Mont. judge blocks transfer of Yellowstone bison

May 9, 2012 - 4:15 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge has halted further relocations of Yellowstone National Park bison, dealing a significant blow to a government conservation effort struggling to overcome livestock industry opposition.

Wednesday's order from Judge John McKeon in Malta blocks the pending move of several dozen Yellowstone bison to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. McKeon says the animals must remain on the Fort Peck Reservation, where about 60 bison were transferred in March by state and tribal officials.

The order also blocks state wildlife officials from arranging future transfers while a lawsuit filed by ranchers and property rights groups is pending.

The relocations are part of an attempt to curb the periodic slaughter of bison leaving the park. But many ranchers fear the bison could spread disease and compete with cattle for grazing.