This Friday the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission will decide what to do with some of the last genetically pure bison left in America: keep them locked in a quarantine facility or relocate them to start new wild herds on the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian Reservations.
As part of a government experiment to see if the disease brucellosis could be removed from a herd of genetically pure Yellowstone bison, hundreds of bison were placed in quarantine. These bison have been proven time and again to be free of brucellosis, yet they remain in quarantine more than 5 years later.
Governor Schweitzer and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff have recommended that the Commission approve the transfer of the 68 Yellowstone bison remaining in quarantine to these tribal lands.
Defenders of Wildlife supports release of these bison for restoration on tribal lands. After years of working towards restoring additional herds of these American icons, one final approval remains.
The Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes of Fort Belknap Reservation have stepped up to the plate and welcome the responsibility of living with these respected animals, the way their ancestors did for years before.
This is an offer our state should not refuse. If the relocation proposal passes, these bison could be moved anytime in the next few months.