The Montana Supreme Court turned down an appeal last week that protested the 2013 decision to allow bison to roam freely in 70,000 acres outside Yellowstone National Park.

In 2011, the Montana Farm Bureau, Park County, and the Park County Stockgrowers Association challenged the state-proposed expansion of the bison’s winter range, saying that the animals are a danger to private property and is a public nuisance. In 2013, District Judge E. Wayne Phillips ruled the state had not broken any laws with the expansion, adding that naturally migrating bison are just a consequence of living in Montana. Park County went on to file an appeal against the decision.

According to the Billings Gazette, Justice Beth Baker wrote that Park County had no standing to appeal the issue because it did not raise the same issues as the Farm Bureau in its original District Court arguments.

“Park County did not join in the Stockgrowers Association’s original petition or in the amended petition filed by the Stockgrowers Association and the Farm Bureau after consolidation,” Baker wrote.

The Farm Bureau previously dropped out of the lawsuit, stating that it would rely on the state’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) to properly manage the roaming bison.

Yellowstone’s bison population is not only the nation’s largest bison herd, but also its oldest. Bison have existed continuously in Yellowstone since prehistoric times and it was only relatively recently that the animals began being managed by humans. Together with federal, state, and tribal agencies, the National Park Service manages the bison’s access to its winter range.

KPAX reported the Montana FWP has been managing the migration of bison into Yellowstone since 2000.

Image courtesy US Geological Survey

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