The Montana House passed a resolution to deny bison grazing on public land.
One feature making our country great is that wildlife is a resource managed for all the people. Montana has done well with the restoration. However, when it came to bison, neither the state nor the federal government can generate the will to do it. Fortunately, people often take that step on behalf of wildlife when our trustees falter.
Now the final step — restoring wild bison — declared our National Mammal in 2016 by the Congress and president. In Montana, holders of the public trust stand silent while the Legislature quivers in fear of adding this final piece to our wildlife restoration saga. For a state that has been a leader, it is an embarrassment this close to the finish line.
In 1876, 80,000 buffalo hides went downriver from Fort Benton. Theodore Roosevelt, who was living in the West, wrote in 1885: “A ranchman who… had made a journey of a thousand miles across Northern Montana, … told me that … he was never out of sight of a dead buffalo, and never in sight of a live one.” A year later, the U.S. Cavalry rode into Yellowstone to prevent the last handful of wild bison from being poached into extinction.
In the 1980s wardens and rangers led shooters to kill every bison that set a hoof into Montana. While that practice was terminated, bison are still the most harassed public wildlife on earth. They are currently hazed, chased, herded, prodded, poked, penned and shipped to slaughter.
This animal is the Department of Interior’s mascot (since 1849), the National Park Service’s logo (since 1951), the National Mammal (2016), and its skull was engraved on the official Montana quarter in 2007. It is time to do the right thing for the bison. That’s my two-bits worth.