Theodore Roosevelt National park is currently citing several NPS policies to justify the need to remove the wild horses from the park boundaries. Following are the full text of the policies being discussed.
It is also worth noting that there is currently no current campaign to eliminate wild horses on other NPS lands which suggests that there is a way to allow the horses to stay AND be in compliance with NPS policies.
The Service will strive to restore extirpated native plant and animal species to parks whenever all of the following criteria are met:
· Adequate habitat to support the species either exists or can reasonably be restored in the park and if necessary also on adjacent public lands and waters; once a natural population level is achieved, the population can be self-perpetuating.
· The species does not, based on an effective management plan, pose a serious threat to the safety of people in parks, park resources, or persons or property within or outside park boundaries.
· The genetic type used in restoration most nearly approximates the extirpated genetic type.
· The species disappeared or was substantially diminished as a direct or indirect result of human-induced change to the species population or to the ecosystem.
· Potential impacts upon park management and use have been carefully considered.
Programs to restore animal species may include confining animals in small field enclosures during restoration efforts, but only until the animals have become accustomed to the new area or they have become sufficiently established to minimize threats from predators, poaching, disease, or other factors. Programs to restore animal species may also include confining animals in cages for captive breeding to increase the number of offspring for release to the wild or to manage the population’s gene pool. Programs to restore plant species may include propagating plants in greenhouses, gardens, or other confined areas to develop propagation materials (propagules) for restoration efforts or to manage a population’s gene pool.
Exotic species will not be allowed to displace native species if displacement can be prevented.
All exotic plant and animal species that are not maintained to meet an identified park purpose will be managed—up to and including eradication—if (1) control is prudent and feasible, and (2) the exotic species
· interferes with natural processes and the perpetuation of natural features, native species or natural habitats, or
· disrupts the genetic integrity of native species, or
· disrupts the accurate presentation of a cultural landscape, or
· damages cultural resources, or
· significantly hampers the management of park or adjacent lands, or
· poses a public health hazard as advised by the U. S. Public Health Service (which includes the Centers for Disease Control and the NPS public health program), or
· creates a hazard to public safety.
High priority will be given to managing exotic species that have, or potentially could have, a substantial impact on park resources, and that can reasonably be expected to be successfully controlled. Lower priority will be given to exotic species that have almost no impact on park resources or that probably cannot be successfully controlled. Where an exotic species cannot be successfully eliminated, managers will seek to contain the exotic species to prevent further spread or resource damage.
The decision to initiate management should be based on a determination that the species is exotic. For species determined to be exotic and where management appears to be feasible and effective, superintendents should (1) evaluate the species’ current or potential impact on park resources; (2) develop and implement exotic species management plans according to established planning procedures; (3) consult, as appropriate, with federal, tribal, local, and state agencies as well as other interested groups; and (4) invite public review and comment, where appropriate. Programs to manage exotic species will be designed to avoid causing significant damage to native species, natural ecological communities, natural ecological processes, cultural resources, and human health and safety. Considerations and techniques regarding removal of exotic species are similar to those used for native species (see 184.108.40.206 NPS Actions That Remove Native Plants and Animals).
(Also see Executive Order 13112 (Invasive Species))
In general, new exotic species will not be introduced into parks. In rare situations, an exotic species may be introduced or maintained to meet specific, identified management needs when all feasible and prudent measures to minimize the risk of harm have been taken and it is
· a closely related race, subspecies, or hybrid of an extirpated native species; or
· an improved variety of a native species in situations in which the natural variety cannot survive current, human-altered environmental conditions; or
· used to control another, already established exotic species; or
· needed to meet the desired condition of a historic resource, but only where it is noninvasive and is prevented from being invasive by such means as cultivating (for plants), or tethering, herding, or pasturing (for animals). In such cases, the exotic species used must be known to be historically significant, to have existed in the park during the park’s period of historical significance, to be a contributing element to a cultural landscape, or to have been commonly used in the local area at that time; or
· an agricultural crop used to maintain the character of a cultural landscape, with rigorous review given to any proposal to introduce a genetically modified organism; or
· necessary to provide for intensive visitor use in developed areas and both of the following conditions exist:
o Available native species will not meet park management objectives.
o The exotic species is managed so it will not spread or become a pest on park or adjacent lands.
· a sterile, noninvasive plant that is used temporarily for erosion control; or
· directed by law or expressed legislative intent.
Domestic livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, horses, mules, burros, reindeer, and llamas are exotic species that are maintained in some parks for commercial herding, pasturing, grazing, or trailing; for recreational use; or for administrative use for maintaining the cultural scene or supporting park operations. The policies applicable to the grazing of commercial domestic livestock are discussed in chapter 8, section 8.6.8. The Service will phase out the commercial grazing of livestock whenever possible and manage recreational and administrative uses of livestock to prevent those uses from unacceptably impacting park resources.
Livestock trespassing on park lands may be impounded and disposed of pursuant to the provisions of 36 CFR 2.60, with the owner charged for expenses incurred. Wild living or feral livestock having no known owner may also be disposed of in accordance with 36 CFR 2.60.
Parks having shared jurisdiction with state fish and wildlife agencies should coordinate with their counterparts in the determination of how a particular animal is classified in that state. Good communication with state and other officials will be fostered to minimize conflicts.
54 U.S. Code § 100752 – Destruction of animals and plant life
The Secretary may provide for the destruction of such animals and plant life as may be detrimental to the use of any System unit.
36 CFR 2.60 § 2.60 Livestock use and agriculture.
(a) The running-at-large, herding, driving across, allowing on, pasturing or grazing of livestock of any kind in a park area or the use of a park area for agricultural purposes is prohibited, except:
(1) As specifically authorized by Federal statutory law; or
(2) As required under a reservation of use rights arising from acquisition of a tract of land; or
(3) As designated, when conducted as a necessary and integral part of a recreational activity or required in order to maintain a historic scene.
(b) Activities authorized pursuant to any of the exceptions provided for in paragraph (a) of this section shall be allowed only pursuant to the terms and conditions of a license, permit or lease. Violation of the terms and conditions of a license, permit or lease issued in accordance with this paragraph is prohibited and may result in the suspension or revocation of the license, permit, or lease.
(c) Impounding of livestock.
(1) Livestock trespassing in a park area may be impounded by the superintendent and, if not claimed by the owner within the periods specified in this paragraph, shall be disposed of in accordance with applicable Federal and State law.
(2) In the absence of applicable Federal or State law, the livestock shall be disposed of in the following manner:
(i) If the owner is known, prompt written notice of impoundment will be served, and in the event of the owner’s failure to remove the impounded livestock within five (5) days from delivery of such notice, it will be disposed of in accordance with this paragraph.
(ii) If the owner is unknown, disposal of the livestock shall not be made until at least fifteen (15) days have elapsed from the date that a notice of impoundment is originally published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the trespass occurs or, if no such newspaper exists, notification is provided by other appropriate means.
(iii) The owner may redeem the livestock by submitting proof of ownership and paying all expenses of the United States for capturing, advertising, pasturing, feeding, impounding, and the amount of damage to public property injured or destroyed as a result of the trespass.
(iv) In determining the claim of the government in a livestock trespass, the value of forage consumed shall be computed at the commercial rates prevailing in the locality for the class of livestock found in trespass. The claim shall include the pro rata salary of employees for the time spent and the expenses incurred as a result of the investigation, reporting, and settlement or prosecution of the claim.
(v) If livestock impounded under this paragraph is offered at public sale and no bid is received, or if the highest bid received is less than the amount of the claim of the United States or of the officer’s appraised value of the livestock, whichever is the lesser amount, such livestock, may be sold at private sale for the highest amount obtainable, condemned and destroyed, or converted to the use of the United States.
Secretary ORDER NO. 3410
Subject: Restoration of American Bison and the Prairie Grasslands
Sec. 1 Purpose. The purpose of this order is to enhance the Department of the Interior’s (Department) work to restore wild and healthy populations of American bison and the prairie grassland ecosystem through collaboration among the Department’s Bureaus and partners such as other federal agencies, states, Tribes, and landowners using the best available science and Indigenous Knowledge.
Sec. 2 Authorities. This order is issued under the authority of section 2 of the Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1950 (64 Stat. 1272), as amended, and other applicable statutory authorities. Other authorities include the numerous ratified treaties and agreements between the United States and federally recognized Indian Tribes, along with the trust obligations owed by the United States to federally recognized Indian Tribes and their citizens.
Sec. 3 Definitions. Under this order, the term “American bison” means all subspecies of bison, also referred to as the American buffalo. The term “grassland,” “grassland ecosystem,” or “prairie grassland” means a landscape where the natural plant community is dominated by grasses that coevolved with bison. “Introgression” means the incidence of cattle genes in bison, owing to the legacy of intentional efforts to cross-breed bison and cattle in the early 1900s. Sec. 4 Background. The American bison – a centerpiece of the Department’s seal and designated as the U.S. National Mammal since 2016 – is inextricably intertwined with grassland
ecology and American culture. The species once numbered 60 million in North America, with the population anchored in what is now the central United States. Many Indigenous cultures, especially in areas where the species was most abundant, developed strong ties with bison and relied upon them for sustenance, shelter, and cultural and religious practices. In the 19th century, bison were nearly driven to extinction through uncontrolled hunting and a U.S. policy of eradication tied to intentional harm against and control of Native American Tribes. By 1889,
only a few hundred wild bison remained.
In addition to depriving Tribes of a critical resource and lifeway, the persecution of bison contributed to the decline of healthy grassland ecosystems and, eventually, to the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s. The loss of the keystone species, coupled with land conversion, led to declines of other important grassland wildlife, such as migratory birds and pollinators. Indigenous peoples have long warned of the harm of removing bison from the land but to little avail.
Beginning in the early 20th century with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, conservationists and scientists made a collective effort to restore the American bison. Since then, careful conservation and restoration efforts have increased the number of wild bison in the United States from fewer than 500 to more than 15,000. While the security of the species is a conservation success worth celebration, bison remain functionally extinct to both grassland systems and the human cultures with which they coevolved. Our attention and efforts must turn
toward the ecocultural restoration of bison as native North American wildlife. Significant conservation work is necessary not only to ensure that bison will remain a viable species but also to restore ecosystem function, strengthen rural economies dependent on grassland health, and provide for the return of bison to Tribally owned and ancestral lands.
The imperative for ecocultural restoration is made even more urgent by climate change.
Warming temperatures exacerbate the pressures on grasslands, with historic droughts, wildfires, and invasive species threatening the grassland ecosystems and the communities they support.
The best science shows that returning bison to grasslands can enhance soil development, restore native plants and wildlife, and promote carbon sequestration, thereby providing benefits for agriculture, outdoor recreation, and Tribes. In addition, restoring bison and healthy grasslands can serve as a step toward national healing and reconciliation after centuries of federal policies designed to erase Native people and their cultures.
Of the approximately 15,000 wild bison in the United States, the Department manages 11,000 bison in herds across 4.6 million acres of U.S. public lands in 12 states. The Yellowstone National Park herd is the largest at approximately 4,800 animals. Most herds contain between 300 and 500 bison. Tribes have collectively restored an additional 20,000 healthy bison on Tribal lands, particularly in the Northern Great Plains and Intermountain states.
Federal herds are managed by individual system units (e.g., national parks and national wildlife refuges) but the overall conservation strategy is coordinated across the Department’s bureaus through the Bison Conservation Initiative (BCI). The BCI was created in 2008, renewed in 2020, and is led by the Bison Working Group (BWG). The BCI represents nearly two decades of concerted coordination, investments in science-based management, and partnership development to advance the conservation of American bison. This includes working closely with stakeholders to promote herd health and to manage risks that diseases in bison may present.
Prior accomplishments serve as valuable touchstones and guidance for coordinated development of conservation approaches. Through this order, the Department builds on those accomplishments and reaffirms the commitment to the five goals of the BCI: wild and healthy bison herds, genetic conservation, shared stewardship, ecological restoration of grasslands, and cultural restoration.
Sec. 5 A Framework for Restoring a Wild and Healthy Bison Population.
a. A formal Charter for the Department’s Bison Working Group (BWG) is hereby
established (see Appendix I). All five bureaus with bison equities – the National
Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Bureau of
Indian Affairs (BIA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS) – will each identify one representative to serve on the
BWG. Additionally, a seat on the working group shall be reserved for a Tribal
b. Within 120 days of this order, the BWG will initiate formal Tribal consultation
toward development of a Department Bison Shared Stewardship Plan. The plan
will establish a comprehensive framework for American bison restoration,
including strengthening long-term bison conservation partnerships. The
Stewardship Plan will describe the Department’s engagement with states, Tribes,
landowners, and non-governmental conservation partners, and identify specific
opportunities for the Department to lead or support the establishment of additional
wide-ranging, healthy, and brucellosis-free, bison herds on federal and Tribal
lands. A draft plan should be completed by December 31, 2023. The plan will
adhere to the following principles:
(1) Pursue restoration of wide-ranging herds on large landscapes to support
ecological and cultural restoration by facilitating discussion among federal
agencies, Tribes, states, and other partners.
(2) Collaborate with states, Tribes, landowners, conservationists, and other
interested parties toward shared bison stewardship that respects livestock
health, private property rights, Tribal sovereignty, and state interests in
(3) Ensure bison herd management is informed by the best available science,
including Indigenous Knowledge and adaptive management techniques,
and engage with scientific and Indigenous partners to fulfill natural,
cultural, and human dimensions information needs.
(4) Prioritize Tribally led opportunities to establish new, large herds owned or
managed by Tribes and Tribally led organizations, and advance shared
stewardship with Tribes on Federal land.
(5) Manage bison health to address the risks that disease in bison may pose to
human health, domestic animals, or other wildlife, and advance
application of low-stress handling principles.
(6) Restore and manage wild bison as native wildlife, and promote high levels
of bison genetic diversity and minimize cattle introgression.
c. Within 120 days of this order:
(1) BWG will begin work on a strategy, led by USGS, to ensure the long-term
conservation of genetic diversity of federal bison and identify optimal
approaches for populating new, healthy herds of wild bison. Because
most bison on Federal lands live in relatively small, isolated, range restricted herds, managing these populations as one single connected population will help restore effective gene flow among these bison herds,
through translocation of bison, while minimizing cattle introgression. The
strategy will be developed using the best available science with flexibility
to incorporate new types of genetic data. A draft strategy should be
completed by December 31, 2023.
(2) BIA will establish a Bison Management Apprenticeship program, in
collaboration with NPS, FWS, and the BWG. Tribes that manage bison
herds on their own lands or through co-stewardship agreements will
benefit from training and knowledge sharing to support talent and capacity
in their communities, including opportunities for hands-on experience
supported by parks and refuges. The apprenticeship program will include
opportunities for Tribal youth to work at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
refuges and national parks and learn a variety of bison management
practices. Program development will include Tribal engagement and
could include partnerships with Tribes, states, foundations, and non-profit
d. Within 90 days of this order, NPS will initiate discussions with Tribes and other
conservation partners on developing a plan to increase quarantine capacity for
bison from Yellowstone National Park to undergo disease testing in order to
further increase both shared stewardship and the number of live bison transferred
e. BWG members will actively pursue bison restoration on Federal and Tribal lands
where appropriate, support partner restoration efforts as authorities and resources
allow, pursue opportunities with partner agencies for bison restoration on lands
they manage, and allocate funding for BCI staff support, Shared Stewardship Plan
development, science, and on-the-ground conservation action. Funding
opportunities provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation
Reduction Act, and other sources as appropriate, will provide initial investments
for priorities identified in the Shared Stewardship Plan, and may support
additional bison habitat restoration, reintroduction, and necessary facilities work.
Sec. 7 Implementation. The Secretary is responsible for implementation of all aspects of this Order, in coordination with the BCI. This responsibility may be delegated as appropriate. This Order does not alter or affect any existing duty or authority of individual bureaus. Sec. 8 Effect of the Order. This Order is intended to improve the internal management of the Department. This Order and any resulting report or recommendation are not intended to, and do not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity by a party
against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person. To the extent there is any inconsistency between the provisions of this Order and any Federal laws or regulations, the laws or regulations will control.
Sec. 9 Effective Date. This Order is effective immediately and will remain in effect until it is amended, superseded, or revoked, whichever occurs first.
Secretary of the Interior
Date: March 3, 2023