Sep 6, 2012 9:32 AM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News
BOZEMAN - A Bozeman-based conservation group says a new survey shows "overwhelming" public support for bringing wild bison back to Montana and letting them roam across public lands.
The National Wildlife Federation and the Wildlife Conservation Society commissioned the survey of Montanans.
The groups say 68% of those surveyed support restoration of wild bison on federal or state land, with 26% opposed.
A similar percentage said they thought the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Western Montana is the best place in the state to start a wild herd. The groups say that's close to a similar survey that was taken in February 2011.
"The public support for restoring this American icon is exceptionally strong," said the National Wildlife Federation's Kit Fischer in Missoula. "The decimation of bison was a wrong that people would like to repair, and doing so would be the crowning achievement in Montana's century-long commitment to wildlife conservation."
"The primary reason people visit Montana is our incredible wildlife resource. Restoring bison is not only important conservation, it's good for our economy," the Wildlife Conservation Society's Keith Aune added.
The survey also found 68% of those that were asked support giving bison to Native American tribes for relocation to tribal lands.
Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks held meetings about the bison relocation around the state this summer, with people submitting almost 23,000 comments.
The agency is expected to be analyzing that input this winter and then deciding how to proceed.