HELENA — Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Thursday requested changes to a bill that prohibits the relocation of wild bison to a wildlife management area south of Avon, one of 14 vetoes and amendatory vetoes issued by the governor.
The Legislature approved Senate Bill 174 this month, which aims to stop the relocation of bison to the Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area.
Relocation of wild bison has been unpopular topic among ranchers who fear the transfer of disease to livestock and property damage from the massive animals. Critics of restrictive bison bills like SB 174 say the wild animals need more land to roam than just Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone has one of the largest concentrations of the animals in the world, with around 3,900 wild bison.
The Legislature has considered several other measures to prohibit or increase control over bison transfers, but they have either stalled or have been blocked by the governor. For example, a bill to increase local authority over bison transfer was vetoed by Schweitzer and a general prohibition on roaming wild buffalo died in a House committee.
State officials have experimented with or are considering a number of options to relocate bison across the state. One plan allowing bison to roam just north of Yellowstone recently ended in failure after the herd failed to stay in the designated transfer area.
Schweitzer is requesting lawmakers change SB 174 to allow Spotted Dog to still be considered as another possible transfer point for wild bison.
The governor's amendments set three conditions to do so. The state would have to complete an environmental study, prepare a bison management plan and hold public hearings on the animal transfer.
The bill will now go back to the Legislature for approval before it could become law.
Also Thursday, Schweitzer vetoed a measure aimed at stopping the state from taking federal funds for health care.
Senate Bill 224 carried by Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge, who has been a consistent opponent of any measure supporting the federal health care overhaul, would have required legislative approval before the state could accept any federal health care funds.
The governor said the measure would have put the state's health care system at a competitive disadvantage, and the money would have just gone to other states.