Monday, January 18, 2010

Either Protect 'Em or Give 'Em to Ted!

From the Washington Post comes an interesting article about 88 bison roaming in a part of Montana outside of Yellowstone National Park and who face possible slaughter if left to wander freely. So gazillionaire broadcast mogul Ted Turner has announced that the bison are welcome to live on his colossal Montana ranch and receive protection and care. The catch? You guessed it. There's no free lunch in America. According to the article in the Post:
The media mogul says he will care for the bison only if he can keep up to 90 percent of their offspring.
The article notes that "hunters, environmentalists and property law experts" are all up in arms over the prospect that animals living in public spaces can be placed under the care of a wealthy private rancher. FYI, for the past several years, these bison have been kept in a quarantine area near the park to make sure they were disease-free. The bison have received a clean bill of health, but they're now outside of the protected habitat. The state of Montana worries that the animals might be slaughtered if they are left to roam outside of Yellowstone. They are especially vulnerable to farmers who don't want the bison competing with their livestock for grass in the area.

The Washington Post article was a bit of a head-scratcher, because the author did not explain why the state of Montana doesn't simply ship the animals back to Yellowstone where they would presumably be protected (he does note that the state is not taking responsibility for the animals, but doesn't say why... maybe they're too cheap?). As is often the case with issues involving public lands and the federal government in the United States, it is hard to know just how vulnerable these animals really are. But clearly, many knowledgeable observers fear that the bison are in danger of being slaughtered.

So there are two options: 1) Give them to Ted Turner. He's a devout conservationist and the animals will probably have a relatively peaceful existence living on his 150,000 acres of land, a vast territory totally closed off to hunters. 2) Here's a novel idea: Protect them!!! Pass laws that make it a felony to kill them. Make sure they're cared for and looked after. The federal government and the state of Montana should help conservationists who are trying to buy land to create wildlife reserves for the bison. Washington, D.C. and Montana need to pony up if they want to protect the state's bison. Otherwise, Ted Turner's ranch is looking mighty appealing.

(Photo of a bison on Ted Turner's Nebraska ranch courtesy of the Washington Post.)

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