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Gianforte pushes back on plan to look at bison in refuge

April 30, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this April 25, 2012, file photo, a herd of bison move through land controlled by the American Prairie Reserve south of Malta, Mont. Federal officials are laying the groundwork for the potential reintroduction of bison to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, which is located not far from the prairie reserve's herds on private land. (AP Photo/Matt Brown, File)
FILE - In this April 25, 2012, file photo, a herd of bison move through land controlled by the American Prairie Reserve south of Malta, Mont. Federal officials are laying the groundwork for the potential reintroduction of bison to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, which is located not far from the prairie reserve's herds on private land. (AP Photo/Matt Brown, File)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office says a U.S. Interior Department plan to consider if bison should be reintroduced to a sprawling refuge in central Montana raises questions about federal intrusion into state wildlife management.

Interior officials this week said they are anticipating a years-long process to examine potential bison reintroductions at the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge north of Lewistown. Bison roamed Montana in huge herds until they were wiped out by overhunting across most of North America in the late 19th century.

Gianforte, a Republican, has sided with livestock interests opposed to returning bison to more places because of fears about disease and potential competition with cattle for grazing space.

In response to the Interior Department’s plans, Gianforte’s office said in a statement that bison pose “unique challenges” that should be addressed at the state level.

Gianforte recently cancelled a bison restoration plan adopted under his Democratic predecessor. On Thursday he signed a bill requiring county commissioners to approve any bison relocations into their counties by state agencies.