Schweitzer Considering Opting OUT of the Interagency Brucellosis MOU

by jhwygirl

The Jackson Hole News and Guide gives us the details on Schweitzer’s letter to the USDA, which criticizes Wyoming’s practice of operating elk feedgrounds and Bridger-Teton National Forest’s recent approval of renewing state leases on the National Forest.

“Despite long-standing acknowledgement of the problem, it now appears that Wyoming Game and Fish and the USDA are the only two entities who believe these feedgrounds are not a major contributing factor to the Greater Yellowstone Area being the last remaining reservoir for brucellosis in the nation,” Schweitzer said in the letter.

“Montana had done everything in its power to prevent the transmission of brucellosis to its cattle herd,” he said. “Meanwhile, USDA has insisted upon application of antiquated herd-to-herd regulations for disease transmission in cattle that have nothing to do with transmission from wildlife. As a result, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming at best continue to experience a yo-yo effect with respect to brucellosis status. At worst, the net effect is a permanent loss of status.”

“The Forest Service has taken a firm step to continue franchising the feeding of elk, while [USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services] continues to employ outdated, inapplicable and heavy-handed regulations, and threatens the state with loss of its brucellosis status.”

The Governor’s letter goes to to say that he is considering opting out of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee (GYIBC) memorandum of understanding:

“I am questioning the wisdom of signing this document, when it has not been demonstrated to me that all parties are truly committed to finding realistic solutions.”

Conservation groups have sued to stop the feedgrounds, so needless to say, they are pleased with the Governor’s position.

Considering opting out of the GYIBC MOU is certainly an option that needs to be very seriously considered. Slaughtering bison is not the solution. Not in any way. Montana can not participate in the slaughter of wildlife as a reasonable practice for managing brucellosis.

The GYIBC’s members include the Wyoming Game & Fish, the USDA Forest Service, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service – all agencies which manage, promote and/or have feedgrounds on the lands they manage.

Consider the GYIBC’s goal:

It is the Goal of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee to protect and sustain the existing free-ranging elk and bison populations in the Greater Yellowstone Area and protect the public interests and economic viability of the livestock industry in the States of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

Given the GYIBC’s goal, its members, and their actions, the Governor has no choice: Opt Out – Now.


  1. Rimrock

    Good.
    Best news I’ve heard all day.

  2. JC

    But most likely hollow threat.

  3. I don’t know, JC.

    I think a line in the sand has been drawn, and rightfully so. You can’t have the USFS and Wyoming talking one way and walking another. And considering it’s official – the state is succinctly saying that the two brucellosis outbreaks were from elk – I don’t know how or why he’d back away from this.

    Montana clearly isn’t going to round up elk and send them off to slaughter – and that treatment of bison got them what? Loss of a brucellosis-free status?

    Read the story – the state veterinarian Zaluski is suggesting that ranchers move their stock away from elk, blah blah blah – why shouldn’t those same management techniques apply to bison.

    One more year of bison slaughter, given the clear facts and acknowledgments by the state, and there will be a PR nightmare next winter. We’d look like fools run by lunatics.

  4. JC

    I’m not going to argue that parties to the GYIBC aren’t working at cross purposes here. That’s pretty obvious. Or that Schweitzer may or not follow through with his threat. I don’t happen to think that his threat, as pertaining only to feedgrounds is a particularly compelling reason to follow through with it.

    But the GYIBC is just a coordinating and advising organization between the agencies. It has basically no powers to do anything on its own, management-wise. A threat to withdraw from the group by Schweitzer, while it may sound like he’s getting tough, really won’t accomplish much.

    What needs to happen is that the IBMP (Interagency Bison Management Plan) needs to be revisited. It has been a total failure. Many of the GYIBC members are signatories to the IBMP, though IBMP management direction does not include elk and feedlots. It doesn’t address elk at all.

    I’ve always maintained that the IBMP (stretching all the way back to early 90’s and the precursor plans) needed to be rebranded as a brucellosis management plan. And that in order to manage brucellosis in the greater Yellowstone area, all aspects had to be on the table.

    Of course, the issue of elk and feedlots were not included because it wasn’t politically feasible at the time to take on hunting interests and agencies that were working to maintain and advance hunting opportunities. The IBMP danced around those interests (most of them anyways–not all were swayed by the smoke and mirrors).

    But with the current status now pointing to elk as causative vectors with the recent outbreaks, and the murmurs among hunting interests starting to show some concern, the status quo will change in a hurry. While buffalo had their protective followers and outcries, it is nothing like what will happen once elk begin to get targeted by a variety of management techniques that are going to result.

    If Schweitzer is going to use Montana’s participation in the GYIBC as leverage, he’d be better off calling for the IBMP to be revised, instead of just calling for a piecemeal approach to including elk management in the brucellosis issue. That’s just going to open a can of worms–and lawsuits, like were already seeing.

    I smell a lawsuit pending against the IBMP–I just can’t pinpoint who will carry it yet. It needs to be challenged and scrapped. Then all the parties can begin anew by restructuring the problem as one that focusses on brucellosis management, and that takes an ecosystem approach and considers all angles. And that includes a ton of new research that has been developed over the last 10 years since the Plan was initiated. And includes the changing “conditions on the ground.”

  1. 1 Montana Department of Livestock: Criminals « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Schweitzer? You threatened to pull out of the interagency bison management plan last July. The time is now. Stop the insanity. Stop the waste of state funds. Stop this cruel […]




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