AWR Blog

by Eve Byron, Independent Record

A conservation group in Helena filed a notice Thursday that it will appeal a federal court judge’s ruling that allows for helicopter hazing of bison to resume this spring near Yellowstone National Park.

Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said they decided to take Tuesday’s decision by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because they believe he is wrong. Garrity’s group sought — and got — a temporary restraining order last May after arguing that they were concerned the hazing would negatively impact grizzly bears, which are protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

“We think he ruled incorrectly,” Garrity said. “My attorney thinks his ruling wasn’t based on the law.”

He declined to go into details on what part of the ruling his group believes is incorrect; the two-page notice of appeal filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Missoula also didn’t provide any insight.

In his 46-page ruling, Lovell wrote that he issued the temporary restraining order May 16, 2012, be-cause the Department of Livestock was starting low-altitude helicopter hazing of bison on May 15 and he wasn’t ready to rule at that time on the Alliance’ lawsuit, which had been filed in 2011.

Helicopter hazing had been used almost every spring for a decade to round up bison that have left Yellowstone and return them to the park’s confines. Hazing typically starts about a month before livestock are allowed to graze on public lands, some of which are the same lands used by the bison outside the park. Livestock owners fear allowing the bison and cattle to be in close proximity will transmit brucellosis from bison to cattle, which causes animals to abort fetuses.

Lovell wrote that the Alliance for the Wild Rockies hadn’t shown that hazing bison that migrate out of Yellowstone significantly harms or “takes” grizzlies and that their numbers are continuing to increase.

Christian MacKay, executive officer for the Montana Department of Livestock, said on Wednesday that they’ll probably use helicopters to haze bison back into Yellowstone again this spring.

Garrity said he’s not sure whether they’ll seek the restraining order again this spring, but added that if they do the request will go to the Ninth Circuit judges.

Originally published here.

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