Ted Turner and Native Americans in Row Over Fate of Yellowstone Bison
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


Nick Allen on Telegraph.co.uk

[Ed. Note: Please visit Buffalo Field Campaign's website for information about people working daily to save American bison.]

The decision has been criticized by those who do not want the bison moved on to private land and say they are being given up for private profit instead of conservation.

The wild bison, which live in Yellowstone National Park, are currently in quarantine to stop them being part of a regular cull carried out to stop the spread of the disease brucellosis to cattle. The quarantined animals are part of a plan to see if a brucellosis-free herd can be created to help repopulate America's West with bison. The iconic species used to number in the millions before it was driven close to extinction.

Turner, who owns an estimated 50,000 bison, has offered to take the animals on his nearby ranch at the request of Brian Schweitzer, the Democratic governor of the state of Montana.

As compensation, he would keep 90 per cent of the animals' offspring, meaning he could gain as many as 190 bison from a herd prized for its genetic purity.

Montana turned to Turner after attempts to house the bison on Indian reservations in Montana and Wyoming could not be arranged quickly enough.

Another group of bison is waiting to be moved into the quarantine facility and the animals currently there could be slaughtered as soon as March is they are not moved.

However, the decision has been criticized by those who do not want the bison moved on to private land and say they are being given up for private profit instead of conservation.

Turner has long been a conservation champion and advocate for the beleaguered bison, but his representatives insist he cannot take the animals without some compensation.

Under the agreement he would keep the bison for five years and then return them to the state of Montana.

In return for the $500,000 (300,000) costs incurred, he would keep 90 per cent of the bison offspring.

However, conservationists and federal officials, plus a group representing dozens of Native American tribes, are critical of the plan.

At a public hearing in Bozeman, Montana, on Thursday they said the bison belong on public or tribal lands.

Glenn Hockett, of the Gallatin Wildlife Association, said: "You're not being true to your commitment not to commercialize these animals." Stephany Seay, of the Buffalo Field Campaign, said:

"There's land in Montana. The alternatives are not Turner or slaughter. But that's what we are being fed." But Russell Miller, with Turner Enterprises, said keeping most of the offspring would be necessary to offset the cost of looking after 74 animals for five years.

He said: "We thought there was an emergency. We're not a philanthropy. We're trying to create a blend between conservation and commercialization." Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Joe Maurier will have the final say on the fate of the quarantined bison.

He said: "We've got these bison and we've got to find somewhere to put them."

The National Parks Conservation Association said placing the bison on Turner's ranch was preferable to slaughtering them.

A spokeswoman told the Bozeman Chronicle: "Is the Turner proposal ideal? No. But it ensures bison have a place to roam and have additional habitat."

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