Wildlife managers in Montana want the public to mull over a plan that involves the state establishing a wild bison herd originating from the Yellowstone National Park.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) seeks the comment of the public on a draft environmental impact statement which provides four alternatives for returning the publicly managed bison herd to Montana, where they have been wiped out in 1880s because of excessive hunting.

FWP has opened a public comment period that will end on Sept. 11 for proposals that include taking no action for the restoration of the bison to reintroducing the animals to public or private land where there would be no competition for grass and where there is reduced possibility of disease transmission.

Montana's proposed option came after the state gave 145 bison originating from the Yellowstone National Park to a Native American tribe no more than a year ago with the aim of furthering the conservation of the wild and purebred bison in the country.

The animals were quarantined so the herd would not contract the disease known as brucellosis, which could spread to cow and cause them to miscarry. The herd of brucellosis-free animals was confined to a ranch in Montana owned by Ted Turner before the state green lighted giving the animals to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes.

Where the massive creatures would be reintroduced has not yet been determined but the state said they need to be free of cattle and disease.

Government officials have been capturing or killing bison that roam out of Yellowstone into Montana to hunt for food in the winter because about half of the herd has exposure to brucellosis. Systematic hunting has caused the decline of the country's vast wild herds to less than 50 of those that found sanctuary at Yellowstone in the early 20th century.

Montana Stockgrowers Association natural resource director Jay Bodner said that the industry would see to it that any of the projects considered by the state would involve having the animals contained so that they cannot cause damage to private property or mingle with livestock.

Several wild bison herds are now on tribal and federal lands in Montana but no public herds are currently managed by the FWP, which manages the state's fish and game. Demand for bison robes has significantly reduced the number of the massive animal driving the species to near extinction.

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