With very short notice, MT FWP is hosting a meeting in Lewistown on September 26 and 27 to discuss introducing free-roaming bison on the CMR and other locations in Montana.
Twenty eight panelists have been hand-selected by FWP to represent who they deem to be the stakeholders in this issue. Almost half are from government agencies that support free-roaming bison. In addition, American Prairie Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, and Wildlife Conservation Society, some of the most outspoken groups supporting the agenda to drive family ranches off the land in Central and Eastern Montana, each have representatives on the panel.
Alarmingly, landowner advocates are dramatically under-represented and outnumbered three to one. Only two of the six county governments that border the CMR will be represented. Requests to balance the panel with an equal number of landowner representatives were refused by FWP.
United Property Owners of Montana is a co-plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit against FWP over the classification of these very bison they wish to turn loose. We agree with Chief Justice McGrath’s opinion that YNP bison are not wild bison, as they have been reduced to captivity. We’ve proposed a reasonable alternative to the bison problem caused by mismanagement in Yellowstone National Park - allow private entities, including Indian tribes, to take on YNP bison as livestock after they’ve been quarantined and tested negative for brucellosis, with all the safeguards a livestock classification provides.
At this point, it seems that FWP is ignoring that common-sense alternative in favor of the radical plan by national and international environmental groups for a free-roaming bison herd. None of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have been invited to participate on the panel.
Even though it’s a stacked deck, it’s still an open government meeting. We encourage you to turn out to express your outrage that FWP is even considering a plan for a free-roaming bison that will damage private property and could expose livestock and humans to disease.
The meeting will be at the Yogo Inn and begins at 10 am Thursday and ends at 3 pm Friday. Public comment will be allowed at 4:30 on Thursday. We hope you take the opportunity to weigh in.
Mark Robbins is President of United Property Owners of Montana, a grassroots property rights organization representing over 2 million acres of ranch land in Montana.