Archive for the ‘Wyoming’ Category

by jhwygirl

I’ve seen way more than just 40 coal trains heading west on the Burlington Northern to Seattle where the toxic mercury and arsenic laden coal will be exported to China…and that number is sure to increase with the impending approval of the Youngs Creek railroad which will move a significant amount of Wyoming’s more higher quality coal through Montana on it’s way to China.

Missoulians are concerned about this carcinogenic coal moving through their backyards. In March the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council gathered over 100 people along with economists, government officials and railroad representative for a two-day conference which discussed the impacts of this coal traffic…while Yellowstone County Commissioners refused to discuss the impacts.

Tomorrow, the Northern Plains Resource Council will host a public meeting and panel to discuss the impacts of the increased coal train traffic traveling through Bozeman. At 7 p.m., in Bozeman’s gorgeous and recently remodeled Public Library’s large conference room, four Montana residents and energy experts will gather and offer their insight into the issue:
– Beth Kaeding, Northern Plains Resource Council: overview of the situation.
– Clint McRae, landowner near Colstrip: impacts to the land and agriculture.
– Dr. Richard Damon, retired physician: health issues and concerns.
– John Vincent, Public Service Commissioner: alternative energy options and solutions.

China has notoriously dangerous and dirty mines. Just as exploitation of workers here in the U.S. in the late 1800’s resulted in unionization and regulation of the industry, Chinese workers are demanding higher pay and greater regulation. Instead, what is China doing? Seeking their coal here, at a time that the market for coal has declined in the United States. U.S. coal companies are planning to export more coal to lucrative Asian markets from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming. The most direct route is by rail to the West Coast. Across Montana.

From Beth Kaeding: “With up to 40 additional coal trains, full and empty, passing through Bozeman each day, it’s time for the community to come together to discuss what this will mean to our lives. There will be increased traffic congestion and noise as well as public safety and public health concerns that we need to understand.”

The Northern Plains Resource Council is a fine grassroots group that is comprised of ranchers and resource managers working to effectively balance economic resource development and the Montana natural resources that are the world’s treasures.

When I ask “What is Montana without i’s water?” I know that NPRC is working to ensure that none of us ever have to contemplate a Montana whose rivers aren’t something our children couldn’t enjoy.

by jhwygirl

This comes to us via Michael Shay at hummingbirdminds.

Wyoming’s legislature just started its 20-day legislative session, and one of the first tasks at hand was to “send a message to Washington” that health care reform was not welcome. Titled the Health Freedom of Choice resolution, the senate proposal was intended to tell the federal government that “the federal government shall not interfere with an individual’s health care decisions.”

The resolution failed on its first reading.

The make-up of the Wyoming senate? 30 members, 23 of ’em Republicans, 7 Democrats.

Quite the message. Let’s see if Washington, Republicans, Blue Dogs, the media and the rest of America takes note.

Wherein Big Swede’s head begins to spin….

Update: The Wyoming senate actually killed two anti-health reform bills. The other was a bill that would have required the AG to investigate the constitutionality of any health reform bill passed in congress.

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

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.

A Good Man Gone

by jhwygirl

Bill Paddleford was a good man.

While we didn’t always agree, I considered him a good friend. It was a hard way to go for someone who had done so much good.

Prayers to his wife and friends.

Godspeed Bill, Godspeed.

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.

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