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Bison were returned to Fort Peck in 2012, but that will be the last for a while.

Montana Governor Vetoes Three Anti-Bison Bills, Lets the Hunt Stand

Terri Hansen
5/12/13

Despite vociferous protest from tribes, Montana’s state legislature has processed no fewer than four bills related to bison this year.

One of them passed into law, and Montana Governor Steve Bullock vetoed the other three, the last two on May 6, as reported by the Missoulian. Together the four pieces of legislation, all introduced by Republicans, constituted “another attack on Buffalo Country,” said Indian law expert Ryan D. Dreveskracht in a recent interview with Indian Country Today Media Network.

Bullock signed HB 328, introduced by Representative Ted Washburn, which permits state officials to identify "the actual physical location" of buffalo to hunters, according to the bill’s text. He vetoed HB 396, introduced by Representative Mike Lang, which would have given county commissioners veto power over bison restoration plans within their counties, including tribal lands and federal public lands. HB 396 also allows bison to be sold by the state Department of Livestock to pay for capturing, testing, quarantining and vaccinating wild bison. Essentially the bill gives county commissioners veto power over tribal lands in relation to bison restoration.

Leaders of the Fort Peck Tribes, the Fort Belknap Tribes and the Crow Nation spoke out against the bills in March at a rally at the Montana Capitol rotunda, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. Soon after, the Shoshone Bannock Tribes and the Montana & Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council passed resolutions opposing any bills that would restrict bisons’ range or otherwise remove or threaten the viability of the buffalo.

On May 6 Bullock vetoed SB 256 and SB 305. The former, introduced by state Senator Eric Moore, would have made Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department liable for any damage to private property caused by wild bison. The latter, introduced by Senator Jim Peterson, proposed changing the definition of “wild bison” or “wild buffalo” to mean “a bison that has never been reduced to captivity and has never been owned by a person.”

A fifth bill, SB 341, introduced by state Senator Jennifer Fielder, establishes criteria for transplanting bison and other wildlife but is “probably dead,” Dreveskracht said. Among other criteria, the bill would prohibit wildlife translocation if the species could have an impact on livestock grazing. Dreveskracht said the bills directly contradict tribal rights.

“Undoubtedly, the tribes that originally inhabited these lands had the right to manage, maintain, and hunt bison,” Dreveskracht said. “Congress has not clearly and unambiguously divested that right. The tribes’ exclusive authority to regulate on-reservation wildlife is thus derived [from] the retained inherent sovereignty over its tribal territory.”

He added that legally Montana is obligated to “protect [the tribes’] source of food and commerce” throughout the state, meaning both within Montana Indian country and beyond, on and off the reservation. Although the bills were touted as necessary “to protect domestic livestock from contracting brucellosis [for] the sake of public safety” in the name of conservation, Dreveskracht said, they would have in effect destroyed an entire indigenous culture and economy, nullifying rights that are engrained in treaty. These treaties, referred to in the U.S. Constitution as “the supreme Law of the Land, ” serve to “exempt the Indians’ preserved rights from like state regulation,” Dreveskracht said.

Further, he added, they impose an affirmative obligation on the state to assure that reserved resource is maintained in a manner that gives meaning to the tribes’ reserved right.

For more, see Montana’s Bison Bills: Another Attack On Buffalo Country.

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Comments

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Gov. Bullock, this is a very bad move for you. It's too bad that the previous Gov. was unable to run again due to term limits. If you want to be a friend of First Nations people, you had better learn what is important to us. You have been making some very bad decisions in some of the things you have been voting against. I hope you will change you ways very soon & get to know the people you are representing in your state. Not just the white people, but also, we First Nations people as well.

Pediowoman's picture
Pediowoman
Submitted by Pediowoman on
White guys they hate the buffalo, wolves and Indians......they take up needed space for cows, condos and white guys kids.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Sad to hear... the spirit of the Buffalo and their pilgrimage here on this planet is similar to that of Native Americans. We are not alone is this destruction process of the eurocentric belief system. The selfish blinders that they put on there in Montana,is a sign of greed and control. I give out a request to the great creator to grant/adhere to the needs of the wild Buffalo and Tribes reserve rights, and sovereignty. One drum beat!!!!

wilfred steele's picture
wilfred steele
Submitted by wilfred steele on
bison has if feed right can make enough meat for almost 2.5 cows and still they keep bring there mad cows

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
I'll take a good buffalo roast, ribs, steaks, sausage, bacon, chili, burgers, etc., over beef any day of the week. It's by far superior to the taste of beef & far more healthier than those cattle are as well. I'm getting hungry right now talking about it! Washichu don't like it because they don't know how to cook it!

Kat Karnes's picture
Kat Karnes
Submitted by Kat Karnes on
I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that the passed these bills. The First Nations people should have the say-so with regard to their own land~~not the white man's government. Gov Steve Bullock, along with his band of Republicans need to rethink this. Obviously, he does not know what the hell he is doing or what he has done nor does he care. He needs to be voted out office a.s.a.p.

indianmedicine's picture
indianmedicine
Submitted by indianmedicine on
If this Governor wanted to be productive about Bison, they would have a program similar to the BLM Mustang Adoption, where NAI Buffalo Ranchers could Bid on them and use them on Domestic Bison Ranches to insure a Strong & Diverse Heard for Buffalo Meat Harvesting. ...................................... This would enhance Tribal and Individual Economics, and a healthy meat to be consumed. ............................................................................................................. If possible, introduce State Legislation where this is a mandatory option to cull and maintain manageable Wild Bison, while insuring Tribal and NAI Ranches Breeding Stock for Domestic Ranching............................................................... This is NOT a "Feel Good Option" but a realistic, and economic option for the "Red Rancher" and The Tribes and the State....................................................... Mr. Dreveskracht is "On Point" with his argument................................................ Anybody Listening out there?..................................................................................
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