Montana bison transfers face courtroom test

Billings, Montana (AP) April 2012

The return of wild bison to tribal lands in northeast Montana will be challenged in state court by opponents seeking to block further relocations of the animals.

Judge John McKeon has scheduled a hearing in Chinook over whether the relocations should be allowed.

More than 60 bison from Yellowstone National Park were relocated to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in March.

Half are slated to be transferred to the Fort Belknap Reservation, but property rights groups, ranchers and some state lawmakers are lined up in opposition.

They say bison could spread disease, knock down fences and eat hay meant for cattle.

State officials including Gov. Brian Schweitzer support the return of bison to lands they occupied until overhunting almost wiped out the species in the 19th century.