GAO Report Shows Yellowstone Bison Plan Has Stalled Out

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   April 3, 2008
Contact:   Timothy Stevens, Yellowstone Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, 406.222.1567
Amy McNamara, National Parks Program Director, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, 406.586.1593


GAO Report Shows Yellowstone Bison Plan Has Stalled Out

Key Findings Show Lack of Progress and No Accountability

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) today applauded the release of a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) showing that despite eight years and $16 million spent since 2002, the Interagency Bison Management Plan is failing to allow bison to range freely out of Yellowstone National Park. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) requested the report.

The National Park Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Forest Service, and the Montana departments of Livestock and Fish, Wildlife and Parks finalized the Bison Management Plan in 2000. The plan governs how bison are managed within Yellowstone National Park and on adjacent lands frequented by bison during the winter months. The purpose of the plan is “…to maintain a wild, free-ranging population of bison and address the risk of brucellosis transmission to protect the economic interest and viability of the livestock industry in the state of Montana.”

The report is released in the midst of the highest level of annual slaughter since the 19th century – 1,167 have been sent to slaughter to date. The slaughter results from the current policy of hazing and capturing bison that cross Yellowstone’s border into Montana in search of winter forage.

“After eight years of stalemate, NPCA is pleased that the GAO report focuses on the critical need for agency accountability and better solutions for bison,” said Timothy Stevens, Yellowstone program manager for NPCA. “The management agencies should recognize new research and on-the-ground changes and adapt the plan so that it works for both bison and the livestock industry. Simply put, the current bison management isn’t working and must be fixed.”

The GAO not only found a lack of accountability, but also a failure to move the plan forward. For example, an agreement with the Royal Teton Ranch that would allow a limited number of bison to move onto lands north of Yellowstone in winter has yet to be finalized and funded—one of the requirements that has to be met for the IBMP to move to step two.
 
“Opportunities exist right now to provide additional habitat and tolerance for Yellowstone bison,” said Amy McNamara, National Parks Program Director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “A critical step to address the lack of progress in the plan is a finalized and funded agreement with the Royal Teton Ranch. Agencies must step up to the plate and provide the resources necessary to complete this agreement.”

The GAO will require annual progress reports and more public transparency, as well as the ability for the public to share their views on the plan.    

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Since 1919, the nonpartisan NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 340,000 members, and many partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come. 

Founded in 1983, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition works with people and communities to protect the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, now and for future generations.  GYC has offices is Bozeman, Mont., Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Cody and Jackson, Wyo.

 

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