Bringing back the bison: Group pushes reintroduction to Montana public lands

10-13-2011 // Brett French

This excerpt is from The Billings Gazette


Jim Posewitz is confident he will see a huntable herd of free-roaming, wild bison somewhere in Montana in his lifetime.

"We'll have to hurry, though," he said, smiling.

Posewitz is 76.

A Montana conservationist, hunter, author and promoter of hunter ethics, Posewitz has lent his voice to the National Wildlife Federation's push to have bison restored to the 1.1-million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana.

"What better place, what better species and what better time?" he said.

The Posewitz principle

Posewitz's belief is rooted in the history of American sportsmen and their participation in the restoration of other game animals to the nation and to the CMR landscape, such as bighorn sheep and elk.

Posewitz also sees restoration as righting a historic wrong.

It is estimated that 30 million bison once roamed the Great Plains. Hide hunters and a push to drive Plains Indians to reservations prompted their wholesale slaughter. By 1884, the animals were gone from Montana except for a few in captive private herds. By 1895, roughly 800 bison remained worldwide.

"Here on the same landscape where the most egregious wildlife slaughter in history occurred, we have the opportunity to put the last piece on the pyramid of wildlife recovery," Posewitz said. "Not only can we do this for buffalo, but given what we've done to this place, we are obligated to return them."

Eyeing the CMR

As Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks embarks on a three-year study of the possibility of returning wild bison to the state, the National Wildlife Federation is already pushing for the CMR to be the place.

"I've been hunting all of my life, and I can't imagine there would be anything cooler than hunting a bison in the Missouri Breaks," said Kit Fischer of the NWF. "I think this is something that every hunter in Montana has a moral responsibility to support."

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