The National Park Service (NPS) announced a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a Bison Management Plan at Yellowstone National Park Friday, Jan. 28. With this announcement, the NPS introduces a broad range of actions for managing bison inside the park. This plan allows the NPS to evaluate bison management based on new scientific information and changed circumstances, explore ways to reduce bison being sent to slaughter, and to continue working closely with Tribal Nations and agency partners in management. The EIS will also consider the bison management actions likely to occur on lands outside the park in Montana, while acknowledging the NPS does not have jurisdiction or control over actions such as hunting or tolerance for bison beyond the park boundary.
The purpose of the EIS is to preserve an ecologically sustainable population of wild, wide-ranging bison while continuing to work with other agencies to address issues related to brucellosis transmission, human safety, property damage, and to support tribal hunting outside the park.
The preliminary EIS alternatives would manage bison with varying population ranges and management activities. These include:
Alternative 1 (No Action, Continue Current Management): The NPS would continue management of bison pursuant to the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), maintain a population range of bison similar to the last two decades (3,500 to 5,000 bison after calving), continue hunt-trap coordination to balance population regulation in the park by using culling at Stephens Creek and hunting opportunities outside the park, increase the number of brucellosis-free bison relocated to tribal lands via the Bison Conservation Transfer Program (BCTP), and work with the State of Montana to manage the already low risk of brucellosis spreading from bison to cattle.
Alternative 2 (Enhance Restoration and Tribal Engagement): Bison would be managed within a population range of about 4,500 to 6,000 animals after calving with an emphasis on using the BCTP and tribal hunting outside the park to regulate numbers. The NPS may use proactive measures such as low stress hazing of bison toward the park boundary to increase tribal hunting opportunities outside the park. The NPS would reduce shipment to slaughter based on the needs and requests of Tribal Nations.
Alternative 3 (Food-limited Carrying Capacity): The NPS would rely on natural selection, bison dispersal, and public and tribal harvests in Montana as the primary tools to regulate numbers, which would likely range from 5,500 to 8,000 or more animals after calving. Trapping for shipments to slaughter would immediately cease. The NPS would continue captures to maintain the BCTP as in Alternatives 1 and 2.
A 30-day public comment period also began Friday, Jan. 28. Interested individuals, organizations and agencies are encouraged to provide written comments regarding alternatives, information and analyses to be addressed in the Draft EIS. The preferred method for submitting comments during the comment period is online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/YellowstonebisonEIS. Comments may also be mailed or hand-delivered to: Superintendent, Attn: Bison Management Plan, PO Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190. The deadline to submit comments is Monday, Feb. 28.
In addition, Yellowstone National Park will host two virtual public meetings during the public comment period. Attend these meetings to learn more about the plan and planning process and ask NPS staff questions. Public meeting details include:
- Feb. 9, 2022, 5:30–7 p.m. MST
- Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2460364395865970700
- Webinar ID: 856-248-035
- Audio: +1 (415) 655-0052 Access Code: 902-543-158
- Feb. 10, 2022, 12–1:30 p.m. MST
- Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3873438048186311436
- Webinar ID: 889-739-083
- Audio: +1 (415) 930-5321 Access Code: 456-608-998
At the conclusion of the 30-day public comment period, the NPS will analyze and consider all comments received and refine the issues, alternatives and impacts analyzed though the development of the Draft EIS. When complete, the Draft EIS will be released for a 45-day public review and comment period, expected in fall 2022.