Historically, within the northern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem bison ranged across some 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles!) in the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Madison rivers. The current occupied range is approximately 3,175 square kilometers...about 16% of their historic range. 10 Click here for Habitat Maps.
Livestock and livestock grazing management directly and indirectly impact bison and their habitat. Livestock directly affect vegetation structures, alter plant communities, alter soil characteristics, and impact other habitat elements. Public lands livestock grazing requires development such as fencing, cattle-guards, and roads to control livestock movements. These range developments impair buffalo movements and distribution. The proximity of livestock poses a significant threat of disease transmission from the domesticated animals to these free-roaming bison. 11
Continued livestock grazing public-lands bison habitat promotes a perceived need for “disease risk-management operations” such as those occurring under the auspices of the IBMP. Unfortunately, rather than managing domestic cattle to avoid bison habitat, the agencies instead manage bison out of its native habitat—for the sole purpose of benefiting a few powerful livestock industry interests. Public lands benefiting private interests: Does that sound right to you?
Extensive amounts of land within the northern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are unprotected and threatened by land use intensification. Zoning policies are needed that can affect large areas, including regionally coordinated growth management efforts to preserve biodiversity by redirecting future development (Gude et al., 2007). The same authors conclude, “Future habitat conversion to exurban development outside the region’s nature reserves is likely to impact wildlife populations within the reserves.” 12 [emphasis added]