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Montana Supreme Court hears arguments on bison management

By Scott Zoltan, KECI Reporter, szoltan@keci.com
Published On: Apr 12 2013 06:56:29 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

On Friday, Montana Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments about whether FWP was right to relocate roughly sixty wild bison from Yellowstone to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, with the goal of starting a new herd and moving toward restoring a herd at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

A nonprofit called Citizens for Balanced Use has filed an injunction to stop any further bison recovery work. The group says FWP should have to show the public a management plan before they move bison around. The group also claims bison damaged properties near Fort Belknap.

One group on the side of FWP has argued in a court document that the relocated bison are brucellosis-free, and that the move was a milestone in conservation efforts for the species.

NBC Montana caught up with attendees on varying sides of the issue. Dustin Hofeldt, a rancher, says that he thinks it’s okay to have bison on a reservation, as long as they are kept within reservation boundaries.

“Bison [are] so big, they cause so much damage. I’m worried if they’re labeled ‘wild’ that I would not have any footing to get reimbursement for damages,” said Hofeldt.

Catcher Cutstherope, a tribal member, says that it’s a no-brainier to see the bison roam free.

“Buffalo are part of this country, they’ve always been part of this country, and they need to be a part of this country. [That’s] not just because of any kind of economic reasons, but because of our traditional reasons,” said Cutstherope.

Now the Montana Supreme Court will discuss the issue among themselves, take a vote, and release their opinion.