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An effort led by a pair of conservation groups to expand the capacity to quarantine Yellowstone National Park bison for transfer to Indian reservations and other areas outside the park is a worthy one and deserves widespread support.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Yellowstone Forever have pledged to raise $500,000 — and the park will match that — to modify existing quarantine corrals and build new ones to double the capacity for quarantining bison to ensure they are free of brucellosis before transferring them elsewhere.

The disease causes ungulates like bison, elk and domestic cattle to abort their calves. Quarantining the bison is an arduous three-year process of testing and retesting to ensure they are disease free. It’s also an alternative to the traditional shipping bison off to slaughter when they roam out of the park in winter. That practice has been portrayed in a very negative light in national media and regarded by many around the nation and world as a barbaric waste of wildlife.

In recent years, the state of Montana has allowed bison to be tolerated outside the park in limited areas and has allowed limited hunting by tribal members and the general public. But that too has generated much controversy, largely from nearby residents who feel threatened by the shooting.

The park’s bison population currently exceeds its capacity and biologists say there’s a need to reduce their numbers. Transferring bison to reservations and other appropriate areas — such as the Missouri Breaks — is the preferred method for managing bison numbers in the park.

This latest effort to expand the quarantining and transferring of bison is a big step in the right direction and should halve the number of bison slaughtered. But more needs to be done to eliminate the annual winter spectacle — including research into ways to shorten the quarantine process.

Bison are an icon among the species of wildlife in the park as well as a national symbol. They once roamed the plains in the tens of millions only to face extinction from overhunting. The gene pool of the Yellowstone bison is the purest available to restore the species to at least some of its former range.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Charles Rinker, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, either leave a comment on the page below or write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.