is a huge win for property owners in Montana. We’ve successfully blocked the introduction of free-roaming bison for at least the next decade.”


What is Brucellosis?

Brucellosis is a type of bacteria called Brucella that can spread from animals to humans and cannot be cured in animals. Brucellosis occurs in humans when a person comes in contact with an animal infected by Brucella. Although it’s fairly rare in the United States, it can pass from animal to animal and impact local livestock. Brucellosis can cause infertility issues, and cannot be cured. Multiple agency representatives have noted that brucellosis is not an issue in translocation as bison who would be moved would be tested multiple times. Bison that migrate from Yellowstone into Montana are slaughtered and hunted to prevent this disease, though as of 2021, no known transmissions have been recorded.


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