The United Property Owners of Montana opinion (Billings Gazette, Jan. 13) is a glaring distortion of facts surrounding a Fish, Wildlife & Parks decision relating to bison restoration in Montana. After eight years of public outreach and analysis of the related science, FWP has not "formally recommended" introduction of "free-roaming" bison. Rather, FWP has requested public proposals for site-specific restoration plans. These plans will be subjected to still more public review. Moreover, free-roaming bison will not be allowed, as FWP requested containment plans to comply with state law 87-1-216. And, under this law, FWP may not allow public, wild bison on any property where they are not welcome and must pay for any damages caused by wandering bison. The legislature has protected property owners who oppose public, wild bison.
UPOM grossly misrepresents the intent and community relations of American Prairie Reserve (see "community impact" at americanprairie.org.) UPOM insults the 70% of citizens who support bison restoration by describing only themselves as "real Montanans." UPOM exaggerates the economic value of agriculture on any local area where bison may be restored, while neglecting the economic value of bison-related tourism that would diversify struggling local economies. UPOM asserts that public, wild bison would damage public lands and threaten populations of other wildlife; whereas the opposite is true unless one's only vision of a proper landscape is an intensively managed ranch.
In contrast, Montana has no public, wild bison, despite having abundant public land including the largest national wildlife refuge, the Charles M. Russell, within historic plains bison range. We should reject the self-serving rhetoric of UPOM and fulfill mandates of the Montana Constitution by restoring wild bison as a huntable, public natural resource in our state. See more at mtwildbison.org.
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Jim Bailey, coordinator
Montana Wild Bison