MT’s “Free-Roaming” Bison Herd Needs Pasture


(9/19/11 Update)

Where should the state of Montana put bison?  That is the question that Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking right now as they try to find interim holding spots for the very bison that might be used for a future, free-roaming bison herd in the state.

Ron Aasheim with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) told Northern Ag Network Friday that there are currently just over 200 bison that are on Ted Turner’s “Green Ranch” and at a quarantine facility that they may be relocating.

Ron says the bison have been shown to be brucellosis-free and that these holding places would be just for the interim.

These bison were all once part of the Yellowstone Park bison herd before finding their way out of the Park’s northern border.  Officials have been working with the animals to see if they could come up with a herd free of brucellosis problems and, now that they believe they have that, Ron says that they will not be getting any more bison from the Park.

So where could the bison be held in the interim?  While Ron says that one option is leaving them right where they are, the FWP has put forward a plan to put up to forty bison at four different locations. 

They are the Marias River Wildlife Management Area, Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and Fort Peck Indian Reservation.  Click on the respective map below to see a close-up view of where the pastures would be located.  Please note that these are large files and may take a little while to load.


Meanwhile, the big picture is, again, that these bison could become a free roaming bison herd in the state of Montana.  They are working on what they call the “statewide bison conservation strategy” that would determine whether or not there is a place in Montana’s landscape for wild bison.  It’s expected that this will be completed by 2015.

We asked Ron what would happen if, come 2015, it was decided that there would not be a free roaming bison herd. 

What would be done then with these bison in interim holding to make up that herd?

Public comment is now being taken until Oct. 14 on these interim holding spots.  Details for how to submit your comments as well as more details on the assessment of this proposal can be found in our original story below.  They are tentatively set to decide on this interim holding matter during the November 13th FWP Commission meeting.



(9/15/11 Original Story)

The following email came into our Northern Ag Network email inboxes on Thursday evening:

Dear Interested Citizen,

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) invites public review of its evaluation of potential interim locations for the placement of bison until completion of a statewide bison conservation strategy.  The sources of bison for the interim period are brucellosis-free bison originating from the ongoing Quarantine Feasibility Study.  A draft environmental assessment (EA) has been prepared for this proposal. The interim locations evaluated in the EA include:  FWP’s Marias River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Spotted Dog WMA, Tribal lands on the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Reservations, the Green Ranch, and the Slip ‘n Slide pastures.

The direct web link to this EA on FWP’s website is

Copies of the EA can also be obtained at the FWP regional headquarters in Glasgow, Great Falls, and Missoula; FWP’s headquarters in Helena; and FWP’s area offices in Conrad and Butte.

Comments are being sought on the proposed action, and all comments must be received by FWP no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 19, 2011.  Comments can be submitted via regular mail to FWP, Attn: Interim Translocation of Bison EA, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701, or emailed to

Comments can also be submitted at one of the regional public hearings FWP will host during the comment period:

  • Deer Lodge, October 5th (Wednesday), Community Center at 6:30 pm;
  • Shelby, October 6th (Thursday), Marias River Electric Cooperative at 6:30 pm;
  • One or two meetings are also planned in FWP’s Region 6, so that interested parties to the proposed tribal lands can submit comments.  Locations, times, and dates for those meetings are still pending.  Please check FWP’s website for updates.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission has the final decision-making authority and is expected to be asked to render a decision on this proposal at its November 13th meeting in Helena.

*Because of a length of time where this information was unavailable on the FWP’s website, the comment period has been extended to now close on October 19.

Source:  Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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