The 67th Montana Legislative Session set wildlife conservation back by decades in our great state and this is most apparent in the all-out assault on bison restoration. With just two bills, House Bill 302 and House Bill 318, this legislature was able to severely hamper any and all efforts to restore our national mammal on public lands in our eastern prairies where they once roamed.
Whereas House Bill 318 further restricts the definition of a wild bison to the point of being nearly impossible to meet, House Bill 302 gives county commissions the authority to be the deciding voice in whether wild bison can be translocated within their respective counties. Alone these bills present significant hurdles to restoring a free-roaming wild bison herd, but together they effectively kill any opportunity to restore this species. In many ways, the state has only achieved the result of hamstringing its own authority over wildlife while also ignoring the will of the majority of Montanans. Federal land agencies have stated their intent to establish wild bison on federal lands in appropriate places through the Trump administration’s Bison Conservation Initiative, and this can be done with, or without, the Gianforte administration.
To sum it up, Montana hunters and wildlife conservationists have been asking for a free-roaming wild bison herd for decades and, just when collaborative efforts were about to yield substantial results, one legislative session has set the clock back well over a decade. The Montana Wildlife Federation has submitted a request to Governor Gianforte asking him to veto these bills and respect the years of your hard work to begin restoration of this valued native wildlife species.