Bison will continue to be allowed to roam in the 70,000-acre Gardiner Basin, just north of Yellowstone National Park, following a ruling on Tuesday by the Montana Supreme Court denying Park County’s appeal of a 2013 District Court ruling.
In 2011, Park County joined the Montana Farm Bureau and the Park County Stockgrowers Association in protesting the expansion of a zone where bison could roam outside Yellowstone without being hazed back into the park, a restriction that had been in place for decades. The groups had argued that the bison were a threat to public safety and private property.
In 2013, District Judge E. Wayne Phillips ruled against the challengers, saying that dealing with wildlife, such as bison, is a consequence of living in Montana.
Park County and the Montana Farm Bureau appealed Phillips' ruling, but the Farm Bureau later dropped out of the action, saying that it was assured its concerns would be addressed by state management of the animals. That left Park County the only appellant.
Justice Beth Baker, writing the majority opinion for the Montana Supreme Court, said Park County had no standing to appeal an issue that it had not raised in its original District Court arguments.
Park County Attorney Brett Linneweber had argued that because the county’s case was consolidated with the Farm Bureau and Park County Stockgrowers Association in the original lawsuit, that it had also adopted their contentions, even though the county never argued those issues in court. Baker disagreed.
“Park County did not join in the Stockgrowers Association’s original petition or in the amended petition filed by the Stockgrowers Association and the Farm Bureau after consolidation,” Baker wrote.
“Consolidation does not permit Park County to appeal an issue raised in a separate case by another party.”
Baker’s opinion was signed by justices Michael Wheat, Patricia Cotter, Laurie McKinnon and Jim Rice.