Governor Gianforte Criticizes Overreach of Biden Administration on Bison Management
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: March 24, 2023

HELENA, Mont. – In response to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland’s recent order related to bison management, Governor Greg Gianforte today blasted the Department of the Interior for overreaching into the State of Montana’s responsible management of bison.

“For decades, the State of Montana has been a stalwart steward of bison within its borders. Whether those bison move into Montana from Yellowstone National Park (YNP), are part of conservation herds, or are part of agricultural operations, Montana has a comprehensive framework addressing their management,” Gov. Gianforte wrote to the secretary.

Undercutting the state’s role in managing bison, Secretary Haaland earlier this month issued Secretary’s Order 3410 (S.O. 3410) to promote “wild” bison management, formally establishing a Bison Working Group (BWG).

In a letter to the secretary today, Gov. Gianforte criticized the Department of the Interior (DOI) for excluding meaningful state participation in the BWG. Per S.O. 3410, the working group is comprised of five federal agency representatives and a tribal leader.

“S.O. 3410’s exclusion of the states, and specifically Montana, is unprecedented and unacceptable,” Gov. Gianforte wrote. “Montana should not be relegated to optional ‘guest,’ or even non-voting cooperator, status given that its experience in managing bison and working with multi-jurisdictional entities is unparalleled.”

“Montana deserves a seat at the table, and its absence from the BWG creates nothing more than a federal echo chamber,” he continued.

Second, Gov. Gianforte criticized the department for forcing its bison agenda on states, while ignoring requests for collaboration.

“Over the last two years, Montana has made multiple requests to DOI agencies, seeking collaborative discussions in relation to 1) bison moving into Montana from YNP and 2) potential bison reintroduction on the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Montana’s requests have been met with silence,” the governor wrote.

He continued, “Montana is a sovereign entity that exercises full authority over the management of bison within its borders. The utter lack of meaningful engagement from USFWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] and NPS [U.S. National Park Service], and now the issuance of S.O. 3410, seems to demonstrate DOI’s ill-advised and predecisional commitment to forcing any bison agenda it sees fit.”

Third, Gov. Gianforte pointed out the department’s poor track record of managing “wild” bison in Montana, specifically those in YNP.

The first goal of the working group established under the secretary’s order is to achieve “wild, healthy bison herds.”

“The bison in YNP are not only diseased, but have been allowed to reach populations that now imperil the YNP ecosystem,” the governor wrote.

“Given that the only wild bison population in Montana managed by the federal government is diseased and leading the nation’s first national park into ecological crisis, what faith should Montana have in DOI’s ability to achieve its stated goal? Why should states like Montana place their trust in DOI when they have failed to reach their objectives in the herds they now manage?”

Finally, the governor questioned the secretary’s authority to issue S.O. 3410, requesting Sec. Haaland identify what “other applicable” statutory authorities, treaties, and agreements, as noted in her order, substantiate it.

The governor’s full letter in response to S.O. 3410 may be viewed here.

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