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Environmental Group Calls Bison Refuge Closures A 'Vendetta'

USFWS Mountain-Prairie
Flickr Creative Commons
Visitors can go on a drive and view wild bison at the National Bison Refuge in Montana.

Public lands facilities around the nation are cutting budgets and staff. But in the Mountain West region, cutbacks at Montana's National Bison Refuge are prompting accusations of a political vendetta by regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers. 

The National Bison Range is an isolated refuge where you can go for a drive and see wild bison and maybe even black bears. A couple of years ago regional managers at the Interior Department proposed transferring management and funding of the refuge to local tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said no.

According to Jeff Ruch with  Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the regional managers weren’t happy. 

"The Fish and Wildlife regional office is waging the equivalent of bureaucratic war against the National Bison Range," says Ruch.

PEER claims that war involves cutting budget and staff. Ruch says the refuge can see more than 200,000 visitors a year, but those cuts mean the visitor’s center is now closed two days a week. 

The regional office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it had no one available to respond to the charge.   

Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Amanda Peacher works for the Mountain West News Bureau out of Boise State Public Radio. She's an Idaho native who returned home after a decade of living and reporting in Oregon. She's an award-winning reporter with a background in community engagement and investigative journalism.

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