For Immediate Release:
July 14, 2011
Lewistown, Montana - Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project filed today to intervene in consolidated lawsuits by Park County and the Park County Stockgrowers Association to stop a plan by the state of Montana to permit bison some room to migrate within Gardiner Basin outside Yellowstone National Park.
The groups say Gardiner Basin provides critical winter habitat and is a key corridor for the migratory species to roam in Montana.
"This reconnection of buffalo and the land on which they belong is a long overdue first step," said Daniel Brister, Executive Director of Buffalo Field Campaign. "Local Montanans welcome the buffalo's migration, have learned to live with buffalo, and desire to see the wild species return."
Gardiner Basin encompasses a small portion of the bison's northern winter range originally reaching 40 miles beyond Yankee Jim Canyon into Paradise Valley along the Yellowstone River.
Park County residents who filed affidavits in state court say the bison need a break from wasteful taxpayer funded government hazing, capture, and slaughter operations that harms their interest in co-existing with the wild species in their native range.
"Yellowstone is one of a very few nearly intact ecosystems on the planet and is considered a world treasure," said Fred Baker, who owns property the bison migrate onto along the Old Yellowstone Trail. "To not support free roaming Bison in my opinion is an American travesty."
"I found this winter very special in viewing bison up and down the Gardiner Basin," said Gardiner, Montana resident Scott Hoeninghausen. "A limited amount of tolerance created an unlimited amount of beauty."
The plan agreed to by Montana would permit some bison to temporarily occupy some winter range in the Gardiner Basin.
Bison migrating beyond Yankee Jim Canyon would be subject to shooting by state officials, an action which the groups and residents deplore.
"It is long past time for bison to be able to return to their historic range in Montana," said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. "WWP welcomes the opportunity to support the State of Montana."
District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips of Lewistown has scheduled a hearing for the consolidated cases in which BFC and WWP seek to intervene in the fall of 2011.
Judge Phillips replaced Park County District Court Judge Nels Swandal who was removed from the case after Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks petitioned for a new judge.
Before he was removed from hearing the suit, Judge Swandal granted a temporary restraining order to the stock growers and the county thwarting Montana participation in the new agreed upon plan.