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bison, stephens creek

New West Daily Roundup for Feb. 1, 2016

Today in New West news: lawsuit brought over bison operations in Yellowstone National Park, the state of Montana’s economy, and New Western well-being.

Each year since 2000, the Interagency Bison Management Plan (comprising various state wildlife agencies and tribal partners) has set quotas for bison culling, most controversially through capturing bison in the north part of the Park and shipping them off to slaughter. In years past, the public could observe operations at the facility at Stephens Creek. This practice was suspended in 2006. Now, according to Yellowstone Insider and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, a lawsuit has been brought against the Park regarding access to Stephens Creek:

Joining the Animal Legal Defense Fund; Wyoming law firm Fuller, Sandefer and Associates, as well as two University of Denver constitutional law professors, journalist Christopher Ketcham and Buffalo Field Campaign representative Stephany Seay allege Yellowstone National Park has violated the public’s First Amendment rights by closing access to the facility where bison are captured, sorted, and shipped annually for slaughter under the Interagency Bison Management Plan.

Further, ALDF attorney Stefani Wilson has said they hope to suspend the planned slaughter until an access agreement is reached, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

They are asking the court to order the park to let the public watch the bison slaughter operations — including trapping, sorting and shipping — at its Stephens Creek facility near Yellowstone National Park’s northern edge. No bison will be trapped there until after Feb. 15.

The facility is generally off-limits to the public. The park held one tour earlier this month while the facility was empty, and has promised to allow guided access twice more this year when bison are there and will be shipped.


Seay said the park had let the public watch the capture of bison in the past, but had stopped allowing access. She said in the past few years, the park had “just kind of shut off the public, and they’re not telling us what’s going on in a timely manner.”

Ketcham, who has written about bison for Vice and Harper’s, compared the closure of the area to so-called “Ag-Gag” laws that have been used in several states to deny media and public access to agricultural operations. One recent example of that law was struck down in Idaho last year, and Ketcham said he thinks the park’s moves to limit access to Stephens Creek will face the same fate.

“I don’t think it will stand the test of the courts,” he said.

A hearing has already been scheduled for February 5 at the District Court in Casper, where Ketcham, Seay et al. will present arguments for an injunction halting operations at Stephens Creek.

Up in Montana, Governor Steve Bullock’s Office of Economic Development (as part of the Main Street Montana Project) has released a report outlining Montana’s economic development over the past year. The consensus? The economy is strong.

“Montana’s economy is strong and the state’s ability to work collaboratively with the private sector has never been better,” said Governor Bullock in a press release. “There is a lot to be excited about right now, from a government that lives within its means, businesses that are constantly innovating and leading the nation in terms of job creation, to growing a highly-skilled workforce that can compete in the global market.

“These new opportunities do not come without challenges, however,” added Bullock. “As global markets and demand for certain commodities shift, we must focus on sparking innovation, economic growth and good-paying jobs in Montana’s traditional and emerging industries.”

The report covers various aspects of the Treasure State’s economy, from technology to architecture to exports to tourism to healthcare and so forth. The report also outlines how the state ranks in terms of business climate, renewable energy usage, education, export growth, and job growth.

Finally, looking at the New West as a whole, the new Well-Being Index from Gallup-Healthways finds that, for the most part, the New West ranks in the top quintile, with three states cracking the top five. Indeed, Montana ranked third with its well-being index score, just barely behind Hawaii and Alaska, which took home first and second respectively. Colorado and Wyoming barely lagged behind, taking home fourth and fifth respectively while Utah ranked eighth. Idaho, however, didn’t fair so well, pulling in at 36th, but buoyed by a strong sense of community. From the Well-Being Index:

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2015, as a part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, with a random sample of 177,281 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error for the Well-Being Index score is ±0.1 point at the 95% confidence level. The margin of sampling error for most states is about ±0.6 points, although this increases to about ±1.6 points for the smallest population states such as North Dakota, Wyoming, Hawaii and Delaware. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects due to weighting.

For data collected prior to Sept. 1, 2015, each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents. For data collected between Sept. 1, 2015, and Dec. 30, 2015, each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents. Additional minimum quotas by time zone within region are included in the sampling approach.

The Index weighs five categories in ascertaining a state’s overall well-being: Purpose (or liking what you do), Social (familial, friendly, and amorous relationships), Financial, Community (liking where you live) and Physical (having good health and living somewhere that enables good health).

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