Governor Schweitzer Stops Importation of Wild Bison into Montana for Slaughter


Governor Schweitzer issued an Executive Order yesterday halting the importation of bison into Montana. This action is in direct response to the National Park Service’s capture and holding of 525 bison in capture facilities within the Park.

The AP, in an article in the Billings Gazette, frames the story this way:

“Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer blocked the impending slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone National Park bison on Tuesday, in a surprise move intended to spark an overhaul of how the federal government deals with the iconic but disease-plagued animals.

Schweitzer signed an executive order to prohibit the importation of park bison into Montana for 90 days. That effectively blocks all potential routes out of the park to slaughter plants in Montana and neighboring states.

The Democratic governor told The Associated Press that he was worried the shipments could spread brucellosis to Montana livestock. And he said he was sending a message to federal officials in Washington, D.C. to rein in a diseased bison population that regularly spills out of the park and into Montana.

In the interim, Schweitzer suggested the park bring in loads of hay to feed 525 bison captured so far this winter [and held at Stephens Creek,] after trying to migrate out of the snow-packed park in search of food at lower elevations.

“More than anything else, this is a direct signal to the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. to get their hat screwed on right and manage this bison population,” Schweitzer said. “Their plan is, when there gets to be a lot of snow, buffalo will go into Montana and then somebody else will have to deal with it.”

Of course, the immediate ramification of Schweitzer’s actions is that captured bison have been given a reprieve from being slaughtered, hopefully to be released in the spring when heavy snow conditions abate in the Park.

Schweitzer’s actions comes on the heel of a lawsuit brought by the Buffalo Field Campaign and others trying to get an injunction on the pending slaughter. That lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Charles Lovell a few days ago. Judge Lovell is a retired federal judge and longtime curmudgeon and thorn in the side of bison advocates, who has ruled against bison 100% of the time.

Buffalo Field Campaign’s habitat coordinator, Darrell Geist, had this to say about the Governor’s action in a press release sent out yesterday:

“We, the people, have stopped the slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo before it has begun! I am at a loss for words.

The effect and outcome of Governor Schweitzer’s order is the National Park Service cannot use any of Montana’s gateway communities as exit points to ship buffalo now held in traps inside Yellowstone National Park to slaughter houses…

There is a lot of hard work ahead to make large cores of habitat and corridors available for America’s last wild buffalo herd to roam. That is our next step, it must happen, we the people can do it. For now, you should dance a little buffalo jig, and give thanks to everyone who has worked very hard to make this happen. Thanks for all you do, for the wild buffaloes.”

So the battle for habitat outside Yellowstone National Park for wild buffalo continues, with the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of bison on the line caught in a crossfire between federal, state and livestock interests. And at the forefront, Buffalo Field Campaign continues its relentless observance of these events both on the frontlines, and in the courtroom, advocating for wild bison, and the habitat they need in Montana on which to roam.

Send them your support if you can, and let your state reps and others know that you stand with the buffalo and BFC in the quest to bring some sanity and  a resolution to this senseless slaughter and management quagmire that has been going on for decades.

baby buffalo in Yellowstone


  1. Matthew Koehler

    Thank you Buffalo Field Campaign!

  2. Chuck

    Ha. You guys will believe anything Gov Buffoon says.

    • JC

      What, in what I wrote, states any belief in anything the governor said?

    • JC rather annoyingly (to me) refuses to believe anything any politician says. I think you missed your mark. I may favor a bit more charitable view towards some of our politicians, but it JC-level cynicism certainly makes that charge of “believing anything” a laughable one.

      • JC

        The art of being a politician is to know how master double-speak.

        But again, I’ll ask, what did I write that in any way referred to a belief or disbelief in anything the governor said here? I wasn’t making a blanket statement–just referencing what the gov said about bison management here. Nothing more, nothing less.

        I take the good guv’s words one at a time (well, a sentence or two at a time…). Some of them I like, some I dislike. My purpose here was to bring together a variety of different things that have happened and been said recently about bison management. ANd then to give a shout-out to BFC which has persevered over the years in their single-minded goals to stop the slaughter and get the state of Montana to recognize some habitat in Montana for wild bison to roam on.

        If’n I would have wanted to dissect Schweitzer’s EO and bison management policies here, I would have done so. Instead, I think that what I said–that Schweitzer’s EO gave a 90-day reprieve to hundreds of bison–was fairly neutral towards the guv, and anything he may have said about bison management.

        I don’t know what motivated the governor to issue an EO. I don’t necessarily take his words at face value. He may be using the issue of transportation to slaughter as a vector of brucellosis transmission (an issue we have raised in the past) as an excuse to avoid the bad publicity that comes with mass slaughter. I don’t know. Maybe he really is concerned about it. But I do know that with the thousands of animals that have been transported to slaughter over the years that this is the first time a governor has raised this issue.

        But bison supporters don’t care about Schweitzer’s motivations here, as it gives them time to explore other alternatives–like an appeal to the 9th Cir., and for a harsh winter to potentially give way to an early spring–and other strategies currently under way. It is like a last minute stay of execution on death row. You don’t really care how or why it comes about. You just take it in stride as a blessing and move on to the next thing that needs to be done.

      • JC

        Oh, and I’m glad I annoy you. Means I’m striking a nerve somewhere.

        • JC, I’m trying to back you up here. Sure, it’s frustrating, but if I think you’re too cynical I’m probably also too naive. You don’t annoy me (even if your opinions may) – I think I learn a lot from you.

          • JC

            Ok, well then don’t make blanket statements about what you think I believe.

            I may come off as cynical because, well, I am becoming more and more cynical about politics. As politicians lose their integrity, I–and the rest of the country–will naturally become more cynical.

            But discussing political science and the philosophy and practice of politics is a topic for another day. And so it is that we are left with a mysterious EO from Schweitzer that does nothing to reveal his motivation for what he has done. Something he could have done years ago in similar circumstances.

  3. it’s a done deal chuck. so is wolf hunting according to this press release….

    looks like the buffoon is outflanking the republicans on wildlife issues.

    • mr benson

      As in, “being crazier than they are”? Is that “outflanking”? “Moving so far to the right as to be even more extreme than the most radical secessionist kooks?”

      “Out flanking” means moving outside the farthest limit of the opponents battle line.

      Wolves all over Central Montana are a bit past the “reintroduce them in the park” idea. Kind of hits home with the Governor and a lot of good Montanans too. It’s an interesting thing, he grandstands on the bison issue, (he’s in charge of FWP and the Livestock crew after all and could’ve done something at any time) and then throws a fit over wolves.

      He’s become the male version of “she who is no longer named” from Wasilla.

      • JC

        The “male version”? Well, no. He still goes to work and does the job he thinks he was elected to do. But that’s neither here nor there.

        You’ve got some misconceptions here. First off is that the governor is in charge of the Mt. Department of Livestock. He is not. MDOL is a vestigial agency left over from the old west that has its own Board that operates as a Director. Board members are appointed by the governor to 6 year terms, but they are not accountable to him, and he can’t fire them. The BOard appoints its executive officer at it’s own discretion, and the EO is accountable to the Board.

        So you can see how the MDOL is totally insulated from the governor’s office in a way that no other state agency is. Schweitzer has no control over MDOL agency actions in the same way that he has control over, say, FWP. Which is why many of us have continually clamored for reform of the agency.

        And as to the notion that the only goal of wolf recovery was to “reintroduce them in the park”, well that’s just plain wrong. The original plan was to have 10 breeding pairs (packs) in three locations kick start the recovery, one of which was Yellowstone.

        And anybody who thought those original 10 packs might stay behind an artificial geopolitical boundary are as misinformed about wildlife biology as are the people who think bison should likewise get fenced into Yellowstone. Just ain’t gonna happen.

        There’s a reason why the word “wild” appears in “wildlife.” They don’t recognize fences as anything to care about. And that goes for elk, dear and bears, too. WHich all wander through Missoula at one time or the other.

      • what makes you think i don’t agree with brian on these two issues goof?

        because i do.

        but i also am enjoying the irony. he is making the republican legislature look bad by comparison and i very much enjoy that also.

    • Matthew Koehler

      From the Helena IR (

      Mike Leahy, Rocky Mountain regional director for Defenders of Wildlife, isn’t so sure about the legality. He believes the governor is making it easier for poachers, who could claim the wolves were killing livestock but in reality were just trying to remove wolves from the landscape.

      “I appreciate the governor’s frustration with the wolf issue, but I think he is doing long-term damage to his legacy as a wildlife manager by telling law enforcement to stand down, and being unnecessarily heavy-handed in eliminating entire wolf populations,” Leahy said. “We’re still reviewing whether he has the legal authority.”


      And anyone else notice how in this same article Gov Schweitzer says, “We are doing things within the laws, according to our attorneys.”

      But then the very next part of the article has this statement of fact from, oh no, “our” Montana FWP attorney:

      “Bob Lane, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks attorney, said the state would need USFWS’ approval to cull the elk in the Bitterroot.”

      • If Montana goes shooting wolves against federal law, we’ll be losing a whole hell of a lot of $ for a whole hell of a lot of FWP hunter and state land management funding.

    • If you ask me, Schweitzer is schizophrenic. I personally heard him talk about how people were overboard on the wolf issue – and that was just about 2 1/2 months ago!

      Besides that, elk numbers are down, but not because of wolves – and that’s information from very recent FWP studies. In fact, they are having extra hunts down in the Bitterroot just to cull the herd.

  4. mr benson

    Oh and the buffalo field campaign? They don’t agree with the governor that bison carry brucellosis. They certainly wouldn’t agree that these are “disease plagued animals”.

    But that is the story; the Governor says we don’t want these disease plagued pests in Montana. You claim victory for the buffalo field campaign?


    • JC

      Geez, Mr. B. You’re full of hoo-haw today. Of course the BFC knows that bison can carry brucellosis. They can read a scientific report as well as the next guy.

      But the point BFC continually hammers home is that there has never been a documented case of transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle. And that there are ways to manage cattle that will prevent them from even coming into any form of proximity with bison that might expose them.

      Of course, BFC will also point out the hypocrisy of state management of elk, which have been shown to transmit brucellosis to cows. Why aren’t elk rounded up and slaughtered and kept behind an artificial fence line in Yellowstone? Eh? Because sportsmen would riot.

      And BFC also believes that things like capturing bison and keeping them in close confinement together in traps and capture facilities facilitates the transmission of brucellosis.

      You’re not going to win any arguments here about the brucellosis question by making false claims.

      BFC is fighting the government, who has a plan (the Interagency Bison Management Plan) that purports to be a brucellosis management plan, when in reality it is nothing more than a facade that seeks to limit bison populations by not letting them establish any habitat outside of Yellowstone. And this will never solve the problem of brucellosis and how it vectors through the Greater Yellowstone area.

      There is an easy solution to the problem of cattle contracting brucellosis. And that is to manage where and when cattle are allowed to graze around Yellowstone. But those of us who have fought this issue for many years realize that the battle is more about who gets to graze on what land–the same battle that was fought in the old west when bison were nearly exterminated–than it is about brucellosis.

      ANd the MDOL and cattle ranchers are willing to gamble with MOntana’s brucellosis free status by pushing the envelope and continuing to fight for the “right” of their cattle to graze in habitat that is know to contain brucellosis–and that the disease is maintained in the area in many wildlife species other than bison and elk.

      • mr benson

        I really don’t give a shit. We’ve got buffalo all over Gallatin county, some within yards of the Bozeman city limits.

        The governor says we don’t want buffalo because they might spread the disease, and some poster says, “way to go bfc”!

        which was a bizarre comment seeing all the non sequitur and totally worthless to me information you just posted arguing with some point I didn’t make.

        • JC

          Well excuuuuuuse me for providing information. Your comment about it being worthless has more to say about your “don’t give a shit” attitude than what I wrote. SOrry if I overshot your point.

          SO what’s the difference between the Park service hauling a bison to slaughter and a hunter hauling an elk carcass home?

          The magpie can pick on the potentially infected elk carcass as easy as it can munch on an aborted bison fetus that falls out of the transport, and then go barf either up in a cow pasture. Should we outlaw hunters hauling potentially infected elk carcasses home?

          I just have to laugh at the gov’s magpie scenario. It’s really weak. If he believes it, then he’s got far greater problems than protecting Montana’s brucellosis status. Maybe he does need a long vacation and to go the way of “she who is no longer named”. They’ve got hide-aways perfect for people like him.

  5. Kathleen

    mr benson said, “Oh and the buffalo field campaign? They don’t agree with the governor that bison carry brucellosis. They certainly wouldn’t agree that these are “disease plagued animals”.”

    That’s a ridiculous statement on a couple of counts. As JC noted, of course BFC acknowledges exposure to brucellosis. But carrying antibodies from exposure is a far cry from being “disease plagued.” Most of the bison slaughtered to date have been killed for mere exposure, like any of us who’ve had measles and carry those antibodies. Are WE a disease threat? No. And lets not forget the hundreds upon hundreds slaughtered who tested negative–or were NOT TESTED AT ALL. This is not and has never been about brucellosis.

    Bison need habitat in Montana, period. The Governor implies that this is the park’s problem, which to my ears, harkens back to Dennis McDonald calling for Yellowstone to be “managed like a ranch.” Had Yellowstone’s boundaries been drawn with ecosystems in mind instead of politics, we wouldn’t have this problem. Look at the park’s boundaries on the west and north–straight lines in a world of mountains. What sense does THAT make? The state vet likened the bison habitat problem to buying bigger pants because you know you’ll get fatter:

    “According to Big Brother Zaluski, the need for additional bison habitat is “…like buying another pair of pants because you keep getting fatter. At some point you’ll grow out of those pants too.”

    “Well, that works only if you’re buying and wearing your own pants. But a handful of Yellowstone-area ranchers continues to grab the citizens’ pants—the public lands bordering the park—for their own. Meanwhile, the lives of over 500 wild bison, currently suffering in crowded capture pens, hang in the balance.

    “Montana is called “the last best place,” but for native wild bison, it’s all too often simply the last place before the slaughterhouse. The Montana livestock oligarchy, bloated with entitlement, has outgrown its own pants. It’s high time they get the hell out of ours.”

    • mr benson

      Izzat you, Delylah?

      You say it’s a ridiculous statement, then refute the governor, which was my point; you don’t agree with the governor.

  6. restoring bison to areas throughout the state would increase tourism.

    I’d love to drive to Deerlodge and see bison over on Spotted Dog – right from the highway! I imagine many tourists might just stop and stay in Deerlodge to see the prison and the museum and the bison.

    In fact, bison would do far more to drive attention to the town of Deerlodge than any billboard on the highway.

    • mr benson

      I can see buffalo immediately next to the city limits of Bozeman.

      I could take a drive out to the Spanish Peaks and see em all along the way, too.

      It’s the infected bison that the Governor, and the Livestock folks, and the FWP are all intent on keeping out of Montana. His ban on hauling them into Montana did just that, and his reason, that the magpies would help transmit the disease to cattle, is, again, exactly the opposite of the buffalo filed campaign’s points, and the points you made here.

      • mr benson

        jh, didn’t mean to reply to your post regarding the points made here by others.

        • bison have never transmitted brucellosis to cattle here in Montana, mr. benson.

          It’s elk. And until we start going all hysterical on elk and start treating them like we do bison, I’m with BFC.

          They might be greenpeace radical to some, but their points are rooted in science and private property rights.

          • mr benson

            again, it’s the governor you’ve got the argument with, not me. I just quoted him. but somebody was giving kudos to the bfc for the Gov’s decision. That was incongruous.

            • mr benson

              and nobody really cares whether “there’s been a documented case of transmission”. me especially.

              the feds say, “keep em out or else”, so the state keeps em out to protect the industry.

              I’ll eat a buffalo tenderloin. A dead buffalo tenderloin.

      • JC

        Yeah, magpies. Hilarious.

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