Montana's top wildlife official is scaling back expectations for a statewide bison conservation plan following backlash from ranchers opposed to restoring the animals to parts of their historical habitat.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener told The Associated Press Wednesday that a pilot project to restore a small herd of 50 to 100 bison is a potential first step.
That compares with an earlier proposal that would have established a new herd of roughly 1,000 bison as a way to help preserve the animals' genetics.
Hagener says he hopes to compile a range of new alternatives before the Legislature meets in January. Timing on a final decision is uncertain.
State officials last week cancelled a bison meeting in Lewistown after ranchers pledged to protest the event.