Wildlife, including wild bison, are a public trust resource, much like our air, water and public lands. Under public trust doctrine, primary “trustees” are government agencies in all branches of government – administration, legislature and judiciary.* Trustees are responsible for maintaining benefits of trust resources for all the people, present and future.

Public trust resources are managed, or ignored, in the public political arena – alternatively with collaboration, compromise or competition, even obstruction. Restoration of wild bison has been a contentious issue; one not yet addressed by judicial trustees. The politics of bison will ultimately depend upon Montana laws and interpretations of the state Constitution. In reviewing these, we find we find a solid basis for restoring wild bison under Montana law.

*While government agencies, elected by the people, are primary trustees for natural resources, the Montana Constitution (II, section 3) directs that “ all persons recognize responsibilities” to maintain our environment and our rights to it. Thus, we are all trustees for our shared rights and resources.

Wild Bison and the Law

Management of Wildlife on Federal Lands


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