A letter to the editor from Senator John Brenden, Scobey, Montana.
Here we go again! On a late Friday afternoon (March 16th, 2012) without any warning, a deal, and a bad one was struck by the Governor's office, the Fish Wildlife and Parks and the Fort Peck Tribe to ship 64 buffalo to the Fort Peck Tribe in Poplar, Montana. This has been an ongoing saga for the past several years. This event took place in secret, knowing full-well that press would not be there and especially through the weekend and the buffalo were shipped out on Monday the 19th of March. I was on the road when a call came to me about the translocation. Then I heard on the radio that the Board of Livestock would not be inspecting because there was no inspectors available. That was hogwash! I called Helena and visited with someone in livestock and was told that these buffalo were considered wildlife so an inspection was not needed. In Montana Code Title 81 it defines what is not a domestic or feral bison, and that is a "wild bison" "A wild bison is one that has not been reduced to captivity and is not owned by a person".. These buffalo had been in confinement for several years at Corwin Springs, just outside of Yellowstone Park. In my opinion and that of many others, these translocated buffalo should be classified as livestock. An injunction was sought, but in my mind the judge in Malta delayed long enough to get the buffalo on the reservation. Since then you know that a temporary injunction has been obtained to stop anymore translocation. A hearing on this injunction will be held at the court house in Chinook, Mt. April 11th at 10:00 am and I urge all that can attend do so.
As Paul Harvey would say, "here is the rest of the story". In the 2011 legislative session I sponsored SB144 that would stop all translocation of buffalo from Yellowstone park to ANYWHERE in Montana, not just reservations. SB144 passed the senate, but did not get out of the House. Sen. Rick Ripley then sponsored SB 212, which I cosponsored, that if any translocation of buffalo would occur a plan had to be made by FWP; who it would affect, how FWP would implement the plan, OPEN to the public (transparency), etc.,etc. And, the Governor signed SB212. Here is the rub. The translocation took place without any of this happening! Flat out, the Governor thumbed his nose at the people of Montana and broke the law. The Governor when he was sworn in promised to obey the Constitution of Montana and the laws of Montana and her citizens! The "Rule of Law" was broken by Governor Schweitzer to pander to the tribes, the National Wildlife Federation, the Defenders of Wildlife and other environmental organizations who want eastern Montana to become "Buffalo Commons" for free roaming buffalo!
This dereliction of obeying Montana's law has the potential of harming agriculture, human health, business of any kind and especially rural Montana. The Governor will say that he can deal with the tribes as they are a sovereign nation. Can he sign MOU's (memorandum of understanding) with Iran, China and Russia that might affect Montanan the same way?
I am not against the tribes having buffalo, as they already have them. And this not a partisan issue as both Republicans and Democrats are a part of the lawsuit to stop the translocation. I guess the bottom line is the fact that in the past the tribes have not shown to be able to contain the buffalo they now have on their property.
There will be a meeting in Chinook, Mt., March 30th at the Meadowlark Elementary School at 5:00 pm and sponsored by Kerry White for (CBU) Citizens for Balanced Use and I urge all to attend and give support to CBU.
Senator John Brenden, Chm. Senate Fish, Wildlife & Parks Committee
Northern Ag Network Note: To get more details on this story, please read "Montana’s Reservation Bison Uproar in Review."