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Take action for wild buffalo on bills before the 2021 Montana Legislature.

Contact Governor Greg Gianforte

    By mail:
    Office of the Governor
    PO Box 200801
    Helena MT 59620-0801

    By phone:
    406-444-3111
    Toll Free: 855-318-1330
    FAX: 406-444-5529

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    Website form: https://svc.mt.gov/gov/contact/shareopinion


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    Bill: HB 318

    Title: Clarify definition of bison
    Sponsor: Kenneth L Holmlund (R) HD 38
    Status: Passed House 65 YEAS/32 NAYS on April 26, 2021. HB 318 will now be enrolled, signed by the Speaker and President and transmitted to the Governor. Please contact Governor Gianforte today and ask him to veto HB 318.

    Watch the recorded hearing here (HB 318 begins at 16:24:45)

    BFC Executive Director letter to Governor Gianforte: Please Veto HB 318 (PDF)

    Talking Points

    • HB 318 was amended, adding a criteria to the legal definitions of a “wild” buffalo in Montana: “has never been owned by a person,” “has not been reduced to captivity,” “has never been subject” to a livestock fee, and “is not the offspring” of a buffalo "that has been subject” to the livestock fee.
    • If buffalo do not meet HB 318’s legal definition of “wild,” they are domestic or feral.
    • A century ago, buffalo owned by Pablo–Allard and Goodnight were reintroduced onto Yellowstone’s northern range and reduced to captivity on the Lamar Buffalo Ranch.
    • HB 318 disregards the distinction of wild buffalo held in public trust as wildlife, from domestic bison (livestock) owned as private property.
    • If HB 318 becomes law, Yellowstone’s wild buffalo herds – a species of conservation concern – may no longer be recognized as wild, and the wildlife species would – by definition – be extinct in Montana.
    • In 2019 Governor Bullock vetoed HB 132 a bill with a similar legal definition in HB 318 because it “presents unintended consequences” for Yellowstone’s herds, not just individual bison, which “could be inappropriately deemed domestic.” Governor Bullock HB 132 Amendatory Veto (April 19, 2019) (PDF)

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    Bill: HB 302

    Title: Require county approval to relocate bison
    Sponsor: Joshua Kassmier (R) HD 27
    Status: Signed into law by Governor Gianforte.

    BFC Executive Director letter to Governor Gianforte: Please Veto HB 302 (PDF)

    Talking Points

    • HB 302 interferes with Montanan’s constitutional right to participate in decisions for recovering wild American bison in the state.
    • HB 302 gives a board of county commissioners veto authority over the decision.
    • There is only one wild population in Montana: the Yellowstone bison herds. The migratory wildlife species is at risk of “global extinction or extirpation in the state.” (Montana Natural Heritage, SOC Report Animal Species of Conservation Concern, PDF).
    • The legislature already imposes costly, unfunded mandates to thwart the recovery of wild American bison. If anyone can overcome the costs and mandates, HB 302 gives a county board veto power to kill recovery.
    • Montanan’s must speak up to protect our natural heritage and defend our right to participate in decisions recovering wild American bison, our National Mammal.

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    Bill: SB 255

    Title: Create revenue for bison management funding
    Sponsor: Pat Flowers (D) SD 32
    Status: Tabled in Senate Fish and Game committee 3/16/2021. SB 255 is dead for the the 2021 session.
    Watch the recorded hearing here (SB 255 begins at 15:30:00)

    BFC Comments on SB 255: Do Not Pass (PDF) Addendum (PDF)

    Talking Points
    • SB 255 seeks to generate revenue for managing wild buffalo by auctioning a hunt tag to fund MCA 87-1-216, a law permitting hunting of wild buffalo for “disease control” as authorized by the Montana Dept. of Livestock (MCA 81-2-120).
    • Proceeds don’t go to conserving or expanding habitat for wild buffalo.
    • Under SB 255, revenue must go to MCA 87-1-216, a law imposing costly, unfunded mandates to thwart recovery of wild buffalo.
    • The Montana legislature needs to adopt the common sense idea of managing wild buffalo like wild elk. Doing so would bring far more benefits and revenue than continuing with costly, tax-wasting, bureaucratic management imposed by MCA 87-1-216 and MCA 81-2-120.

    Bill: HB 311

    Title: Generally revise bison laws
    Sponsor: Marvin Weatherwax (D) HD 15
    Status: Tabled in House Agriculture Committee 2/23/2021. HB 311 is dead for the the 2021 session.
    Watch the recorded hearing here (HB 311 begins at 15:02:00)

    BFC Comments on HB 311: Informational (PDF)

    Talking Points
    • HB 311 clarifies wild buffalo taken from the Yellowstone herds for quarantine can be transferred to a tribal entity with the approval of the Montana Dept. of Livestock under MCA 81-2-120.
    • Unless clear and convincing evidence shows there is a significant danger to public health, HB 311 would not require state certification for federal to tribal or tribal to tribal transfers of wild buffalo on tribe’s reservations.
    • The Montana Dept. of Livestock should not be permitted under state law to infringe on sovereign decisions of American Indian Nations.
    Repeal MCA 81-2-120

    Bill: HB 312

    Title: Generally revise bison laws
    Sponsor: Marvin Weatherwax (D) HD 15
    Status: Tabled in House Agriculture Committee 2/23/2021. HB 312 is dead for the the 2021 session.
    Watch the recorded hearing here (HB 312 begins at 16:06:20)

    BFC Comments on HB 312: Informational (PDF)

    Talking Points
    • HB 312 would not require state certification for federal to tribal transfers of wild buffalo for quarantine on tribe’s reservations under Montana Dept. of Livestock authority MCA 81-2-120.
    • As part of quarantine, wild buffalo testing for an immune response to brucella abortus are slaughtered. Wild buffalo are also injured and suffer harm in captivity.
    • The loss of buffalo in quarantine through calf abandonment, goring, and other injuries should not go unrecognized.
    Repeal MCA 81-2-120