Ted Turner gets to keep the bison calves born on his private ranch, which is being used by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to house dozens of bison for the next five years.
Environmental groups had opposed the agreement that allowed Ted Turner to keep the Yellowstone National Park bison calves, but Gallatin County Judge Holly Brown dismissed their request to overturn the agreement. In exchange for caring for the animals for the next five years, Turner gets 75 percent of the bison’s offspring, which is close to 150 animals.
The 3,000 bison living in Yellowstone are some of the last remaining ones in the world. In her decision, Brown acknowledged that the care of these animals is a sensitive subject.
“The simple truth is that management of Yellowstone bison is no easy task, from either a logistical standpoint or a public relations one,” Brown wrote. “Yellowstone bison arouse great passions from individuals and groups across the spectrum.”
Brown said she would abide by the agreement and not go against the agreement between Turner and the Montana wildlife agency.
“The court cannot substitute its judgment for that of the agency by determining whether the department’s decision was correct,” she wrote.
Four wildlife groups were contending that the bison are a public resource and argued that the state should not pay Turner to care for them or give up their offspring.
The petitioners — which included Watersheds Project, the Buffalo Field Campaign, the Gallatin Wildlife Association, and the Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation — claimed it violated the public trust to give disease-free Yellowstone bison to a private person.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks had originally requested bids from other parks and agencies to care for the bison, but none could meet the specifics of the proposal.
The groups have note said if they plan to appeal the Ted Turner bison decision.