New Montana Legislation Is a Threat to Wildlife

Montana has captivated the wonder of people for generations with some of the most iconic landscapes and wildlife – many of which people have only seen in zoos. But that’s all at risk by legislation that could threaten wolves, grizzly bears, bison and privatize the wildlife people travel from across the world to witness and appreciate.

In a departure from science-based conservation, the proposed bills rely on politically-driven wildlife management and would inhibit the sovereignty of Tribes working to actively advance bison restoration. To put it simply, the bills could irreparably harm the progress Montana has made to restore cherished wildlife and rob the citizens of the United States of this country’s treasures. Read on for details of these harmful bills.

Wolf Trapping and Bounties

Gray wolves began recolonizing around Glacier National Park in 1979, with the first den found in more than 50 years documented in 1986. In 1995 and 1996, Gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. Even though they were officially removed from the U.S. endangered species list in October 2020, there are an estimated 850 animals throughout Montana.

Now, wolf hunting policies have taken a turn for the worse as state lawmakers push for aggressive management tactics. Allowing hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number of wolves on a single license, use metal neck snares, bait wolves to traps, and bring back a wolf bounty system by reimbursing hunters and trappers for kills. That is Montana’s future if these bills aren’t stopped.

Regulating Bison and Inhibiting Tribal Sovereignty

Access to bison for federally recognized Tribes is a treaty right and the federal government has a trust responsibility to Tribes seeking to restore bison for nutritional, traditional, and cultural values. Yet hundreds of buffalo are still sent to slaughter at Yellowstone, even though Tribes like the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux have successfully treated and tested for disease-free certification.

House Bill 302 would require approval of a county commission for transplant of public, wild bison, even to a federal wildlife refuge. If this legislation were to become law it would be a violation of the federal government’s responsibility to Tribes and hinder their ability to restore bison to their rightful homes. What’s more, House Bill 318 would redefine the legal definition of wild bison, threatening the ability to EVER restore wild bison in Montana.

Threaten Black and Grizzly Bears

Grizzly and black bears have long been an icon of the west and most times rarely seen in the wild by the average visitor, and if these bills were to become law it would become even hard to witness these animals in their natural habitat.

Senate Bill 98 would allow ranchers to kill grizzlies threatening livestock. However, the bill notably removed part of Montana state law that the U.S. Department of Interior specifically requested as a prerequisite for delisting grizzlies: the prohibition against killing bears considered “threatening” to livestock. This would almost ensure that grizzly bears would never make it off the endangered species list.

The outlook is just as grim for black bears and would prey upon them in a vulnerable state. House Bill 468 would allow dogs to be used to chase and kill black bears in the spring when they are with cubs, showcasing a cruel tactic that goes against wildlife conservation.

These bills cannot be allowed to become law and we urgently need your help to stop this and save western wildlife. Take a stand with us and urge Governor Gianforte and your state legislators to stop anti-wildlife legislation and preserve Montana’s outdoor heritage for every U.S. resident to experience.

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