Governor Greg Gianforte and leaders from two state agencies this week criticized Yellowstone National Park’s (YNP) bison management alternatives.
Together with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Dustin Temple and Department of Livestock Executive Officer Mike Honeycutt, Gov. Gianforte raised issues including YNP’s lack of cooperation with the State of Montana, its deficient and misstated analysis, and its failure to meet its own mandates.
First, the governor and agency leaders criticized YNP’s failure to cooperate with the State of Montana in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) process, citing numerous examples since 2022.
“These repeated and consistent failures to be transparent, meaningfully engage with the State early or often, or even respond to State requests, violate NPS’ commitments,” they wrote in public comment to YNP Superintendent Cam Sholly. “For this reason, the State makes clear that its identification as a ‘cooperating agency’ in this [National Environmental Policy Act] NEPA endeavor should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of the alternatives formulated by NPS or any of the statements made in the DEIS.”
Second, the governor and agency leaders noted the DEIS analysis is substantively deficient, as it makes broad assertions without scientific support and fails to examine how the proposed alternatives will impact disease transfer to other species.
“If bison populations are allowed to grow, and distribution expands, there must be analysis of where elk distribution might change, and whether any such change increases disease transmission to other elk or livestock herds,” they wrote. “The DEIS’ failure to analyze these issues is in violation of NEPA.”
Next, the governor and agency leaders emphasized the DEIS’ proposed alternatives do not meet YNP goals and mandates.
They wrote, “The purpose of the [Interagency Bison Management Plan] IBMP 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’… YNP believes that because bison have not transferred brucellosis to Montana livestock in recent time, its work with disease suppression is done and it can now focus solely on the ‘wild, free-ranging’ portion of its mission. That cannot be the end of the discussion, or of the actions that must occur to mitigate the disease. For YNP to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.”
In the public comment, the governor and state agency leaders also criticized the DEIS’ ambiguous recitation of management tools that could be used in bison management. They note that the DEIS’ failure to commit to specific, discrete action leaves the public unable to meaningfully comment.
“Historically, success in bison management has only occurred when NPS and the State have cooperated and managed together. YNP’s uncollaborative and obstinate posture is reminiscent of a time before the IBMP, when tensions between YNP and the State were high and litigation prevalent. Absent significant change, the State fears a return to that environment is inevitable. As always, the State stands ready to work with YNP to help rectify the issues identified herein, and asks YNP to reconsider the alternatives presented in the DEIS,” they concluded.
The governor’s letter with Director Temple and Executive Officer Honeycutt to Superintendent Sholly may be viewed in full here.
PRESS RELEASE PROVIDED BY GOVERNOR GREG GIANFORTE