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Yellowstone National Park Case Study

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The Problem

The bison of Yellowstone National Park have been a controversial issue since man moved westward. The bison are a prime example of the tragedy of the commons, meaning that because they were not managed, they became extinct rather quickly. It was rapidly realized that the number of bison was decreasing to near extinction when fewer than 1,000 remained. Management practices improved, and the number of bison is nearly 500,000 today. However, many of these bison are not pure bred; the only pure bison that remain live in and around Yellowstone National Park. These particular bison require modified management practices not only because they roam within a national park, but because they roam outside of the park and interact with cattle
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The groups involved will remain largely displeased until they feel as if all of their management wishes are being satisfied. This is simply not feasible, so a compromise must be made that satisfies the scientific needs, as well as the historical and cultural needs. Truly the best way to measure the effectiveness of bison management is to look at the size and health of the herd. If the size of the herd remains at a manageable level for the ecosystem, and there is no increase in the number of cases of brucellosis in bison, elk, and cattle in and around the park, the management could be deemed successful. One other thing to watch would be the size of the Montana cattle industry- although this fluctuates from year to year, it could provide good insight into the health of cattle herds around the park. Public opinion would also be another good measurement of the success of the bison management. Those throughout the state of Montana and around the part have very strong opinions on the bison throughout Yellowstone, and getting a representative sample could be a good indication of the success of the policy, as policy is designed to serve the people and their
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