Yellowstone National Park, in northwest Wyoming, is home to a herd of about 3,600 free-roaming bison. Some of these bison routinely attempt to migrate from the park in the winter. Livestock owners and public officials in states bordering the park have concerns about the bison leaving the park because many are infected with brucellosis--a contagious bacterial disease that some fear could be transmitted to cattle, thus potentially threatening the economic health of the states' livestock industry. Other interested groups believe that the bison should be allowed to roam freely both within and outside the park. In an effort to address these concerns, five federal and Montana state agencies agreed to an Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) in December 2000 that includes three main steps to "maintain a wild, free-ranging population of bison and address the risk of brucellosis transmission to protect the economic interest and viability of the livestock industry in Montana." This testimony discusses GAO's preliminary observations on the progress that has been made in implementing the IBMP and the extent to which bison have access to lands and an easement acquired for $13 million in federal funds. It is based on GAO's visit to the greater Yellowstone area, interviews with federal and state officials and other interested stakeholders, and review of related documents.
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