the "Public" Back In "Public Trust"
Elk & Commissioners - Oh My!
Yesterday, to a packed
room of sportsmen, with overflow to the hall and the viewing screens
in the lobby, two programs were addressed with major sportsmens
objections, calling on the science, which was ignored by the FWP
The first involved the Mountain Lion quota proposal, which involved
a paper by FWP Kelly Proffitt et al, published in 2014. Estimating
mountain lion abundance in the Bitterroot Watershed,
is not only academically contentious, but having attended the
FWP Region 3 Mountain Lion meeting in which Kelly Proffitt did
a presentation on the study, houndsmen present, including those
that participated in the study, objected to statistics, modeling,
final analysis and recommendations, saying that there were not
that many mountain lions. This study involved a 98 day snapshot
in time of the Mountain Lion population, is not a sufficient time
frame in which to gather data to utilize for modeling. Especially
one that seeks to radically decimate the population as 30% reduction
in regional lion density by applying a 35% annual female harvest
over a 3 year period. Their stats base in not correct, contested
houndsmen. By Proffitts own statements, this was not a complete
coverage survey, juveniles could have been counted as individual
adults, and hunter take was included, which would alter counts.
Academics across the country are questioning this study. This
study is being advocated by FWP over the 9 year Garnet Range Mountain
Lion Study, 2011 Final Report, which would not support this proposal.
Despite overwhelming houndsmen opposition to this tentative proposal
of raising the mountain lion quotas, as well as testimony against
this paper by Dr. Gary Koehler, retired from the Washington Department
of Fish and Wildlife, in addition to clarifying statistics application
by Bozeman Veterinarian Dr. Mark Albrecht DVM (hunter and Statewide
Elk Brucellosis Work Group member), the Commission accepted the
tentative, which is up for public comment now. The
Mountain Lion papers and audio can be found here.
In a Montana Public Radio broadcast
yesterday evening, reporter Dan Boyce covering the commission
meeting stated, "The lion hunters don’t want too many
of the cats taken if they feel it’s going to jeopardize
the overall population.
But Vermillion says there are other Bitterroot hunters, 'Who would
tell you "what's happened to our deer herd, what's happened
to our elk herd. The wolves and the lions are killing too many
elk and deer." ' " Those hunters either were not present
or did not speak up at the commission meeting.
Sportsmen also voiced major objections to this Elk Brucellosis
program, stating an EA, EIS or Environmental Review needed to
be done, asked for science and objected to many specifics of this
program and the proposals, three of the FWP Commissioners passed
the modifications, extending the kill permits to May 15th and
approving sportsmen paying for livestock, wildlife excluding pasture
Commissioner Westit and Tourtlotte
spoke against it. Then Commissioner Vermillion stated his reasons
why it should be approved, followed by Commissioner Stuker, a
rancher, who stated that if he was a rancher in Paradise valley
and the sportsmen got in the way, that he would block off public
hunting access. Well, maybe Commissioner Stuker doesnt know, but
threatening withdrawal of public hunter access here is not really
a threat, because none of these ranchers participate in Block
Management and a number of public comments, as well as testimony
stated individual attempts for permission to hunt were declined
down there. Commissioner Wolfe also approved it so the vote was
3 to 2.
Sportsmens groups in attendance that
spoke out were the RMEF, MSA, MWF, Skyline Sportsmens Association,
Anaconda Sportsmens Club, Ravalli Fish & Wildlife, Gallatin
Wildlife Association (I may be missing a group), as well as individuals.
So besides the expected FWP passing
this scientifically and legally lacking proposal, I have to ask
a major question - how can an FWP
Commissioner, that is supposed to be a steward of our wildlife,
during a commission meeting, sit there, as a rancher, and threaten
a boycott of public hunter access if ranchers dont get their way?
In addition, 4 sources (FWP Quentin Kujula, MT DOL Marty Zaluski,
ranchers Druska Kinkie and Rep. Alan Redfield) all stated that
all the cattle infections in Park county are localized in one
small area on Mill Creek. If I heard correctly, Kujula stated
all 3 cases were from the same ranch. He could have been mistaken
on that point, but from my genetics reports research, comparing
the reports of MT brucellosis infections, I have narrowed the
cases down to a small area there in Park county's Mill Creek and
Elbow Creek Rds. How is it that of all the DSA (4 counties and
part of a 5th), where seropositive elk roam freely near cattle
operations, the only cattle infections since they have the technology
to determine Brucella abortus isolates (2008-1, 2011-4, 2013-1),
are from that one small location in Park County? While I know
elk can transmit, I also know from these reports that there have
been cases of cattle isolate infection and RB51 vaccine blooms.
So are all infected DSA elk targeting
a small location in Park County to have abortions and infect cattle,
while avoiding the rest of the DSA ranchers? That would be ludicrous.
I believe we need an independent testing (not APHIS and DOL who
have brucellosis in wildlife eradication agendas and mission statements)
to test those Park county cases and see what is really up, especially
since the 2008 Corriente cow had 3 cattle isolates identified.
Rancher Druska Kinkie said that this
was a hardship on ranchers because infections hurt the ranchers
reputations and stigmatize them. While I empathize with ranchers
that have to go through any disease quarantine (Stuker brought
up when his cattle had a false test positive for TB), I explained
that I understand the results of a bad disease reputation and
being stigmatized. That we have bison, who have never had a documented
case of natural transmission from wild bison to cattle ever, academically
are a risk of 0.0-0.3% (.3% an academic safety net), that have
the reputation of being brucellosis carriers infecting cattle.
They are stigmatized as diseased vermin by ag/livestock to the
point that they cannot enter Montana without being hazed back
to the Park or shot. And now that machinery is trying to stigmatize
They assumed years ago it was the bison
and were wrong. I think we need to demand independent proof of
transmission, and answers why, of all the southern portion of
Montana, only the cattle in the Mill Creek area are becoming infected,
before we can reasonably sit at a table and hold a real multi
stakeholder discussion about brucellosis in wildlife.
BTW, at the IBMP meeting that was going on here in Bozeman at
the same time, APHIS pushed for elk and other wildlife to be added
to the IBMP process.