87-1-216. Wild buffalo or bison as species in need of management -- policy -- department duties. (1) The legislature finds that significant potential exists for the spread of contagious disease to persons or livestock in Montana and for damage to persons and property by wild buffalo or bison. It is the purpose of this section:
(a) to designate publicly owned wild buffalo or bison originating from Yellowstone national park as a species requiring disease control;
(b) to designate other wild buffalo or bison as a species in need of management; and
(c) to set out specific duties for the department for management of the species.
(2) The department:
(a) is responsible for the management, including but not limited to public hunting, of wild buffalo or bison in this state that have not been exposed to or infected with a dangerous or contagious disease but may threaten persons or property;
(b) shall consult and coordinate with the department of livestock on implementation of the provisions of subsection (2)(a) to the extent necessary to ensure that wild buffalo or bison remain disease-free; and
(c) shall cooperate with the department of livestock in managing publicly owned wild buffalo or bison that enter the state on public or private land from a herd that is infected with a dangerous disease, as provided in 81-2-120, under a plan approved by the governor. The department of livestock is authorized under the provisions of 81-2-120 to regulate publicly owned wild buffalo or bison in this state that pose a threat to persons or livestock in Montana through the transmission of contagious disease. The department may, after agreement and authorization by the department of livestock, authorize the public hunting of wild buffalo or bison that have been exposed to or infected with a contagious disease, pursuant to 87-2-730. The department may, following consultation with the department of livestock, adopt rules to authorize the taking of bison where and when necessary to prevent the transmission of a contagious disease.
(3) The department may adopt rules with regard to wild buffalo or bison that have not been exposed to or infected with a contagious disease but are in need of management because of potential damage to persons or property.
(4) The department may not release, transplant, or allow wild buffalo or bison on any private or public land in Montana that has not been authorized for that use by the private or public owner.
(5) Subject to subsection (4), the department shall develop and adopt a management plan before any wild buffalo or bison under the department's jurisdiction may be released or transplanted onto private or public land in Montana. A plan must include but is not limited to:
(a) measures to comply with any applicable animal health protocol required under Title 81, under subsection (2)(b), or by the state veterinarian;
(b) any animal identification and tracking protocol required by the department of livestock to identify the origin and track the movement of wild buffalo or bison for the purposes of subsections (2)(b) and (5)(c);
(c) animal containment measures that ensure that any animal transplanted or released on private or public land will be contained in designated areas. Containment measures must include but are not limited to:
(i) any fencing required;
(ii) contingency plans to expeditiously relocate wild buffalo or bison that enter private or public property where the presence of the animals is not authorized by the private or public owner;
(iii) contingency plans to expeditiously fund and construct more effective containment measures in the event of an escape; and
(iv) contingency plans to eliminate or decrease the size of designated areas, including the expeditious relocation of wild buffalo or bison if the department is unable to effectively manage or contain the wild buffalo or bison.
(d) a reasonable means of protecting public safety and emergency measures to be implemented if public safety may be threatened;
(e) a reasonable maximum carrying capacity for any proposed designated area using sound management principles, including but not limited to forage-based carrying capacity, and methods for not exceeding that carrying capacity, including in years of drought or severe winters. The carrying capacity must be based on a forage analysis conducted in accordance with standards contained in the most recent natural resources conservation service field office technical guide by a range scientist who is on the staff of:
(i) the Montana state university-Bozeman college of agriculture;
(ii) the United States natural resources conservation service; or
(iii) a technical service provider certified by either the natural resources conservation service or the society for range management.
(f) identification of long-term, stable funding sources that would be dedicated to implementing the provisions of the management plan for each designated area.
(6) When developing a management plan in accordance with subsection (5), the department shall provide the opportunity for public comment and hold a public hearing in the affected county or counties. Prior to making a decision to release or transplant wild buffalo or bison onto private or public land in Montana, the department shall respond to all public comment received and publish a full record of the proceedings at any public hearing.
(7) The department is liable for all costs incurred, including costs arising from protecting public safety, and any damage to private property that occurs as a result of the department's failure to meet the requirements of subsection (5).
(8) When adopting and implementing rules regarding the special wild buffalo or bison license issued pursuant to 87-2-730, the department shall consult and cooperate with the department of livestock regarding when and where public hunting may be allowed and the safe handling of wild buffalo or bison parts in order to minimize the potential for spreading any contagious disease to persons or to livestock.
History: En. Sec. 2, Ch. 346, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 604, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 383, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 9, Ch. 403, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 172, L. 2015.