Ron Poertner of Winifred wrote to oppose restoring bison on the CMR National Wildlife Refuge (The Billings Gazette, Nov. 16, 2018). He misrepresents certain facts and maligns efforts of American Prairie Reserve and Montana Wild Bison Coalition, separate groups with support from within and outside Montana.
The Coalition is not a "propaganda arm" of APR. It originated independently with no connection, administrative or financial, to APR. That said, our objectives overlap and we do communicate. Readers may find our two objectives and more at mtwildbison.org.
Poertner's picture of bison destroying crops and grazing lands is inconsistent with Montana law (87-1-216) that protects and indemnifies private properties from any public bison. Fear-mongering is unattractive.
Poertner is correct that our governor has denied action to restore wild bison. Denial has been accompanied by years of pretense with working groups, public meetings, and a rather meaningless plan that is incomplete after three years. He brags that our governor's inaction is controlled by "fierce opposition" from rural communities and "most" Montana agriculture. A minority controls a public wildlife species, a national refuge, other national (BLM) lands and private landowners who appreciate bison. Yet polls show that 70 percent of Montana voters favor wild bison on and near CMR.
Poertner remains correct so long as Montanans and other owners of federal lands allow this miscarriage of democracy. The Bison Coalition seeks no control over private properties and is willing to explain its mission to all involved. But leadership from our governor's office is needed for any real progress.