On Aug. 10, 2029, a very large herd of free roaming bison invaded the small town of Jordan, causing considerable damage to property as well as sending three people to the emergency room with life threatening injuries when they tried to rope a buffalo grazing on their lawn.
The escapees were in a confinement area south of the Missouri River, but with the drought factor in North Central Montana this year, natural forage is in short supply as is the water in some of the local reservoirs, and the herd went looking for food and water.
This is part of the 1,200-head herd that Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, along with the Livestock Commission, deemed proper to release onto the CRM reserve 15 years ago. Through severe mismanagement and dry conditions the herd, which has now reached 15,000 in number, can be expected to free roam as far south as Wyoming and Colorado, creating havoc all along the way.
Now back here on July 23, 2014, what is it about the words “free roaming” that folks don't understand? There hasn't been a free roaming buffalo in the United States since the first drift fence was erected back in the middle 1800s. The bison, incidentally, would absolutely destroy the fence on their journeys north and south.
Free roaming means the ability to roam freely unfettered, uncontained, unrestricted, unfenced-in anywhere one wants to freely roam. True free roaming would mean from the Mississippi to the Pacific. Is that what you conservationists want?
All of the bison we see in the Black Hills, along the interstate south of Billings, at the summit of Chief Hosa Pass in Colorado, on the APR in Montana, at Ted Turners ranchette and several other spots along the highways and byways of America are in confinement. They are not free roaming.
A buffalo tethered to a 30-foot chain in a 1-acre fenced area is not free roaming. However, if the tether is removed and the buffalo can “roam” the entire acre plot, is it then free roaming? No way Jose'. The bison is still confined by the fence surrounding the one acre piece of ground.
Now, chain him inside a 1,000-acre fenced area. Not free roaming. Let him loose. Free Roaming?
There's another word used with wolves and bison that scares the hell outta me. I've used it before in many of my columns. That word is “incrementally.”
The American Prairie Reserve has 270 buffalo. They want to gradually (incrementally) increase their buffalo count to 10,000 head.
Some of folks are fine with 270 head but draw the line at 10,000.
Folks were fine with, what was it, uh, maybe 13 breeding pair of wolves released into the wilds of Montana 13 or so years ago.
Look at the wolf population nowadays. Montana even created a hunting season on the wolves to help keep the population down to mis-manageable numbers.
One feller at the Billings bison meeting told how having a herd of free roaming bison in Montana would do wonders for the state's economy through hunting the wild beasties. He mentioned (and I para-phrase very closely) “hunters would come from all over the world for the chance to shoot a wild buffalo in the wild.” Boy, Howdy! Now wouldn't that be just lovely!
As long as there are fences, towns, the Interstate Highway System and other manmade obstacles, there can be no free roaming buffalo. You'll just have to come up with a different name for it.
That's it for now folks. Thanks for listening.