Montana groups sue to get access to bison management records


Mar 11, 2001
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Groups sue to get access to bison management records.

By BOB ANEZ, Associated Press Writer

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Three conservation groups sued the state Livestock Department on Friday, alleging the agency has illegally refused to let them look at public documents related to the management of bison that wander from Yellowstone National Park.

The complaint, filed in state District Court, said the department rebuffed repeated requests by the organizations to look at files that involve efforts to haze the animals back into the park and other records.

“The Department of Livestock is violating our constitutional right to know,” said Darrell Geist of Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers. “We believe the agency’s denial of our records request is meant to punish us for filing a lawsuit against them in federal court over their disgraceful bison management operations.”

That suit, filed in May, seeks an injunction to stop the hazing of bison that leave the park in the Horse Butte area near West Yellowstone. The complaint said the state of Montana and the federal government are illegally harming bald eagles, trumpeter swans and their habitat in trying to keep bison inside park borders, all in violation of several federal environmental laws.

Livestock Department officials could not be reached for comment on the state suit, which was filed late in the day.

The agency has an agreement to work with the federal government in controlling Yellowstone bison that state officials and ranchers consider a threat to the livestock industry.

The concern centers on brucellosis, a contagious disease widespread in Yellowstone’s bison and elk herds. It causes cattle to abort and can result in undulant fever in humans.

In addition to Geist’s group, those involved in both suits are The Ecology Center Inc. and Buffalo Field Campaign.

In the latest suit, the organizations said Bernie Jacobs, attorney for the Livestock Department, indicated the groups’ right to know had been modified by the filing of the federal suit and the information sought could be gained only through the legal process.

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