Good fences make good neighbors, especially if those neighbors are bison.
Four conservation groups are offering fencing funding to those who live in areas where bison could roam but who don’t want bison on their property.
The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club will reimburse half the cost of fencing with a limit of $1,000 per landowner.
The money is available to those who reside within the expanded area that the Interagency Bison Management Plan partners approved in April 2011 for winter bison range outside Yellowstone National Park.
During the heavy snowfalls of 2010 and 2011, Fish, Wildlife & Parks wardens were inundated with calls as they tried to contain around 1,600 bison in a smaller area north of the park. The situation demonstrated the need for the option of a larger winter range, although it was not needed during last year’s milder winter.
FWP is accepting comments and holding scoping meetings to consider opening lands outside the park to bison year-round.
The funding offer follows on the heels of last week’s court hearing on the Park County Stock Growers Association’s challenge to the state’s support of the IBMP area expansion.
One PCSGA claim was that the state did not protect property rights by allowing bison to roam on people’s property. Helping landowners build fences could negate that.
“This is a group effort and the state applauds the effort,” said FWP bison biologist Sam Sheppard. “They’re trying to find solutions that work for everybody and the bison.”
Some initial fence-building started last year after the groups raised around $29,000 to help with the process, said Mark Pearson of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. They have around $20,000 left for this year.
FWP biologists determined that the best design was a 5-foot-tall, two-rail fence, with a smooth wire about 20 inches off the ground to allow pronghorn antelope to shimmy beneath.
“It has to be wildlife-friendly because people still want the deer, elk and antelope to be able to pass,” Sheppard said. “It’s not ‘bison-proof,’ but it’s a visual barrier that usually stops them as long as they have someplace else to go.”
Pearson said the fence doesn’t have to enclose the property. Some of the landowners who participated last year built smaller fences around springs, gardens or trees they didn’t want trampled.
“Not everyone wants assistance,” Pearson said. “Many landowners, like those on Horse Butte, like having them around.”
For more information about the bison fencing incentive program, contact Sheppard at 994-3540.
Laura Lundquist can be reached at 582-2638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.