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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 13:02:18 11/19/15

In Reply to: Recognition of the role of bison in Yellowstone posted by Granite Head

Granite Head,

I imagine Richard Keigley's argument was persuasively delivered. That said, I will state that he has some serious credibility problems, where I am concerned.

Right up front, he is one of the supposed experts repeatedly referenced by Alston Chase, author of "Playing God in Yellowstone". I have heard Dr. Chase in person on multiple occasions, and Dick Keigley is always quoted. Anyone who has closely followed the predictions made by Dr. Chase knows that the majority, if not all, that were provable over the time that has passed since the book was published, have not come to pass.

Other NPS and USGS biologists, particularly Mary Meagher and Doug Houston, have persuasively argued against Richard Keigley's findings. As far as I know, Mary Meagher spent more time in the field, immersed in bison research on the Northern Range, than anyone else I'm aware of. I would direct interested readers to check out Houston and Meagher's book "Yellowstone and the Biology of Time".

Much of this argument that has raged for decades centers on perceived damage to the range land, particularly the sage brush. When the University of Montana brought some experts from national parks in Africa to Yellowstone, those individuals noted the uncanny similarity of the dynamic of the Northern Range to what they see in the Serengeti Plain, which is subject to tremendous wildlife migrations annually. I don't have the time or energy to get into all the fine detail. The arguments are offered in numerous publications.

Here's where I personally take issue with Keigley's argument. (1) I don't see evidence of the permanent damage that he does when I wander those sage flats, and I have spent a lot of time out there. I see the Serengeti dynamic. (2) The bison herd in Hayden Valley migrates out every autumn, with the exception of some old bulls. A few small mixed age/gender herds hang around a few select thermal areas, like Mud Volcano, but that's about it. (3) If there is any single place where the historic migration of bison has been manipulated by man, it is that of the Northern Range. I don't know if that herd has figured out that they face certain death if they leave the Northern Range, and exit the park. I see Dr. Chase and Richard Keigley simply siding with those who see bison as livestock, arguing that they should be managed as such. That is one legitimate argument in the ongoing disagreement about bison management, which predates the IBMP. I side with those who argue for managing bison as wildlife. I prefer to see the Montana FWP in charge, rather than the Montana DOL.

For anyone who thinks that sage brush is some delicate flower, I would invite them to take a walk with me sometime along the old Trout Creek Dump road in western Hayden Valley. You won't believe how that stuff is reclaiming the road. Those of us who have been walking that road for many years have seen firsthand how, in spite of the seasonal gathering of thousands of rutting bison, those sage species are doing quite well. (It keeps getting progressively harder, year over year, to walk the old road.)

One last point, and I say this with a wry smile on my face. Alston Chase is a hard core fly fisherman, and one of his favorite hangouts is Slough Creek. I know, because I have heard his argument multiple times, that he accuses both bison and elk of ruining fish habitat in trout waters in northern Yellowstone. I wonder if Dick Keigley is a fly fisherman?


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