Wild Bison and the Law

Wildlife, including wild bison, are a public trust resource, much like our air, water and public lands. Under public trust doctrine, primary “trustees” are government agencies in all branches of government – administration, legislature and judiciary.* Trustees are responsible for maintaining benefits of trust resources for all the people, present and future.

Public trust resources are managed, or ignored, in the public political arena – alternatively with collaboration, compromise or competition, even obstruction. Restoration of wild bison has been a contentious issue; one not yet addressed by judicial trustees. The politics of bison will ultimately depend upon Montana laws and interpretations of the state Constitution. In reviewing these, we find we find a solid basis for restoring wild bison under Montana law.

*While government agencies, elected by the people, are primary trustees for natural resources, the Montana Constitution (II, section 3) directs that “ all persons recognize responsibilities” to maintain our environment and our rights to it. Thus, we are all trustees for our shared rights and resources.

 

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