The Buffalo Field Campaign has strongly opposed Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s (FWP) bison quarantine experiment at every step, knowing that bison have never transmitted brucellosis to livestock and that quarantine destroys the wild qualities that make these bison so unique. FWP ignored public input and proceeded anyway, falsely promising that after five years the survivors would be given happy homes on public and tribal lands. Five years later, with the FWP lease of the current quarantine pens due to expire, we learned that the agency, in fact, had no plan.
Breaking trust with tribes, the public and the bison, FWP denied tribal proposals and refused to consider the thousands of public acres available in Montana. In a last-minute, back-room deal, Gov. Brian Schweitzer appealed to Ted Turner for a bailout (see “Helping the herd,” Feb. 25, 2010). Turner agreed to house the quarantined bison on his ranch in exchange for 75 percent of the Yellowstone calves born there. The deal sets the dangerous precedents of turning public wildlife into currency and transferring ownership of a cherished public resource to a private, for-profit corporation.
The 88 formerly wild Yellowstone bison that now find themselves captive behind Turner’s fences were stolen from all of us. As long as they reside on Turner’s ranch they are off-limits to the public.
But not everyone comes out on the short end of this deal. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC), an organization with close ties to Turner (he is listed as a board member on their most recent tax return) has been busy heaping praise on the deal. Perhaps GYC, who last year charged $1500 for exclusive tours of Turner’s ranch, will be one of the greatest beneficiaries.
FWP now promises that after five more years, any surviving Yellowstone bison in Turner’s possession, along with the few offspring remaining after Turner takes his share, will be returned to the public. Given their track record, why should we believe them?
Buffalo Field Campaign