Is there a more iconic species of the great American frontier than the mighty bison? Many people would argue no, and many are now arguing that this prairie scion should stop being what amounts to livestock and once again become a wild animal, at least in Montana.
From this op/ed in the Great Falls Tribune: Most ranchers feel that the "no livestock grazing on public lands" position espoused by some environmental groups is extreme. Those of us at the National Wildlife Federation agree. But we conservationists feel that the "no bison on public lands" position taken by the livestock industry is equally extreme.
Saying there's no room for wild bison anywhere in Montana's 147,000 square miles defies common sense. Bison -- once one of North America's most plentiful and, arguably, most valuable animals -- escaped extinction, but have survived almost exclusively in captivity.
Slaughtered by the millions in the 19th century, bison today are raised by ranchers as livestock or corralled as a sort of shaggy exhibit behind high, solid fences as at the National Bison Range in Moiese. No bison can be found in their native prairie habitat anywhere in the United States. That's about to change. Montana has begun the process of restoring at least a modest herd of truly wild bison. The state Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has begun holding a series of meetings statewide as the first step in developing an environmental-impact statement and comprehensive plan for managing wild bison.
Would you love to see wild, untamed, un-ear-tagged bison thundering across the prairie? More importantly, would you love to get the opportunity to hunt those wild, untamed, un-ear-tagged bison?