WWP Files Suit Against Federal Agencies to End Bison Slaughter

WWP Online Messenger # 161

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Perhaps the most obvious example of the livestock industry’s attempt to control all wildlife use on public lands is the killing of native bison leaving Yellowstone National Park.

Killing bison has little to do with disease risks to livestock and much to do with controlling public lands at the expense of wildlife.

By filing litigation in federal court in Montana on November 9 challenging this atavistic approach to wildlife management, WWP is acting to protect bison and all other native wildlife on public lands.

WWP and our partners in this litigation are well represented in this case by WWP’s Montana Legal Counsel Summer Nelson who is assisted by WWP Montana Director Tom Woodbury. Thanks Summer and Tom !!

Here is the news release from November 9, 2009 announcing the legal filing:

A coalition of conservation groups, Native Americans, and Montanans led by Western Watersheds Project are suing the National Park Service for their role in slaughtering 3,300 wild American bison that inhabit Yellowstone National Park. Approximately 3,000 bison remain in Yellowstone today because of aggressive population control implemented under the controversial Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) adopted nine years ago. The lawsuit asserts that the Park Service is violating its statutory mission to preserve wild bison and "leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

The suit also cites the U.S. Forest Service for failing to manage the Gallatin National Forest in a way that would allow for healthy populations of bison, sage grouse, and related wildlife. Both agencies have refused requests by plaintiffs and others to reconsider the bison management plan in light of new scientific information and changed circumstances related to bison, including a recent independent study (Kilpatrick 2009) which concluded that the actual risk of disease transmission from free-roaming bison to cattle in Montana would be zero in most years, and limited to predictable "hot spots" in others.

According to Tom Woodbury, the Montana Director for Western Watersheds Project, the lead plaintiff in the suit, the IBMP is broken. "One of the twin aims of the bison plan was 'to ensure the wild and free-ranging nature of American bison'" said Woodbury. "While the Park Service was sending over 1400 bison to slaughter in 2008, a Congressional investigation was concluding that the agencies are no closer to ensuring free-roaming bison today then they were in 2000," Woodbury said.

In a report released in 2008, the Government Accountability Office determined that the IBMP agencies, "lack accountability among themselves and to the public."

The Yellowstone bison population includes America's last continuously wild herds, and is the last population that still follows its migratory instincts. As unique native herbivores that evolved across the North American continent, scientists believe bison can help restore the native grasslands, sagebrush steppes, and prairie ecosystems that are considered to be some of the most endangered habitats in the world.

The coalition is asking the Court to prevent the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service from continuing to participate in, allocate funding for, or permit the slaughter of wild bison on public lands, including trapping for transport to slaughter houses and quarantine facilities.