Regarding a proposal to allow bison access to year-round habitat here in southwest Montana, Karrie Taggart (letter, Feb. 17) respectfully asked Gov. Steve Bullock, “Why not?”
Here are some facts about the proposal:
1. The habitat area, about 200,000 acres within the Taylor Fork and Upper Gallatin River watershed, is 98.5 percent public land, relatively remote, and is largely managed for its wildlife values already.
2. The Gallatin National Forest, including the Cabin Creek Wildlife Management Area and the state-owned Gallatin Wildlife Management Area, makes up the bulk of the area.
3. There are no cattle in the area.
4. There is a significant buffer of public land, much of it Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area surrounding the proposed bison management area.
5. There is also a vast landscape (approximately 122,000 acres) of currently unoccupied bison habitat in Yellowstone National Park within the Upper Gallatin watershed.
6. There is vast and diverse public support across Montana and America — over 115,000 comments support this idea.
7. Allowing bison to access this primarily public land habitat allows the state of Montana to have more control over population numbers through state-regulated public hunting.
8. This habitat opportunity gives Montana the ability to shift away from an expensive and government intrusive bison policy, which focuses on bison as a liability (haze, capture, slaughter) to a revenue generating policy, which manages bison as an asset — valued native wildlife with public hunting.
9. The five main private landowners in the Upper Gallatin/Taylor Fork, already manage their properties as Hunting/Tourism Destinations — Nine Quarter Circle Guest Ranch, 320 Guest Ranch, Elkhorn Guest Ranch, Black Butte Guest Ranch, and the Covered Wagon Guest Ranch.
10. While there are no cattle in the proposed area, current laws still protect livestock interests — MCA 81-2-121 leaves the Department of Livestock on call 24-seven at landowner request to remove a bison threatening livestock from private property. MCA 81-2-120 allows DOL to enter public or private property if they need to remove a bison for some other reason.
Indeed governor, why not?