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HELENA - A judge on Thursday dismissed a cattle industry lawsuit seeking more stringent bison management around Yellowstone National Park, a move applauded by bison advocates who want more land for the animals.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association lawsuit had sought to force state officials to better restrict the movement of the bison, which the industry fears could spread the disease brucellosis to domestic cattle at summer grazing grounds near the park. At issue was the length of time and areas where bison are allowed to stay outside the park in late spring and early summer.

District Judge John Brown rejected the lawsuit, saying Stockgrowers do not have enforceable rights under the bison management plan.

The ruling allows state agents with the Department of Livestock to continue their work managing the bison, which migrate outside the national park into Montana.

The department, which is charged with managing the animals under an agreement hashed out with federal officials running the national park and others, said the court decision will have little practical effect on the way it has managed bison for the past couple years.

The agency recently completed a major push - over the objections of bison advocates - of the animals back into the park in advance of the summer cattle grazing period. In the past, the agency has had to slaughter bison that refused to stay in the park.

Bison advocates, who also have issues with the state agency in charge of bison management, welcomed the court ruling. In general, they want the animals to have room to move more freely in search of grass and more time to get back into the park.

Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso said the cattle industry's effort to enforce "draconian" management have failed.

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