Yellowstone National Park is developing public scoping comments on a new bison management plan and environmental impact statement for our National Mammal, the Park, and the States of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.

According to Yellowstone National Park, there is a need for a new bison management plan because the current plan’s premises from 2000 “were incorrect or changed over time.”

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The plan’s new purpose is to “preserve an ecologically sustainable population of wild, migratory bison while continuing to work with partners to address brucellosis transmission, human safety, and property damage and support tribal hunting outside YNP.”

The public scoping period ended February 28, 2022. Thank you for sending comments on behalf of the buffalo to Yellowstone National Park. BFC’s scoping comments can be found below.

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be available for public comment in the Fall of 2022.

Proposed Alternatives

Preliminary Alternatives 

Preliminary alternatives include No Action (continuing the current, outdated plan), Enhance Restoration and Tribal Engagement, and Food-Limited Carrying Capacity.

The NPS’s proposed action is to prepare and implement a new plan that provides YNP with tools to manage bison that reflect the best available information and current circumstances on the ground. Actions common to all alternatives would include: the NPS continuing to support the 2014 Buffalo Treaty and 2020 Bison Conservation Initiative by engaging Buffalo Nations associated with Yellowstone bison; continue research by park scientists and collaborators to ensure there is sufficient forage; continue to meet with the other federal, state, and tribal agencies to coordinate bison management using the existing framework and partnership protocols for the IBMP; and continue to explore other activities outside YNP with partners to advance the purpose of this plan.

Alternative 1: No-Action 

The NPS would continue to manage bison pursuant to the 2000 IBMP as adaptively adjusted and implemented and would maintain a population range of bison similar to the last two decades (3,500 to 5,000 bison after calving). The NPS would continue hunt-trap coordination to balance population regulation in the park using culling at Stephens Creek with hunting opportunities outside the park, increase the number of brucellosis-free bison relocated to tribal lands, and work with the State of Montana to manage the already low risk of brucellosis spreading from bison to cattle.

Alternative 2: Enhance Restoration and Tribal Engagement 

Bison would be managed within a population range of about 4,500 to 6,000 bison after calving with an emphasis on using the Bison Conservation Transfer Program and tribal hunting outside the park to regulate bison numbers. The NPS may use proactive measures such as low stress hazing of bison toward the park boundary to increase tribal hunting opportunities outside the park. The NPS would reduce shipment to slaughter based on the needs and requests of tribes.

Alternative 3: Food-Limited Carrying Capacity

The NPS would rely on natural selection, bison dispersal, and public and tribal harvests in Montana as the primary tools to regulate bison numbers, which would likely range from 5,500 to 8,000 or more bison after calving. Trapping for shipments to slaughter would immediately cease. The NPS would continue captures to maintain the Bison Conservation Transfer Program as in Alternatives 1 and 2.


You can download a copy of Buffalo Field Campaign's Scoping Comments on Yellowstone National Park's Bison Management Plan here (PDF).

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Read Yellowstone National Park's newsletter (PDF).

Read Yellowstone National Park's notice in the Federal Register (PDF).

Go to Yellowstone National Park's Bison Management Plan web page.

Read Buffalo Field Campaign’s alternative for managing wild buffalo like wild elk in Montana (PDF). Developed in 2015 as part of a now abandoned process to replace the current bison management plan, the alternative details how and why managing wild buffalo like wild elk is a respectful approach.