Archive for the ‘Brucellosis’ Category

Airing: Thursday April 28th, 7pm on Montana PBS


Our byline here at 4&20 references “politics and culture” and perhaps nowhere else is the clash between politics and culture better illuminated than in documentary.

High Plains Films, in its own words “dedicates itself to exploring issues about the relationship between nature and society.” With almost 30 films under its belt, and 35 national awards to its credit, High Plains Films newest feature–nearly 10 years in the making from inception to final cut–will air Thursday April 28th on Montana PBS at 7pm. The 78 minute documentary will be shown in its entirety.

The film is the result of the collaboration of diverse Montana talent, and is an ITVS/Montana PBS co-production.

High Plains Films is located in Missoula, Montana and has been producing documentaries for almost 20 years. You can learn all about them by visiting their recently redeveloped website, which is chock-full of video trailers, clips, deleted and extra scenes, interviews and accompanying information about their 30 films. Much of the footage shown is in spectacular HD! Spend some time wading through the material and exploring their window on the world, and you’ll see a whole ‘nother exposition of many, many issues.

There are several short documentaries shown in their entirety in addition to some sample scenes from works-in-progress like Two Rivers, a film about the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers, and the impact decades of mining and a dam had on its ecology and nearby residents.

There is an illuminating and articulate 20+ minute interview with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer about the bison/brucellosis issue, as well as a tribute piece to Buffalo Field Campaign activist Brian “Frog” Gharst, and an amazing short clip showing a golden eagle harrassing a deer. Facing the Storm also includes original stop-motion animations from Missoula’s Andy Smetanka, and an original score from Ivan Rosenberg.

The new HPF site was designed by UM School of Media Arts professor Greg Twigg and constructed by a local developer. The HPF website also offers free music downloads from film scores and other original material from Ned Mudd, Aaron Parrett and Ivan Rosenberg. There is a stock-footage library being constructed where High Plains FIlms can showcase much of its thousands of hours of footage.

Check out the documentary this thursday, and spend some time exploring their new site when you have some free time!

hpf site


Governor Schweitzer issued an Executive Order yesterday halting the importation of bison into Montana. This action is in direct response to the National Park Service’s capture and holding of 525 bison in capture facilities within the Park.

The AP, in an article in the Billings Gazette, frames the story this way:

“Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer blocked the impending slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone National Park bison on Tuesday, in a surprise move intended to spark an overhaul of how the federal government deals with the iconic but disease-plagued animals.

Schweitzer signed an executive order to prohibit the importation of park bison into Montana for 90 days. That effectively blocks all potential routes out of the park to slaughter plants in Montana and neighboring states.

The Democratic governor told The Associated Press that he was worried the shipments could spread brucellosis to Montana livestock. And he said he was sending a message to federal officials in Washington, D.C. to rein in a diseased bison population that regularly spills out of the park and into Montana.

In the interim, Schweitzer suggested the park bring in loads of hay to feed 525 bison captured so far this winter [and held at Stephens Creek,] after trying to migrate out of the snow-packed park in search of food at lower elevations.

“More than anything else, this is a direct signal to the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. to get their hat screwed on right and manage this bison population,” Schweitzer said. “Their plan is, when there gets to be a lot of snow, buffalo will go into Montana and then somebody else will have to deal with it.”

Of course, the immediate ramification of Schweitzer’s actions is that captured bison have been given a reprieve from being slaughtered, hopefully to be released in the spring when heavy snow conditions abate in the Park.

Schweitzer’s actions comes on the heel of a lawsuit brought by the Buffalo Field Campaign and others trying to get an injunction on the pending slaughter. That lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Charles Lovell a few days ago. Judge Lovell is a retired federal judge and longtime curmudgeon and thorn in the side of bison advocates, who has ruled against bison 100% of the time.

Buffalo Field Campaign’s habitat coordinator, Darrell Geist, had this to say about the Governor’s action in a press release sent out yesterday:

“We, the people, have stopped the slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo before it has begun! I am at a loss for words.

The effect and outcome of Governor Schweitzer’s order is the National Park Service cannot use any of Montana’s gateway communities as exit points to ship buffalo now held in traps inside Yellowstone National Park to slaughter houses…

There is a lot of hard work ahead to make large cores of habitat and corridors available for America’s last wild buffalo herd to roam. That is our next step, it must happen, we the people can do it. For now, you should dance a little buffalo jig, and give thanks to everyone who has worked very hard to make this happen. Thanks for all you do, for the wild buffaloes.”

So the battle for habitat outside Yellowstone National Park for wild buffalo continues, with the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of bison on the line caught in a crossfire between federal, state and livestock interests. And at the forefront, Buffalo Field Campaign continues its relentless observance of these events both on the frontlines, and in the courtroom, advocating for wild bison, and the habitat they need in Montana on which to roam.

Send them your support if you can, and let your state reps and others know that you stand with the buffalo and BFC in the quest to bring some sanity and  a resolution to this senseless slaughter and management quagmire that has been going on for decades.

baby buffalo in Yellowstone


Well, as long as it is PSA Tuesday, I’ll throw in my favorite event of the week! I hope you all can turn out wednesday night for the premiere screening of Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison.

I’ll have to admit that this PSA comes with a bit of personal investment. I have seen the rough cuts for this documentary, and it is a kick ass, definitive production! There are also many friends of mine in the video, and the production team includes many Missoulians, with the documentary being produced right here in Missoula by our own High Plains Films. I also may have a little bit of my own time invested in both the production and issue, too… So hop on down to the Wilma and check it out!


Montana Premiere of FACING THE STORM: STORY OF THE AMERICAN BISON. New documentary feature highlights the abundance and breadth of local Montana talent

Where: Wilma Theater, 131 S. Higgins Avenue, Missoula, Montana
When: Wednesday October 6, 2010 @ 7 pm Tickets: $8

High Plains Films presents the Montana premiere of FACING THE STORM: STORY OF THE AMERICAN BISON, an ITVS/Montana PBS co-production. The film also had local support from Humanities Montana. The screening is a fund-raising event for Missoula’s Big Sky Film Institute (parent organization for High Plains Films & the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival). The feature documentary is the result of the collaboration of diverse Montana talent. Review copies are available on request.

Full Press Release below the fold. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Update: I have turned off comments to this post.

Please consider this an open thread.

I’m a volcano/Yellowstone/earthquake/geology geek. Geek may be the wrong word, but whatever. This is the coolest thing. Then there’s the video 3-D imagery showing the plume, which can be found here. Wild stuff.

Seem like someone has finally decided to give the Kootenai sturgeon some water. That would be a good thing. Here is where the sturgeon survive today:

If you click on the pic, you get a report that includes some interesting how-did-we-get-here information. NewWest has a great article with more information on the current situation surrounding the sturgeon.

Former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfield has bought a ranch in the Big Hole.

I’ve actually pondered this recent situation in Helena, wondering whether that sort of thing’d be a problem. Apparently it is.

Them teenagers in Helena sure seem to get in to a whole lot of trouble, don’t they?

Don’t miss this shocking post from Mark Tokarski.

Just to be clear, it’s the “there, I said it,” part that is shocking. NOT.

I read this and I think this is harassment of the homeless. I mean – does this town allow its citizens to lock up its bikes? What is the point in fining him?

Now, here’s a class act, NOT.

I can’t get why people like her. I get the sense that at a party, I’d want to avoid her..

Our Governor has been on, quite frankly, a roll. First, as guestnote speaker for the Montana Stockgrowers Association meeting in Billings last week, Schweitzer took a big ole’ jab at the leadership, telling its 2,000 members (over dinner) that they “don’t always act” in their best interests. That, after making peace with them a while back.

Then Schweitzer blocked payment of some mis-appropriated funds to Kalispell-based Swank Enterprises, a long-time generous supporter of the Montana GOP’s latest felon, Sen. Barkus. Schweitzer’s taking the late-minute insertion into the state’s budget bill quite literally – using the words “up to” in “up to $600,000” quite literally, and saying he’ll get nothing.

Now, I’ve no love for the Stockgrower’s Association, nor Barkus – so reading these had me, quite frankly, laughing. Pretty damned bold. But then I read this, where he brags to the Stockgrowers that he’d “sent more bison to slaughter than any other governor,” which only leaves me shaking my head, reminded that slaughtering wildlife for no frickin’ reason is one of his several UNendearing qualities.

Way to go.

Speaking of “way to go” and Sen. Barkus, seems they guy wants all his felonies dismissed.

My thoughts? Hey – a guy can dream. I’m also sure Rep. Rehberg is just thrilled to have Barkus eeking out every delay possible, especially when you consider the possibility of Rehberg’s subpoena increasing looking like it will be coinciding right smack-dab in the middle of his 2010 re-election campaign. Whee!

by jhwygirl

Disgusting. Shameful. Reprehensible.

Montana’s complicity in this is beyond any possible justification. I don’t know how to express more disgust.

Montana Department of Livestock officials are in full attack mode at Horse Butte this week, “managing” bison, and the Buffalo Field Campaign has several videos exposing the reprehensible activities of these state-paid officials harassing wild Yellowstone bison on conservation easement land near West Yellowstone.

If you or I or any rancher were to manage their livestock this way, we’d be arrested.

Watch this video as helicopters swoop low over bison with their young calves. Watch as a cow bison protects her calf, struggling with a broken leg – injured as a result of the Department of Livestock’s air and ground assault – from further harassment by a Department of Livestock official on horse.

Rob and Janae Galanis bought 800 acres on Horse Butte in 2007 with the intention of preserving as much open space for bison as financially possible. Horse Butte has always been a gathering area in the spring for bison, and Galanis was well aware of the history of the Montana Department of Livestock entering the area to harass bison. He sought to bring an end to that.

In 2007 Galanis told the Department of Livestock that he intends to file trespass charges against the department should they enter the property. I wish he would, on the grounds that the current plan is no plan at all – that overwhelming evidence both in Montana and Wyoming show that managing bison has no effect on halting brucellosis transmission and that until an effective plan is in place, entering onto his property under the guise of “management” is nothing more than fraud.

Fraud. Criminal.

Brucellosis has been found in both Montana and Wyoming in the last year – and Montana lost its brucellosis-free status last June after two cases were found in the space of one year.

Horse Butte is isolated, and no cattle graze there.

Brucellosis is transmitted by body fluids – and bison are hazed under an assumption that the afterbirth leaves brucellosis virus in areas where cattle graze. The problem with that “logic” (and I use that term facetiously) is that bison birth from mid-April through mid-May. Cattle can’t utilized public grazing lands until mid-June. By then the afterbirth has been returned back to nature by the activities of coyotes and ravens and eagles who feed on those remains.

Bulls can not transmit brucellosis

Governor 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 embarrassment now.

(There’s plenty more written on these pages about the insanity of the state’s brucellosis management. Start here.)

by jhwygirl

Just last week Wyoming and Idaho slammed federal plans to created a special brucellosis management plan around Yellowstone National Park. Their letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the plan was “hastily contrived” plan would allow the government to “walk away from the issue forever”, without getting rid of the disease.

Idaho, the state that had elk farms? Elk that got loose and have intermingled with wild elk?

Wyoming? Wyoming that operates its own feedgrounds? And champions the federal feed ground that border Grand Teton National Park, which borders Yellowstone National Park, which borders Montana (which has lost its brucellosis-free status)?

Really? You want federal welfare, forever, because of your poor wildlife management decisions even while you continue those poor wildlife management decisions?

Let’s say this real slowly for you all down there in Cheyenne: Brucellosis Can Not Be Eliminated While You Continue To Feed Elk.

Wyoming? You really should know that already…..

I’ve blogged a whole hell of a lot on this brucellosis issue – most recently on recent legislation, and you don’t have to scroll too far down to see posts like So Hey DOL, When Do We Start Slaughtering Elk?….in case you need some background.

July of last year, Governor Schweitzer criticized Wyoming’s operation of feedgrounds. Looks like he has another opportunity to offer some more constructive criticism – this time, to the feds for their operation of the National Elk Refuge.

Just how much money has the State of Montana lost due to the loss of its brucellosis-free status? How much money have Montana ranchers lost?

An April 29th story in the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that the National Elk Refuge is proposing to increase forage on the refuge by irrigating 3,400 additional acres. And environmental assessment – released on the 27th – is out for comment. Comments can be sent to National Elk Refuge, Attention Irrigation EA, P.O. Box 510, Jackson Wyoming 83001 or with “Irrigation EA” in the subject line.

But an April 28th story reports on $3.2 million going to the refuge for the irrigation project.

So let’s see – how does this work? Weren’t stimulus projects supposed to be “shovel ready”?

Or does releasing the EA the day before cash-fairy Interior Secretary Salazar announces the $3.2 million for said irrigation project make it “shovel ready”?

Is an EA sufficient analysis for irrigation 3,400 acres of federal ground? When the purpose of irrigation is to feed wildlife? When the area being irrigated is adjacent to a National Park

Honest to God – why do we even have laws anymore? NEPA? SCHMEPA.

What are people thinking?

And now the feds are condoning feedgrounds? Expanding them?

You gotta wonder.

by jhwygirl

SB337 has already had its hearing in the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks committee last week, on the 19th. What it has not had is an executive action.

This bill has also already passed the Senate on a 31-19 vote.

This is an absolutely horribly unreasonable piece of legislation that would prevent the transfer of quarantined, disease-free buffalo – currently in pens near Gardiner, Montana – to any place in Montana other than the tiny National Bison Range located within the boundaries of the Flathead Reservation.

SB 337 needs to die in committee. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks opposes SB 337, saying that if it becomes law, the quarantined, disease-fee buffalo “will likely be slaughtered.”

SB 337 is based on a load of unfounded crap – sorry there Sen. John Brendan. Bison have not been the culprit of Montana’s loss in status as brucellosis-free….and that is something I’ve been saying for years and getting slammed (at least not that long ago) by people who have ignored and continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence that elk are the problem.hal

SB 337 disrespects the tribes. Montana’s American Indian tribes on the eastern side of the state have attempted to – for 4 years now – relocate these animals to reservations throughout the state, only to be stopped because of unreasonable and unfounded fears. This has got to stop.

Until – and honestly, I don’t imagine how it is going to happen – elk are eliminated from co-mingling with livestock herds around brucellosis-central (that being Yellowstone National Park), brucellosis is going to be a threat. Until the Feds quit feeding elk down there in Jackson Wyoming on the National Elk Refuge and the adjacent National Forests, brucellosis is going to be a threat. Until the State of Wyoming quits feeding elk in its own feedgrounds, brucellosis is going to be an issue.

See what I’m saying? Feed elk and you breed brucellosis. Breed brucellosis in Wyoming, and you cause brucellosis to perpetuate itself anywhere those elk travel.

Please take a moment tomorrow to call the legislative information desk – soon, because as I mentioned, this unreasonable bill really needs to just die a death in committee, and having had it’s hearing last week, executive action is pending any day now. The lines open at 7:30. The number is 406-444-4800, and all you have to do is leave a message for the House Fish, Wildlife & Parks committee, for SB 337, telling the committee to please vote NO.

by jhwygirl

On Thursday, January 29, the House Fish, Wildlife & Parks committee will hear HB253, the Wild Buffalo Recovery and Conservation Act, propose by Rep. Mike Phillips and Rep. Ted Washburn, both of Bozeman.

The House FWP committee meets at 3 p.m.

HB253 is a bipartisan bill which would essentially transfer management of bison from the Department of Livestock, where their method of slaughter-slaughter-slaughter has been both an embarrassment and a colosal failure, to Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and into the hands of wildlife professionals.

I have blogged about brucellosis and the horrible failings of the Department of Livestock (‘encouraged’ by the Montana Stockgrower’s Association) many times. Montana has lost its brucellosis-free status under the tutelage of the misguided management of bison by the DOI. It took two cases of brucellosis in the space of 2 years for Montana to lose its brucellosis-free status. Both cases of brucellosis were the result of transmission by elk to domesticated cattle.

Now, it’s been ludicrous to suggest that bison are a problem. The fact is that the only known cases of transmission of brucellosis to domesticated animals – be it cattle or horses – have come from elk. In the 12 years or more that I’ve been following this issue, I’ve yet to hear of bison being the cause of such transmission, yet while elk roam freely, bison are slaughtered in the name of “management.”

There are 3 goals to HB253:

1.Restore buffalo as “valued, native wildlife in the state of Montana.”

2.Restore Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ authority for management of wild bison including fair chase, public hunting

3.Ensure private property rights and livestock are protected, by maintaining cooperation with the Department of Livestock at MCA 81-2-121.

Bison are part of western heritage – and part of Montana’s heritage. We do our state a great service – and the nation – by recognizing this. Property rights must be protected. That means everyone’s – cattlegrowers – around the state.

Please take the time to contact the members of the House FWP committee, including chairman Kendall Van Dyke. Let them know that brucellosis management must both realistic and solution oriented; that bison are a valuable part of Montana and the west’s heritage, and that proper management can be an asset to all interested parties. This year-to-year slaughter endangers the genetic diversity of America’s largest, genetically pure and truly wild buffalo herd. It has to stop.

Kendall Van Dyk (Chair) –
Gordon Hendrick (Vice Chair) –
Dave McAlpin (Vice Chair) –
Dick Barrett =
Paul Beck – no email listed
Joel Boniek – no email listed
Frosty Boss
Mike Miller – no email listed
Jesse O’Hara – no email listed
Jeffrey Welborn – no email listed.

Doug Sternberg is the staffer – please copy him on any correspondence – his email is

You can also call. Call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for as many as five legislators or one legislative committee per call. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

The Session Information Desk is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

You can also use the online message form.

Remember – this hearing is Thursday. Let these committee members know that sane bison management and a reasonable brucellosis management plan can be accomplished. Together and mutually.

by jhwygirl

Back just before the election, the Bush Administration announced it would be creating a 2nd interagency group for bison management. That happened on October 29th, and I have to say I was perplexed. The announcement was cryptic – it didn’t really explain whether it was related to the Yellowstone/Montana/Wyoming issues concerning brucellosis – and beyond that, to manage the genetic diversity of bison, the government – whether it be the State of Montana or the Federal Government – can’t be out there sanctioning widespread slaughter of bison under the current interagency bison management plan while another group is out there supposedly trying to preserve genetic diversity.

I wasn’t the only one confused.

In other developments…

Montana FWP has extended the comment period for its draft environmental assessment that would establish a 30-year grazing restriction and bison access agreement with the Royal Teton Ranch outside of Gardiner Montana. The agreement would allow grazing of bison on the ranch, at a cost of $300,000. Bison that leave the park, and often end up on the ranch, would be spared slaughter.

Because slaughtering bison, you know, to manage brucellosis, makes sense, don’t you know?

I mean – just the title of the interagency agreement – the Interagency Bison Management Plan – shows the ignorance in addressing the problem the agreement was initiated to address……

…but I digress….

Meanwhile, on the west side of the park, near West Yellowstone, an agreement is being hammered out that would allow bison to graze near what was the site of last years capture-n-take-’em-to-slaughter facility at Horse Butte. A series of meetings held between state and federal officials over the last few months is expected to result in a formal adoption of the plan next month in Helena. The result would be that bison should be able to roam in and out of the park without slaughter.

Horse Butte is pretty important for bison and preserving their genetic diversity

Still more….

Montana’s state veterinarian Marty Zaluski announced that the governor’s plan to establish a special management zone around the park, designed to restore Montana’s brucellosis-free status and reduce livestock testing costs state-wide, is garnering nationwide support.

Five American Indian groups are seeking to obtain a herd of about 40 bison that have been held in captivity since this past spring – bison that left the park boundaries. These bison have been repeatedly tested, but have not shown signs of brucellosis. The genetics of the Yellowstone bison – Bison bison – are considered superior, and the 5 groups want to use this herd to help bolster the genetics of their own herds who graze amongst domestic cattle. The tribes have until the end of November to submit plans.

Wyoming, which had a cow test positive for brucellosis this past June, has been spared losing its brucellosis- free status. All cattle and adjacent herds that had been tested have been clean.

Anyways..there it is folks – if you got more information, please add it to the comments. I’m cautiously optimistic that the lunacy massive slaughter that we saw of bison last winter may not have to occur this upcoming winter.

How these steps will affect ranchers – both in management and cost – I’ve yet to see much in terms of specifics. The idea of having that second management zone was to isolate costs. How that will translate to what it will mean – or won’t – to those ranchers is at question…and I’m betting I’m not the only one wondering.

Maybe the state can take the money it spent in snowmobiles and labor and gas and pre-mix and trucks and capture facilities and every other bit of the nonsense and put it onto funding the vaccination program that would be imminent.

by jhwygirl

Certainly regular readers will remember my outrage here last year regarding the bison slaughter in Montana, outside of Yellowstone National Park, all in the the name of managing brucellosis. There are 9 previous posts, which you can get to by simply putting “brucellosis” in the little nifty search we’ve got over there on the right.

An environmental impact statement (EIS) – the highest level of NEPA review – was issued by the USFS in July by Bridger-Teton National Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton sanctioning, for 20 more years, elk feedgrounds within said National Forest. At the time, the Good Governor Schweitzer fired off a letter criticizing the decision, saying “Montana had done everything in its power to prevent the transmission of brucellosis to its cattle herd. 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.”

There were, apparently, two appeals to Hamilton’s decision – and in a news brief from Jackson Hole Radio’s Tom Ninnemann gives us the news that Schweitzer was one of the appellants to the EIS. From October 21st:

The Forest Service announced Friday its decision to uphold authorization of National Forest Land to be used for winter elk management activities by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. Regional Forester Harv Forsgren upheld the decision made by Kniffy Hamilton, Bridger-Teton Forest Supervisor, after reviewing two appeals received on the issue. Among those speaking out against the activities was Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. The Forest Service decision is to issue a 20 year special use authorization at five of the seven locations. The decision did not include two of the feedground areas because further information is required. Supplemental feeding of elk has been conducted in northwestern Wyoming since the early 1900s.

Finally, some good common sense is prevailing in the issue.

Schweitzer addressed the issue during the Butte gubernatorial debate last month, with what the Montana Standard described as part of some spirited verbal jollys. (It was a good debate, btw – and the Montana Standards has the debate broken down to 3 audio files, the first which includes Brown’s answer to the brucellosis question, and the second, which includes Schweitzer’s thorough and knowledgeable answer.)

While Brown took to criticizing Schweitzer for his support of the split-state status, Schweizer “jollied” back that he understood “science” and that the science supports evidence that brucellosis is coming from elk, not bison, and that having the entire state’s cattle industry suffer because of it wasn’t reasonable. He went on to say that the previously approved joint-agency bison management plan was outdated given the science and current evidence.

Bravo, Governor Schweitzer.

Brown kinda stood there, obviously uneducated beyond talking points which he fumbled through (“hmmm, let’s see, where is it?” – which drew some laughter – “oh – yes, ‘segregate and slaughter’ policy.”) Even more perplexing is that after fumbling through his criticism of the “segregate and slaughter” comment, he went on to champion the two Department of Livestock members who quit because of their support of the “segregate and slaughter” policy. I mean – does Brown even understand what is going on? All it takes is some newspapers…..perhaps the use of any one of the state’s great newspaper’s search engines?

Schweitzer’s work on this issue began when he first took office 4 years ago – and the split-state status has taken hold with the federal government, who are crafting a new plan which will recognize that brucellosis is found in and around the park, and allow cattle ranchers outside of the “hot zone” to be spared the additional expenses of testing and vaccination. This link, here, will take you to the Department of Livestock’s webpage on the new Draft Brucellosis Action Plan. Comment period, btw, has been extended to November 1st, due to high public interest.

In other developments, the state is forming a 7-member brucellosis task force, which is to include 5 citizens, including two ranchers and one rancher/outfitter, along with 2 “wildlife enthusiast, sportsman or conservationists.”

I give the Governor a big kudos for keeping this issue moving along since the massive slaughter and the discovery of the state’s 2nd case of brucellosis, which resulted in the loss of our brucellosis-free classification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He’s openly been critical of a key cause to brucellosis – Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds. That took some political mustering. All in all, there’s been a tremendous amount of work done since June….and hopefully it will have an impact this upcoming winter.

I want to mention here that The Missoula Independent’s Patrick Klemz did a fine piece on the brucellosis issue back in September, even daring to put the picture of an elk on the cover, along with the word “brucellosis” – something few media outlets, whether radio, television or print, have been pretty darn shy about doing. It stands as another fine example of The Indy’s fine, thorough and, well, independent report style.

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.

by jhwygirl

Sent to me by an astute reader, Governor Schweitzer fired off a letter on Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, criticizing Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds, which many say are a breeding ground for brucellosis.


This was one of the developments out of Tuesdays Board of Livestock meeting – the other being the revival of the split-state status, in which the brucellosis hot spot around Yellowstone is subject to vaccine and other mitigative measures, leaving the rest of the state without having to subject its cattle to the extra round of oversight. Schweitzer has pushed for this method for years now. Under a split-state status, only 5% of Montana’s cattle would be affected.

Now if he can stand strong and put an end to the bison slaughter for now – either that or start the slaughter of elk too, since they’ve been the root cause of Montana’s last two cases of brucellosis – then maybe now we can move forward to real solutions instead of hysterical political “kill the bison” mentality.

I’ll note, too, that the Board of Livestock story – and the mention of the Governor’s letter to the USDA – was mentioned in Forbes Magazine. It’s that important, folks. People are paying attention.

Thank you, Governor, for a step forward.

by jhwygirl

Saying brucellosis “does not belong in our future,” Suzanne Lewis, the superintendent of Yellow-stone National Park, pledged Monday to work with Montana’s Board of Livestock to eradicate the disease.

That, from today’s Billings Gazette.

…eradicate the disease”? From Yellowstone?

While the Bridger-Teton National Forest, to the south, is approving new leases on Wyoming state elk feedgrounds?

While the National Elk Refuge continue to feed elk?

That’s just plain lunacy speaking, Ms. Lewis. I simply can’t see it any other way. Maybe someone can please – please tell me why I’m wrong to think that.

It’s time for the NPS and Montana and the livestock industry to put pressure on Wyoming (and the USFS and the National Elk Refuge – a branch of the USFWS) to stop feeding wildlife, for Christ’s sake.

Until then, you’ll be pissin’ $$$$$$ into thin air doing anything else – including rounding up elk and bison to slaughter.

I had to add a new category because of this one: Common Sense.

by jhwygirl

State veterinarian Dr. Martin Zaluski is nearing completion of the testing of adjacent herds to the infected cow that cost Montana its brucellosis-free status and is encouraged by the results. So far, none have tested positive.

He’s also had this to say:

“All of the testing so far has focused on ruling out cattle as the potential source,” Zaluski said. “As testing eliminates cattle sources, the likelihood that the infected cow contracted the disease from elk increases.”

What’s odd about that statement is that he’s automatically gone to elk.

Why is the state’s veterinarian reaching to elk as the cause when we’ve been rounding up bison and slaughtering them for what – 12 years now? Maybe more?

Then on other fronts, Bridger Teton National Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton reauthorized 5 Wyoming state-run elk feed grounds on national forest lands for 20 years. She held back on one that doesn’t need re-auth until 2011.

Ever wonder why brucellosis only seems to be a problem in-and-around the Yellowstone ecosystem?

The problem is going to get worse before it ever gets better with Wyoming feeding elk and the USFS approving their feedgrounds.

Meanwhile, one Wyoming rancher was content to spay his whole herd rather than submit to testing. Wyoming recently had a cow test positive for brucellosis.

That’s one way to ensure Wyoming won’t lose its brucellosis-free status.

So, hey – as a solution, I suggest we open up 5 extra tags per hunter for the Gardiner/Livingstone and West Yellowstone areas. I’ll take my 5 all for area 313 please. Should make trophies pretty easy to get, don’t you think?

by jhwygirl

While the Department of Livestock’s regular meeting (the first since the loss of Montana’s brucellosis-free status) is scheduled for July 21 & 22nd (agenda pending), there will be a conference call this upcoming Thursday, July 10th, at 11 a.m.

Here’s the brief agenda. Note that you can access the call by calling 1-888-556-4635, and then entering 1277 for the access code.

There’s also been some developments in the brucellosis world since my last post on the subject:

2 Cows in Daniel, Wyoming tested positive for brucellosis within days of Montana having lost its brucellosis-free status. Just want to note, here, that there aren’t any bison roaming down in Daniel.

–Conservation groups, meanwhile, have sued the feds to stop the feeding of wildlife on the National Elk Refuge. Just want to note, here, that the primary wildlife fed at the National Elk Refuge are, well, ELK.

Maybe cattleowners should sue the State of Wyoming for its feedgrounds? Or at least for their losses? Hey – it’s just an idea!

–Finally, the MT DOL has updated its information on brucellosis with two tidbits – first, testing is ongoing – it doesn’t appear that they’ve found any more brucellosis – and second, there does not appear to be any connection of brucellosis to Mexican Corriente cattle, despite the hollarin’ of some.

by jhwygirl

Art Burns, owner of the cow which recently tested positive for brucellosis told the Bozeman Chronicle that his cattle had never been near any bison, though elk are frequently in the area.

Burns runs a small operation – about 50 head of Corriente cattle – out there in the middle of heaven, near Pray. He’s been doing increased monitoring and testing since last year.

Even more discouraging, livestock officials say Burns had taken all the appropriate steps to guard against a transmission by vaccinating and testing his cows frequently for disease. Burns had vaccinated his cattle twice and had a “whole-herd” testing plan.

According to officials, tests are being run on the diseased heifer to determine if the cow got the disease from other cattle, elk or bison. In last year’s case, tests found that while the source was not other cattle, there was inconclusive evidence as to whether it came from bison or elk. The owner of that herd said that if his cattle tested positive for brucellosis, elk from Yellowstone National Park had probably spread the disease.

Meanwhile, debate continues between the Montana Cattlemen’s Association and the Montana Stockgrowers Association over the Governor’s split-state proposal, which would require vaccination and more intense testing for cattle around Yellowstone National Park.

Christian Mackay, executive officer for the Montana Board of Livestock said that those plans won’t be discussed until the Board of Livestock meets again in late July.

Common sense must prevail – hopefully the Board of Livestock will act to take steps towards moving to a split-state status. It’s unfair to to ranchers in all other parts of the state. Get the politics out of this issue and let the interests of all cattle ranchers and the state’s livestock industry prevail.

by jhwygirl

A second cow in Montana has tested positive for brucellosis, resulting in what will likely be a loss of the brucellosis-free status for the state’s livestock.

The first cow that tested positive had been found in May 2007 in the Morgan Ranch herd, which had wintered in Bridger. That herd had to be destroyed. In that situation, the likely source of the transmission was elk.

Governor Schweitzer has been an advocate for a split-state status for the state’s livestock. The Montana Cattleman’s Association has supported that initiative – while the Montana Stockgrower’s Association has not.

(UPDATE: The Missoulian has a story on this which states that had the split-state status been adopted, less than 5% of the state’s cattle would have been affected by the additional testing required. Now, all of the state’s cattle is affected. Wonder what the Cattleman’s Association has to say about that?)

I’ve had interest in the hysterics of the pseudo-brucellosis/bison threat for years – more than a decade, actually. It’s interesting that bison have been hazed back into the park from this area, yet elk roam freely. Paradise Valley, to note, is a bit of a distance from the area where bison typically leave the park.

Wyoming had previously lost its brucellosis-free status due to the transmission of elk to domesticated animals – which experts largely agree is due to its widespread use of elk feedgrounds (both the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming, and the numerous state-run feedgrounds in the surrounding area).

But for the first time in 74 years, in February, the US Dept. of Agriculture had declared all 50 states to be brucellosis-free.

Loss of the brucellosis-free status means that all cattle will have to undergo a testing and vaccination program prior to sale or transfer.

by jhwygirl

Mike Mease, co-founder of the Buffalo Field Campaign will be in town this weekend for a presentation by the Buffalo Field Campaign at the Missoula County Public Library. The event is Saturday, May 3rd, from Noon to 1:30 p.m.

A slide show – Lessons Learned from the Wild Buffalo – will be shown, followed by a short film, “Protect the Wild Bison”. After that, Mease will be available for a Q&A session.

Mease started the quest for fair treatment of the Yellowstone bison back in the winter of 1996-97, when a (at the time) record slaughter of 1,100 bison occurred at the hands of the Montana Department of Livestock.

This year, the Department of Livestock has slaughtered over 1,284 bison this year – and more than half of the Yellowstone herd has now been lost, in part, to the heavy snows and harsh winter. The record slaughter is due to this harsh winter, as bison traveled outside the park in search of food.

Bison, like nature, know no fence.

I wrote of this slaughter, “Bison Mis-Management Plan”, when the number of bison massacred hit 1,200 and wildlife managers put a halt to the slaughter of pregnant bison in an effort to preserve what is left of the genetic health of the last free-roaming bison herd in North America.

Inform yourself. Meet Mike Mease. The Montana Department of Livestocks and the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s actions are deplorable. Listen, Learn and Speak Out.

Remember this: There is NO KNOWN CASE OF BRUCELLOSIS TRANSMISSION TO DOMESTICATED CATTLE THAT HAS OCCURRED FROM INTERACTION WITH YELLOWSTONE BISON. The only known cases of transmission to domesticated cattle have been from wild elk.

by jhwygirl

With this winter being a record year for bison slaughter as part of a so-called Bison Management Plan, Yellowstone Park managers have placed a priority on saving pregnant bison due to the record number of bison sent off to slaughter this year – 1,217 shipped to slaughter from the Stephen’s Creek capture facility alone.

The number of bison killed last winter was 67. The second highest year was 1996/97, when 1087 bison were slaughtered.


The only known cases of transmission of brucellosis to domesticated animals have been from elk.

That is, in fact, what was confirmed of the last herd that had to be destroyed – the Morgan Ranch herd out of Bridger.

Yet the Montana Stockgrowers Association continues to say that bison pose a “real threat.” Vice President Errol Rice “applauds” the record slaughter operations this winter and says:

‘‘We’re still not discounting (the possible) transmission from bison to cattle.”

I bet Rice still believes there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, too.

So, Mr. Rice, please tell me, when are we going to start rounding up elk and slaughtering them?

Slaughtering an animal that is meant to roam, that will cross out of an artificial ecological border is inane. It won’t work. It isn’t working. We can slaughter all the bison we want, and we will still have brucellosis because its transmission to domesticated cattle (and horses, in the past) has been from elk.

From ELK.

Brucellosis is transmitted by the afterbirth. Bison birth on USFS lands surrounding the park that are leased for grazing. Bison give birth in March and April. The afterbirth is long gone, having been picked over by coyotes and raptors and ravens and other scavengers long before grazing begins on those lands in mid-June.

Here’s the thing – as long as winter elk mingle with cattle on grazing lands, we will have brucellosis.

So either slaughter the elk – which everyone knows isn’t going to happen – or start vaccinating cattle at a cost of $2/head.

It’s a disgrace. It doesn’t work. And it isn’t management.

Few local news agencies covered this story. (KPAX out of Missoula, KULR out of Billings, and the Helena Independent Republic) Could it be because of all the bullying that the Montana Stockgrowers Association is doing? At what point does common sense overtake strong arm tactics? Science overtake the hysterics of the Montana Stockgrowers Association?

Montana is playing politics with an issue that should be ruled by science and logic.

How much of Montana taxpayer money will continue to be wasted while these bullies quash fact and common sense and champion propaganda?

Look – when the GAO is telling you it is a waste of time and money? Well, someone needs to listen.

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