FWS declines to list four distinct Bison population segments, and federal judge rejects lawsuit seeking to enjoin culling of diseased bison
76 Fed. Reg. 10299 (Thursday, February 24, 2011) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17/ Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2010–0095; MO 92210–0–0008–B2
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Wild Plains Bison or Each of Four Distinct Population Segments as Threatened
ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list the wild plains bison (Bison bison bison), or each of four distinct population segments (DPSs), as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Based on our review, we find that the petition does not present substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. Therefore, we are not initiating a status review in response to this petition. However, we ask the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats to, the wild plains bison or its habitat at any time.
In the 1800s, wild plains bison declined from approximately 30 million individuals rangewide to perhaps as few as 541. In 2007, there were approximately 420,000 plains bison in commercial herds in the United States and Canada; in 2008, there were an estimated 20,500 wild plains bison in conservation herds. Photo of Bison herd on federal lands from wikipedia
EXCERPT: Summary of Five Factor Evaluation. We have carefully examined information from the petition and from our files regarding the status of wild plains bison. We also consulted with Service biologists and managers from NWRs that have wild plains bison. There have been several impacts to the wild plains bison; in particular, market hunting caused a precipitous decline in the mid- to late-1800s. Diligent efforts by a few individuals prevented extinction. However, subsequent attempts to crossbreed plains bison with cattle resulted in low-level, but widespread, presence of cattle DNA. Nevertheless, the wild plains bison appears to have retained much of its genetic diversity. However, the presence of both commercial herds and conservation herds has resulted in some conflicting legal designations. Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem requires special management. Despite these stressors, the numbers of plains bison have increased dramatically since the early 1900s, and population trends of wild plains bison in conservation herds appear to be stable to increasing in recent years. The number of conservation herds also continues to increase. In summary, the petition does not present substantial information that wild plains bison as a subspecies may require listing.
KEITHINKING: Tough week for bison. In other bison-related litigation, environmental groups recently suffered a significant setback when the Court rejected their attempts to “stop the slaughter” of brucellosis-infected bison herds. In Western Watersheds Project v. Salazar, 2011 WL 499275 (D. Mont., Feb. 14, 2011), U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell made his legal conclusions crystal clear:
This is not the first time the District of Montana and Ninth Circuit courts have been down this path, and each time it is seemingly under claimed emergency conditions. For those of us who admire the Yellowstone bison, it is easy to be sympathetic to an emotional appeal to “stop the slaughter.” Yet it is clear that this population of wild bison-diseased and healthy-ought not be allowed to reproduce prolifically beyond the capacity of its range without the institution of scientific management. This has been recognized and authorized by Congress and well-implemented administratively in proper fashion. Distasteful as the lethal removal may be to some, it is clearly one of the foremost management tools-time honored-necessarily utilized to protect the species, the habitat, and the public. There is an annual season for lethal removal for wild animals in most of the United States and particularly in the states surrounding Yellowstone Park. Deer, antelope, elk, moose, and others are removed annually as deemed necessary in order to scientifically control populations and accomplish these same resource goals. This is called “hunting season,” and the phenomenon is widely accepted by the public. For all of the foregoing reasons and the studies and authorities relied on by Defendants, the Court concludes that Defendants have not violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, or the Yellowstone Enabling Act, and that the requisites for injunctive relief have not been proven.