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Cattle Are Banished from Horse Butte in Favor of Bison

In a major victory for the last remnant of America's wild bison herds, a federal judge in Washington, DC, has banned cattle grazing on national forest land next to Yellowstone National Park. Each winter, Yellowstone bison seek to migrate across the park's western boundary to the Horse Butte area of the Gallatin National Forest to find forage that they need to survive. However, hundreds of bison have been hazed out of this area -- and hundreds more have been killed -- by government agents based upon a misguided fear that bison might transmit disease to domestic cattle. The cattle are trucked into the area for summer grazing under a federal permit. In fact, bison using the Horse Butte area in winter pose no threat to summer grazing cattle.

When the Forest Service reauthorized the Horse Butte grazing permit in December 2000, Earthjustice took the agency to court. A federal judge ruled in May that the Forest Service was required to consider the environmental impacts to bison before renewing the permit, and prohibited further grazing on Horse Butte until the necessary studies are completed. As a result, this summer the federal lands on Horse Butte are free of cattle for the first time in at least 70 years, creating the promise of a better winter ahead for Yellowstone bison.

Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso represented the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, InterTribal Bison Cooperative, National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, and Gallatin Wildlife Association in the case.