Records show National Park Service anticipated litigation from Montana over Yellowstone bison plan update; update still in progress

HELENA DORE Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Documents obtained through a March records request suggest that in 2022, the National Park Service believed the state of Montana was poised to litigate if Yellowstone bison were not vaccinated and aggressively culled toward a target population of 3,000 animals.

The documents also align with previous comments in which Montana’s governor rejected three alternatives for a new Yellowstone National Park bison management plan on the basis that all supported maintaining a population of more than 3,000 bison.

At the time when the comments were filed in early 2022, Yellowstone’s bison population numbered around 5,500. That changed this past winter, when tribal and state hunters capitalized on the cold, snowy weather that drove thousands of the animals out of the park and into areas where they could legally be harvested.

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Over 1,500 Yellowstone bison were culled over the winter — more than a quarter of the population. Most animals were removed through hunting, but others were consigned to slaughter and enrolled in a brucellosis quarantine program that transfers disease-free bison to tribal lands.

Jared Pettinato, an attorney who has represented Neighbors Against Bison Slaughter in

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