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FWP Seeks Comment on Draft Bison Impact Study

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a draft statewide environmental impact statement on bison conservation and management.

Bison are currently designated as both a wildlife species in need of management and a species in need of disease control in Montana.

The draft statewide bison conservation and management EIS considers bison restoration somewhere in Montana where animals could be managed as a native species.

While no site-specific area is examined, the draft offers four alternatives. The “no action” alternative calls for no further action to restore bison at this time. The three other alternatives consider restoration of a publicly managed bison herd on:

private and/or public lands of willing landowners;
tribal lands; and/or
a large landscape with minimal livestock conflicts.

Potential impacts are evaluated for each alternative but in lieu of site-specific areas, the draft EIS displays case studies from Montana, Utah, Alaska and Canada to illustrate scenarios. The case studies reflect the general guidelines for bison restoration discussed in the draft document.

General guidelines are provided to assist in the selection of potential project sites, choosing the source of bison for the project, and for management and program implementation. For instance, the guidelines assume that:

restored bison would be free of disease and cattle genes
each potential project site would be thoroughly assessed
containment and management plans would be mandatory
full funding would be secured for at least a five-year test period, and
local community involvement would be required.

Selection of any alternative that calls for bison restoration would require further analysis through a site-specific environmental assessment.

For more information, or to comment online, visit FWP’s website at Click on Bison EIS. The draft EIS will be available for 90 days of public comment through 5 p.m. on Sept. 11. Comments can be mailed to: Bison Conservation and Management EIS; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; P.O. Box 200701; Helena, MT 59620-0701.

A series of public hearings will be scheduled later this summer. A final record of decision would likely be finalized early next year.