MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – The National Park Service (NPS) released today a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a Bison Management Plan at Yellowstone National Park. The Draft EIS introduces a broad range of actions for managing bison inside the park. This plan allows the NPS to evaluate bison management based on new scientific information and changed circumstances, explore ways to reduce bison being sent to slaughter, and to continue working closely with Tribal Nations and agency partners in management.
In June of 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a 90-day finding of three petitions to designate and list a Yellowstone bison Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the Plains bison in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Currently, the National Park Service estimates that there are nearly 6,000 bison in and around Yellowstone Park.
The Draft EIS will also consider the bison management actions likely to occur on lands outside the park in Montana, while acknowledging the NPS does not have jurisdiction or control over actions such as hunting or tolerance for bison beyond the park boundary.
The purpose of the EIS is to preserve an ecologically sustainable population of wild, wide-ranging bison while continuing to work with other agencies to address issues related to brucellosis transmission, human safety, property damage and to support Tribal hunting outside the park.
The NPS’s Draft EIS considers alternatives to managing bison with varying population ranges and management activities. These include:
Alternative 1: The NPS would continue management of bison pursuant to the existing Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), approved in 2000. This would maintain a population range of bison similar to the last two decades (3,500 to 5,000 bison after calving), continue hunt-trap coordination to balance population regulation in the park by using culling and hunting opportunities outside the park, increase the number of brucellosis-free bison relocated to Tribal lands via the Bison Conservation Transfer Program (BCTP), and work with the State of Montana to manage the already low risk of brucellosis spreading from bison to cattle.
Alternative 2: Bison would be managed within a population range of about 3,500 to 6,000 animals after calving with an emphasis on using the BCTP to restore bison to Tribal lands and Tribal treaty hunting outside the park to regulate numbers.
Alternative 3: The NPS would rely on natural selection, bison dispersal, and public and Tribal harvests in Montana as the primary tools to regulate numbers, which would likely range from 3,500 to 7,000 or more animals after calving.
This announcement initiates the public review period. Interested individuals, organizations and agencies are encouraged to provide written comments regarding the alternatives, information, and analyses presented in the draft EIS. The preferred method for submitting comments during the comment period is online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/YellowstonebisonEIS. Comments may also be mailed or hand-delivered to: Superintendent, Attn: Bison Management Plan, PO Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190. The deadline to submit comments is Sept. 25, 2023.
Yellowstone National Park will host two public meetings during the public comment period. Attend these meetings to learn more about the plan and planning process and ask NPS staff questions. Public meeting details include:
- August 28 at 10:30 a.m. MST
- Link: bit.ly/YellowstoneBisonEIS
- August 29 at 4 p.m. MST
- Link: bit.ly/YellowstoneBisonEIS2
At the conclusion of the 45-day public comment period, the NPS will analyze and consider all substantive feedback received and prepare a final EIS. The final EIS is expected to be released in 2024.
National Park Service