You may remember that Montana attempted to allow bison hunting back in 1991 but cancelled the hunt due to a firestorm of controversy. This time, the legislature has passed a law giving the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission (FWP) specific authority to establish such a hunt, and FWP has conducted a proper environmental review of the impact of free-ranging bison leaving Yellowstone Park to forage on public and private lands in Montana. Seeking to avoid the conflicts of the 1991 hunt, the Commission has also elected to proceed conservatively with the hunt this time, suggesting only 25 bison permits where some commissioners think 250 would be more suitable.
Upon final approval, the hunts will be allowed in only specific areas of southwestern Montana: the Eagle Creek/Bear Creek drainage of the Gardiner Basin in the North Boundary area; portions of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness north of Yellowstone National Park; and public land with no cattle allotments in the Cabin Creek Recreation and Wildlife Management Area, the Monument Mountain Unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and the upper Gallatin River drainage of the mouth of Taylor Fork. Only rifle hunting will be allowed for bison. Subsequent seasons would run from mid-November to mid-February, and the number of permits may increase or decrease.
The intent of the law authorizing the hunt is to allow hunters to harvest wild, free-roaming bison under fair-chase conditions and to reduce damage to private property by altering bison behavior and distribution. The proposed hunt is not expected to substantially regulate bison populations. Population regulation is conducted under the Interagency Bison Management Plan approved by state and federal authorities several years ago.........(continued)