CMR Wildlife Refuge Targeted for Wild Bison


Monday March 12th, the six-day North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference kicked off in Atlanta.  The conference is being put on by the Wildlife Management Institute.  According to their website, “WMI was established in 1911 by sportsmen/businessmen gravely concerned about the dramatic declines of many wildlife populations. Its founders saw need for a small, independent and aggressive cadre of people dedicated to restoring and ensuring the well-being of wild populations and their habitats.”

Promoting Wild, Free-Ranging Bison in Montana

On the very first day in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Wildlife Federation presented a Bison Workshop designed to move forward the proposal for a wild, free-ranging population of bison in Montana.  Two National Wildlife Federation leaders from Missoula presented the concept of introducing that free-ranging wild bison herd in central Montana on the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge along the Missouri River. 

Tom France, Montana’s Regional Director for the National Wildlife Federation and Kit Fischer, their Sportsmen’s Outreach Coordinator were on a panel titled:  Bringing Bison Back: America’s Last Big Game Challenge  


It may have made for an interesting discussion in Atlanta, Georgia, but back here in Montana many ranchers and sportsmen remember that the National Wildlife Federation was a supporter of introducing wolves in Montana a few years ago, and they view consequences of that introduction as a big mistake.


Now, the National Wildlife Federation feels that that time has come for the creation of a wild, free-ranging herd of bison, and the CMR is just the place to begin.  This effort is also being showcased on what appears to be a newly-launched website, “,” that goes back to the National Wildlife Federation.  This video on the restoration of bison is posted in its homepage:



Removing the Livestock and the Ranchers

The National Wildlife Federation has been working to retire livestock grazing allotments in the Yellowstone Park regions since 2002


Three years ago, in 2009, NWF expanded this program to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Montana, where they pay Ranchers to give up their grazing privileges. (Please see NWF Program Description page for details.)

To date, the National Wildlife Federation, has helped to retire 34 livestock grazing allotments totaling more than 612,000 acres in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. On the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge they’ve developed grazing agreements on five allotments equaling 55,261 acres. (Please click on Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge Grazing Allotment Map below for larger image.)

NWF works with Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to get livestock off CMR

According to the NWF website, the Montana FWP is currently developing a statewide bison management plan that will include a large-scale restoration vision on the Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR).


During the last 20 years, the CMR has phased out permanent livestock grazing on more than 250,000 acres due largely to the work of the National Wildlife Federation, so that this land could now be available for bison restoration without livestock conflict.


On that website the NWF says the Restoration Vision is to create a reserve of one- to three-million acres where a wild, free-ranging bison population could be restored to their native prairie habitat.  (By comparison, 3 million acres would considerably larger than Yellowstone Park’s 2.2 Million acres.)

© Northern Ag Network 2012

Taylor Brown & Haylie Shipp


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