A summary of nearly 23,000 comments collected during Montana’s 60-day bison conservation and management scoping effort earlier this year is now posted on the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website.
The scoping effort marked the initial phase of what could be a three-year-long process to determine if one or more managed wild bison herds would be publicly acceptable in Montana.
FWP’s Ken McDonald, chief of the Wildlife Bureau in Helena, said today that the extraordinary public interest and the range of public participation are unprecedented for a wildlife management issue in Montana.
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” McDonald said. “Not with wolves, not with grizzly bears, and not with elk. The bison scoping process engaged more than 20,000 individuals who took the time to deliver 22,928 comments. To say people are interested in Montana bison would be a bit of an understatement.”
The scoping process captured an array of issues and opinions ranging from bison population management and distribution, to disease concerns and private property rights, to economic and community impacts.
The report breaks down the scoping issues into 19 broad topics that in total contain more than 100 associated issues. The issues and comments both support and oppose bison restoration.
The public scoping comment report is available online at fwp.mt.gov. Click “For Fish & Wildlife Information” then choose “Bison Background.”
FWP was required to allow at least 30 days for EIS scoping under the Montana Environmental Policy Act. The agency, however, designed a 60-day process to ensure ample opportunity for comment. FWP conducted public scoping sessions in eight Montana towns in May, provided opportunities through most of June to comment online, and accepted comment via Fax and regular mail.
More than 700 people participated in FWP’s public scoping meetings where 3,472 comments were recorded. These comments are also available online at fwp.mt.gov.
FWP’s effort to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement to address issues associated with bison and options for their long-term management in Montana was launched in 2011 with the release of a summary of bison history and activities in the West. The “Bison Background Document” presents information on the bison’s genetic and disease history, management concerns and a brief synopsis of different bison management philosophies held by a diverse array of private groups and organizations.
If the process moves forward, a draft EIS could be released for additional public comment in 2013 and a second round of public meetings would be scheduled. A final EIS would examine all of the identified issues and possible alternatives—raging from “no action” to “bison restoration”—as well as each alternative’s potential beneficial and adverse environmental, social and economic impacts.