The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reconsidering listing bison in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem under the Endangered Species Act.
On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it completed a 90-day review of three petitions to list the Yellowstone bison as threatened or endangered and found them credible. So protection of bison in Montana and Wyoming may be warranted.
Western Watersheds Project and the Buffalo Field Campaign submitted the first petition in 2014; James Horsely submitted the second and third in 2016 and 2018.
This starts a lengthy process where the Fish and Wildlife Service will spend a year conducting an in-depth status review and analysis using the best available science to determine whether listing is warranted and whether the Yellowstone bison can be considered a distinct population under the Endangered Species Act. If listing is needed, the service will begin rulemaking on the Yellowstone population.
This would not affect other bison herds outside the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem such as those on the CSKT Bison Range.
The 90-day finding was prompted by a lawsuit filed in March 2020. The Fish and Wildlife Service had decided in 2020 that the petitions “did not provide substantial scientific or commercial information” that listing was warranted.
Western Watersheds Project, the Buffalo Field Campaign and Friends of Animals sued, arguing the service had ignored some scientific studies. In particular, they protest the continued slaughter of bison from Yellowstone’s Northern Herd that are corralled and hunted in the Gardiner Valley.
On Jan. 12, 2022, District of Columbia federal judge Randolph Moss agreed, saying the Fish and Wildlife Service “has continued to disregard the Halbert study without
explaining why the study does not, at the very least, show that there is substantial disagreement among reasonable scientists regarding genetic differentiation between the herds.”
The 2012 Halbert study used genetic analysis to determine that the two herds in Yellowstone National Park have had such limited migration between the herds that they are beginning to show genetic differences. The Central Interior herd is vastly smaller than the Northern Herd.
In January, Jocelyn Leroux, Western Watersheds Project Montana director, said the Interagency Bison Management Plan should stop treating all bison in Yellowstone Park like they’re part of the same herd.
“This is another important victory for Yellowstone bison. But it is important that this victory lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure adequate protections for our national mammal,” Leroux said in January. “Yellowstone bison, and the Central Herd specifically, need action now to reverse decades of aggressive government killing and harassment.”
The 90-day finding announced on Friday found credible information that Yellowstone bison have experienced reductions of their range due to loss of migration routes, lack of tolerance for bison outside Yellowstone National Park and habitat loss. Petitioners also provided information suggesting that the Interagency Bison Management Plan policies, overutilization, disease and loss of genetic diversity may pose further threats.
Beginning June 6, the public can submit information to inform the 12-month status review through www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS–R6–ES–2022–0028.
Contact Laura Lundquist at email@example.com.