It has taken an incredible amount of work over the past decade to get us to the point we’re at today. NWF has focused on voluntary grazing retirements, and this approach has won strong public support as a proactive, free-market method to solving conflicts involving wildlife and livestock. Our first key retirement for bison was the Horse Butte allotment, which resolved a significant conflict on the western side of the park. We then retired the Cache-Eldridge and Wapiti allotments in the Gallatin River drainage, which opens up a substantial area suitable for bison. Then we retired the Slip and Slide allotment north of the park by Gardiner.
But perhaps our most important grazing agreement involved private land. Working in partnership with Fish, Wildlife and Parks, NWF negotiated an agreement with the Church Universal and Triumphant to cease cattle grazing on the church-owned Royal Teton Ranch, near Yellowstone’s northern entrance. This has been a bottleneck for bison movement north of the park.
These retirements have led to the current situation where the risk of contact between bison and livestock is very low. And we know that the potential for disease transmission between bison and cattle is extremely low if separation is maintained during birthing periods.
Wildlife advocates, of course, see the value of opening more habitat to bison. But the livestock industry should welcome the move as well. Why?
As long as bison are effectively confined within the borders of the national park, managing the species’ population and movements will remain extremely difficult. And, as history has shown, it’s only a matter of time before the next bad winter sends bison into troubling territory—resulting in the untenable situation of hazing, capturing and slaughtering wildlife. By allowing bison to occupy sizeable habitat outside the park year-round, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, interested tribes, and Montana sportsmen will have the opportunity to play their constructive, traditional and socially acceptable roles to help manage the bison to a population that is suitable to livestock interests.
Less conflict, less risk, more opportunity and more room for bison to roam free: We have a historic opportunity to resolve a frustrating and longstanding conflict. The hard work’s been done. Now it’s just a matter of encouraging state officials to say “yes” to the win-win solution before them.
We thank you for your help in retiring this critical acreage!
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