Helena will be home to one of eight Fish, Wildlife and Parks meetings on developing a long-term bison conservation and management plan for Montana.
The Helena meeting is from 6 to 9 p.m. on May 17 at the Montana Wild Center at 2668 Broadwater Ave.
The management plan, which is expected to take three years to complete, will be developed through a programmatic environmental impact statement. During that process, the EIS will examine a variety of issues and possible alternatives — including a “no action” alternative — and look at each alternative’s potential beneficial and adverse environmental, social and economic impacts.
The initial meetings, which also will be held in Missoula, Kalispell, Glasgow, Billings, Miles City, Great Falls and Bozeman in mid-May, are part of the formal public scoping process required under the Montana Environmental Policy Act. During the scoping process, FWP wants the public to help identify issues, impacts, public concerns and conservation challenges and opportunities. The comments will assist FWP in further identifying issues and developing possible alternatives.
Some issues already identified include:
- the risk of bison spreading disease to domestic livestock;
- competition between bison and other wildlife;
- competition between bison and livestock for rangeland;
- damage to fencing;
- public safety;
- the legal classification and status of bison in Montana.
Last year, in anticipation of the EIS proposal, FWP prepared a summary of bison
history and activities in the West that offers information related to the possible restoration of bison in Montana.
The “Bison Background Document” presents information on the bison’s genetic and disease history, management concerns and a brief synopsis of different bison management philosophies among an array of private groups and organizations. The document is available online at the FWP website.
The document may also be obtained on CD or other formats by calling Margaret Morelli at 994-6780 or via email at MMorelli@mt.gov.
The sessions will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., with the first hour dedicated to informal discussions and the remainder of the evening set for recording scoping comments.