Bison and calf, © Sandy Sisti

Bison catch a much deserved break: Bison once roamed in massive wild herds across the West. But, by the late 1890s, only 1,000 bison remained in North America. Yellowstone National Park was one of the few places genetically pure bison survived, reduced at one time to 25 individuals. A century later, this tiny herd has increased to a population of approximately 4,900, making Yellowstone home to the largest wild herd in the nation. In the past, these bison were confined to Park boundaries as a result of outdated management policies which denied them access to low elevation winter habitat outside the park. The result was a contentious program of harassment and shipment to slaughterhouses. We’ve been fighting tooth and nail to reform these outdated policies and we have some great news to share! In December, Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced a proposal to expand the areas bison can roam in Montana outside of Yellowstone, thereby reducing pressure to “ship to slaughter” and endless hazing of bison. We’re thrilled to see the Governor take a stand and chart a new course for bison conservation in Montana. This new policy is a significant step in our continued work to restore bison to public lands in Montana and throughout the West.

Mexican gray wolf, © Jim Clark/USFWS

New UCLA study on lobos’ historic range: A study from UCLA demonstrates that Mexican gray wolves had a greater historic range than previously known. The study shows that lobos roamed far to the north, including into southern Colorado and southern Utah. The study is timely in light of the fact that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission’s main argument in favor of passing an anti-wolf, anti-wildlife ban on Mexican gray wolf reintroduction is that lobos never roamed in the Centennial State. The Commission will be voting on this politically-driven wolf ban on Wednesday, January 13 at 4:00 pm. And we need your help! We’re hosting briefings for folks who live in the Denver area who want to attend the commission meeting next week. Even if you choose not to speak, it’s important to pack the room with wolf supporters. If you can join Defenders and other wolf advocates for the briefings and/or the commission meetings, click here for more information.

Oregon Officials Take Wolf Plan Under Review: Next Friday Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will have their quarterly meeting, and guess what’s on the agenda? Wolves. When wolves were removed from the state list of protected species last November, the Commission assured everyone that it would work quickly to complete an overdue update to Oregon’s state wolf management plan. First drafted in 2005 and renewed in 2010, this plan sets the regulatory standards for managing wolves in the state. It is the primary tool for ensuring wolf recovery in Oregon, providing specific protections for our fragile wolf population and detailing rules for minimizing conflicts between wolves and human activities. We’re glad to see Commission make good on its promise to review the plan, and we’ll continue to work with officials to ensure any revisions maintain the high level of precautionary and protective measures for Oregon’s still vulnerable wolves.