Horse Butte Bison Being Hazed

Bison safety on prime spring calving grounds at stake


Tim Preso, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699

Earthjustice continues to defend bison that wander outside Yellowstone National Park in a court case brought by the Montana Stockgrowers Association. While the case proceeds, this year’s crop of new baby bison and their mothers have been the subject of an aerial and ground hazing operation intended to drive them back into the park. The bison naturally migrate out of the park at this time of the year to get to lower elevation pastures that get the earliest new grass each spring. 

Earthjustice is representing eight Horse Butte landowners and residents in opposing the lawsuit filed by the Montana Stockgrowers Association. The Stockgrowers, joined by the Sitz Angus Ranch and rancher Bill Myers, both of Montana, are asking a state judge to order the Montana Department of Livestock to haze, harass and slaughter all bison that cross the Yellowstone National Park boundary into the Horse Butte area of Montana.

While the risk of disease transmission to cattle has been cited to justify the capture and slaughter of Yellowstone bison, in this case the Montana Stockgrowers Association has demanded that bison not be allowed even on cattle-free private and public lands in Montana.

The Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) finalized in 2000 dictates how bison are managed outside of Yellowstone and calls for adaptation to changing circumstances.  Pursuant to that plan, federal and state agencies in December 2008 adopted an adaptive management plan that allows bison to roam across the Horse Butte landscape each winter.  The Stockgrowers’ lawsuit seeks to roll back that change.

Even under the new adaptive management plan, however, federal and state agents continue to haze bison back into Yellowstone National Park by May 15 each year to eliminate all bison presence from the area before domestic cattle are trucked into nearby lands for summer grazing. Given cattle no longer graze Horse Butte at any time of year, it is unnecessary for DOL to force bison on Horse Butte back into the park.

Horse Butte, located north of West Yellowstone, Montana, occupies a peninsula of land that extends westward into Hebgen Lake. The butte is surrounded on three sides by water and the landowners welcome grazing bison.

The landowners represented by Earthjustice are joined by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). GYC and NRDC are committed to continuing their work with government agencies and private landowners to provide cattle-free zones outside of Yellowstone where bison have room to roam and are treated like the state’s other wildlife.

The Horse Butte property owners and residents represented by Earthjustice are Edith Ford, Joanne Mayo, Ed Millspaugh, Tom Sheperd, Ann Stovall, Joann Stovall, Karrie Taggart, and Jeannette Therien.  

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