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District judge continues ban on bison transfer

The bison that live on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation will stay on Fort Peck, according to District Court Judge John McKeon's latest order filed Wednesday in Blaine County.

Just a few days short of the 30-day deadline McKeon set for himself after last month's hearing on the moving of Yellowstone National Park bison to Fort Peck and the Fort Belknap Indian reservations, McKeon filed his order granting a preliminary injunction to replace the temporary injunction granted in April.

The terms of the new injunction are the same, only preceded by 37 pages of explanation. Fish, Wildlife and Parks is not allowed to move any of the 61 bison on Fort Peck, nor are they allowed to enter any new legal agreements concerning the bison.

The order will stand until the complaint filed by a coalition of ranchers and politicians is addressed in a full trial, which, along with a pending motion accusing FWP of contempt of court, will be addressed at an unspecified point in the future.

The plaintiffs first filed their complaint on Jan. 11, after FWP announced its intentions in December 2011 to transport 65 bison to Fort Peck and Fort Belknap.

While still filing motions and waiting on hearings to discuss the plan, FWP entered an agreement with Fort Peck and moved the bison to the reservation, thus causing the contempt allegation.

FWP Wildlife Bureau Chief Ken McDonald told the court in April that the move was not to be sneaky, but to get the bison where they needed to be before they started calving in April and May. To avoid potential danger to pregnant bison and their offspring, the move had to occur in March or be postponed until the calves were old enough to be moved toward the end of the year.

Half of the bison were meant to be moved from Fort Peck to Fort Belknap as soon as the reservation had taken the necessary steps to contain the animals and had entered an agreement with FWP.

That will not be happening now. At least not until McKeon hears the case on the validity of the entire plan sometime later this year.

Ranchers contend that the bison can easily escape from the reservation and cause damage to crops and other animals.

Native Americans are pleased that the bison are returning to the reservations.

Residents of the reservations insist they can contain the bison.


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