Friday, April 25, 2008

A Letter on Bison Management

Governor Brian Schweitzer
Office of the Governor
Montana State Capitol Bldg.
Helena MT 59620-0801

Thank you for your message regarding Yellowstone National Park bison management.

I would like to direct your attention to the recent Government Accounting Office (GAO) report on the Interagency Bison Management Plan, its shortcomings, and the inability to move to Step 2 of the Plan (expected to occur during the winter of '02-'03).

The GAO conclusions track very closely changes that I have been advocating, including consummation of a grazing agreement with the Royal Teton Ranch, allowing for removal of that cattle herd, and passage through the ranch for hungry bison.

The State of Montana will continue to work with the land owners, livestock interests, wildlife and conservation groups, and the federal agencies that bear responsibility for bison management. At this point, negotiations have been completed with the Royal Teton Ranch, site of the largest cattle herd near the park. As directed by the Interagency Bison Management Plan, this agreement will better secure Montana's disease-free status while providing more tolerance for bison. Half of the funding for this agreement has been committed by the National Park Service. Montana will now be working to secure the remainder of the funding with the National Wildlife Foundation, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the National Parks Conservation Association, and others.

As is urged by the GAO report (, we will continue to seek and support vaccine research that provides protections against brucellosis, work with other willing landowners on creative grazing and management agreements, and utilize fair-chase hunting to manage bison in a manner similar to other large game species.

I appreciate hearing from you. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.


Governor of Montana

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yellowstone under attack

Two alerts from Defenders of Wildlife this week:

The Yellowstone Bison slaughter, and the killing of wolves in the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain regions.
According to the American Bison is listed as "Lower Risk" in conservation status...but that lower risk comes with the title "Conservation Dependant." So, if these animals depend on our conservation efforts in order to thrive, why do park officials chase wandering buffalo back into the park where they can't find food in winter, or ship them off to be slaughtered? Because of unfounded fears that Buffalo (or Bison if you prefer), which belong to the same family as domestic cattle will pass along diseases to domestic cattle. The disease Brucellosis can be passed from animals to animals and animals to humans by intact skin contact...that means it's highly contagious, kids. But that doesn't seem like a good enough reason to me. The thing that strikes me most about the issue is that as near as I can tell, while Canada has completely eradicated the disease in their country, the United States doesn't seem to even require ranchers to vaccinate their animals against it! And we're going to kill the BUFFALO? Cause yeah, its their fault!
Now, I'm not a big fan of vaccinating wild animals against diseases (other than rabies, perhaps) but to me this seems like a case where vaccination of wild elk (which can also harbor the disease) and bison herds might be the lesser of two evils.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program: Rocky Mountain Wolves.
The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone and parts of Idaho and Montana has been one of the greatest endangered species recovery success stories of all time. So great, in fact, that the Bush Administration has been fighting to de-list them (prematurely, in the eyes of many conservationists) and last week Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming took over 'management' of the 1200 some wolves living in their states. To people like Idaho Governor Butch Otter (You can email his office here) this de-listing reads like an invitation to slaughter, and officials in Wyoming are planning to kill wolves on sight in as much as 88% of the state, including zeroing out (that means eradicating) entire wolf packs.
By comparison, Minnesota, which shares its 3500 wolves with Michigan and Wisconsin, manages its own wolf population and has set a minimum population limit of 1600...that's more wolves than live in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to begin with.