DENVER — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has completed a 90-day finding of three petitions to designate and list a Yellowstone bison Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the Plains bison (Bison bison bison) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in portions of Wyoming and Montana as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service finds that the petitions present substantial, credible information indicating that a listing action may be warranted and will initiate a comprehensive status review of the potential DPS to determine if ESA protections are warranted.
The Plains bison is a subspecies of the American bison (Bison bison) historically found from central Canada to northern Mexico, nearly from coast-to-coast. Primarily abundant on the Great Plains, this species was eliminated from many areas of the country by the early 1800s. Following conservation efforts by landowners, Tribes, state, federal, and other partners, today, there are more than 400,000 Plains bison.
Under the ESA, a DPS is a population of a vertebrate species or subspecies. All three petitions requested that a Yellowstone bison DPS of the Plains bison be designated in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Based on the information provided by petitioners, the Service finds that this may be a listable entity and will further evaluate the validity of the DPS as part of the status assessment.
The Service finds the petitioners present substantial information that listing the Yellowstone bison DPS as threatened or endangered under the ESA may be warranted. The petitioners presented credible information to indicate potential threats to the DPS from reductions of its range due to loss of migration routes, lack of tolerance for bison outside Yellowstone National Park, and habitat loss. Petitioners also provided information suggesting that regulatory mechanisms (in the form of management actions intended to address disease, provided for in the Interagency Bison Management Plan), overutilization, disease, and loss of genetic diversity may pose further threats. The Service will fully evaluate potential threats as part of the status assessment.
Substantial 90-day findings require only that the petitioner provide information that the proposed action may be warranted. The next step is to conduct an in-depth status review and analysis using the best available science and information to arrive at a 12-month finding on whether listing is warranted. If listing the potential DPS is found to be warranted, the Service would then conduct a separate rulemaking process with public notice and comment.
The public can play an essential role in the status review by submitting relevant information to inform the status review through regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS–R6–ES–2022–0028. This information period will open upon publication in the Federal Register on June 6, 2022.