Bison "Blues"

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 10:52:26 04/15/14

There has been a lot going on lately, regarding the Yellowstone bison/brucellosis issue. For those not following the drama closely, I will try to provide a brief (and not likely all-inclusive) summary of key events in the past month or so.

1.) We are in the second winter of the expanded tolerance zone for migrating bison, north of the North Entrance. I am not familiar with the new boundaries, so can't detail that. Just mentioning it, because it is part of the controversy.

2.) The Montana State Supreme Court has been busy. (a) They denied the lawsuit brought by Park County that sought to prevent the tolerance of migrating bison outside the North Entrance. (b) That same court ruled that Yellowstone bison are wildlife, rather than livestock. This gives Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) jurisdiction over bison that leave Yellowstone, as opposed to the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL). This ruling has ramifications that are still reverberating throughout the ag community, particularly in parts of eastern Montana, where there are embryonic plans to possibly transplant wild bison.

3.) The "experimental" herd of Yellowstone bison that were quarantined outside Gardiner after testing negatively for brucella abortis, and subsequently moved to Ted Turner's ranch near Gallatin Gateway, have to be moved off the ranch before year-end. I have no idea if that is simply the expiration of a contract with the ranch or if the ranch has made a decision to get out of the bison business.

4.) Last week, Yellowstone National Park went public on its desire to create a new Bison Management Plan. I didn't put the "I" word up front, because I'm not sure if it is "Interim" or "Interagency". I know the old IBMP was "Interim", because it was only supposed to exist as long as it took the various agencies to create the ultimate bison management plan. Of course, it was created in 2000, and was still in place two years ago, when I moved to Alaska.

5.) Also last week, a new plan to combat elk-induced brucellosis in Park County, MT livestock was unveiled. It will allow Park County ranchers to lethally remove a limited number of elk on their property. It will also provide them relaxed prohibitions on fencing. Heretofore, they could only fence off hay piles to keep elk away. Sportsmen groups have reacted quite negatively to this development.

If you have maintained some familiarity with these brucellosis-related issues in Yellowstone country, you have some appreciation for how it divides a substantial number of interests, including agricultural, conservationist, homeowners, sportsmen, the tourism industry, and quite a number of local, state, and federal agencies. If someone would develop a cure for brucellosis, we would recapture an incredible number of labor hours being expended on these issues.

For the intensely interested, there is an article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on the Lewistown meeting being cancelled, and it is slightly different from the Gazette's article.


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