Friday, April 27, 2012

Agribusiness vs Bison in eastern Montana

That's the gist of this story in the New York Times yesterday.   Or you could say the gist is agribusiness vs. Native Americans.  The dateline is Wolf Point, Montana, population 2,621, 10,425, in the state's "high line" area, the northeastern part.  Wolf Point is the county seat of Roosevelt County (population 10,425) , but also--and highly significantly for purposes of this story--the largest population center on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, which encompasses 74% of the county's land area.  Here's an excerpt from Nate Schweber's story:

Sioux and Assiniboine tribe members wailed a welcome song last month at around 60 bison from Yellowstone National Park stormed onto a prairie pasture that had not let a bison's hoof for almost 140 years.   
That historic homecoming came just 11 days after 71 pureblood bison, descended from one of Montana's last wild herds, were released nearly onto untilled grassland owned by a charity with a vision of building a haven for prairie wildlife. 
"Populations of all native Montana wildlife have been allowed to rebound except bison; it's time to take care of them like they once took care of us," said Robert Magnan, 58, director of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation's Fish and Game Department, who will oversee the translated Yellowstone bison program
* * *
"I call them my brothers and sisters because they are a genetic link to the same ones my ancestors hunted," said Tote Gray Hawk, 54, a Sioux who has brought the Fort Peck bison hay and water each day since their arrival.  Their meat--lower in cholesterol than beef--will feed elderly tribe members and their skulls will be used in traditional sun dance ceremonies, he said.  
But not everyone agrees with Magnan, Gray Hawk, and others at Fort Peck.  Farmers, ranchers and other agribusiness interests worry that the herd will damage private property and compete for grass with their cattle.   Curt McCann, a 46-year-old Chinook rancher, is quoted:  "Bison are a romantic notion, but they don't belong today."  McCann had driven four hours to Jordan, Montana, to participate in a public meeting about the reintroduction of the bison.  "Bison is a big issue that could really impact our livelihood," said another man who ranches near Jordan.  Agribusiness is the state's biggest industry in Montana, where three million cattle are being raised but where no single bison roams free.

Northeastern Montana features a prairie expanse almost the size of Indiana.  This article investigates whether that expanse is large enough for both agribusiness and a few hundred (or thousand) bison.

No comments: