Bison, Hunters and Landowners
Our Position Is Informed. We Stand A Chance
Another hunting season is behind us. Once again, our family handed out materials detailing some of the political challenges facing citizens of Valley and Phillips counties. The ongoing threat of unfenced, state-owned bison figured prominently. Some of you will recall that one of our hunters last year took one look at our brochures and pamphlets, and then dug out his wallet to finance the next round of printing.
Responses were similar this year. One set of hunters insisted that Jason and I accept a generous stipend to attend the Fish Wildlife and Parks meeting in Lewistown and speak out on behalf of the hunters and landowners who do not want to see the state abandon bison in the Breaks. That meeting inspired me to put together a letter listing the 15 reasons hunters had given me for opposing FWP’s plan and adding it to my set of handouts.
One group stopped as they were leaving to say thanks and that they’d had a fine hunt, and then one man among them said, “But do you have any more of those ‘Reasons Hunters Don’t Want Loose Bison in the Breaks’ letters? My wife hunts, and my son will want one, and I’ve got this friend...” One set of hunters checked the boxes for all 15 reasons and then decorated the reasons they thought most important with stars and exclamation points.
The landowners who I talk to are overwhelmed by how disastrous the unfenced bison proposal will be ecologically and for the people who live here, and yet we continue to hear that the hunters support it. Over and over, I hear the question, “How can the hunters not realize what this will do to the land and wildlife? Are the hunters really that naïve?” The short answers are “they do” and “no.” Misinformation can be hard to sustain in this era of rapid communication. If those of us who know the Breaks continue to communicate with each other and continue to stand firm for our communities – human, plant, and animal – we stand a chance of preserving what we all treasure.
Sierra Dawn Stoneberg-Holt lives in southwest Valley County.