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64 Yellowstone bison headed to Fort Peck


American bison (also known as buffalo) and their calves forage for food at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, on June 1, 2011.



The stalled plan to repopulate the West with bison moved forward today, as 64 bison from Yellowstone National Park were transported to Montana's Fort Peck Reservation, according to USA Today. Tribal and state officials approved the transfer late Friday, but did not reveal the date of the move to avoid a court injunction. Past transfers failed because of opposition from ranchers and a lack of proper tribal or public land, and landowners sued in state court in January to block the transfer. A lawyer sought a restraining order to halt today's move this afternoon.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer described the bison transfer as a major step in efforts to restore Yellowstone's genetically pure animal across more of the country, reported the Associated Press.

"This is where we're going to establish the beachhead of genetically pure bison that will be available as their numbers grow to go to other reservations and other public lands all across the West," Schweitzer said, according to the AP.

Since crossing over Yellowstone's northern boundary during their winter migration, the bison have been quarantined for several years, reported USA Today. All are free of brucellosis, which ranchers feared could be transmitted to cattle, although the disease is rare in the United States, and which can also cause females to abort fetuses. Ranchers are also concerned the bison will compete with their livestock for rangeland.

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