MT DOL Board of Livestock Meeting
January 13, 2014, Helena

During Dr. Marty Zaluski's presentations, the Board of Livestock covered the issues of other states concerned with DSA brucellosis risk, a New IBMP EIS process, the Bison Environmental Assessment for Year Round Tolerance and the Elk Brucellosis Surveillance Program.

At times there was no differentiation between subjects, all being brought up repeatedly, in an intermixed fashion. I was not surprised with the Bison EA voting of No Action, as the Board of Livestock stated at their July 29th meeting that I attended, that they would probably vote - No Action.

When it came time for public comments, due to an overwhelming amount of mis or partial information concerning biology or stats, and given only 3 minutes, I was seriously wondering where do you even begin to start in addressing the literal DOL bullshit that you would have to wade through (chest waders). They had an objective and they were not going to be dissuaded from voting No Action.

Audio File

1-11:32 minutes - Review of situation with other states, specifically CO, wanting additional testing for brucellosis from DSA cattle, review of the Texas Animal Health Commission rule change and testimony that Dr. Marty Zaluski gave. Zaluski stated it is imperative that he can assure other state vets that Montana cattle are not a Brucellosis threat. I wish he would have stated the same testimony to this Board of Livestock meeting, because bison were not even an issue with Texas, as to elk possibly infecting domestic cattle in Montana, Zaluski stated in Texas, "The chance that any one Montana animal is brucellosis positive is 0.00024%."

11:33 - 15:50 minutes - New IBMP EIS process - Zaluski stated that the Yellowstone National Park was interested in beginning work on a new EIS (current one is nearly 15 years old and limited). He stated that the Park Service approached the State of Montana to Co-lead a new EIS. Preliminary work is being done on a new Memorandum of Understanding (Mou), defining what each agency's roles are. Christian MacKay stated the Park Service gave them the impression that the Park Service was doing a new EIS with or without them.

15:51 > - Bison EA - Bear in mind, the Bison Environmental Assessment is a Montana Environmental Assessment, prepared by Montana's Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the DOL. Under the proposal, the wild bison that migrate out of Yellowstone National Park could access and utilize year-round habitat on public lands north and west of the YNP - IN MONTANA. Currently, there are no wild bison (wildlife) in Montana. Various options, such as A - No Action, B- with the largest amount of year-round habitat use mapped, C - Comprising a smaller portion of use with D and E getting even smaller.

No other wildlife are treat as wild bison are, with hazing, shooting if they exit the YNP, capture, test and slaughter, proposed vaccinations and tagging.

Dr. Marty Zaluski begins explaining the Bison EA, with DOL Executive Officer, Christian MacKay elaborating on the DOL perspective, that they want the Yellowstone National Park to state a population number for bison and manage for that number, which is estimated around 4700 currently. YNP wild bison population numbers and keeping it at that low number that the DOL wants, became the theme for the rest of the discussion culminating with Christian MacKays statement, near the Board of Livestock vote, "I see this as a potential to start getting at some of that conflict, start getting - We want this from you (repeated statements of low bison population numbers), you want this from us (expanded bison habitat in Montana - BUT this is something that 78% of polled Montanans have stated they wanted on Montana public lands- not an objective of the YNP committing some sort of National Park sprawl and taking over Montana). When you get to what we want, we can offer what we have." So basically, the Montana livestock industry that represents the 5% of ag/livestock population of Montana and the 7% of the population they hire, for a total of about 12% of the Montana population working in ag/livestock, are holding wild bison on Montana public lands hostage, until the Yellowstone National Park depopulates the wild bison herd to low numbers and maintains it that way. These bison are already at risk of genetic loss due to repeated slaughters.

Bison Population Reduction and Seroprevalence Reduction
Christian MacKay stated he wanted lower bison numbers and reduction of seroprevalence focused on in the next round of the EIS.

Here are two reports that deal with the rancher fable that YNP is overpopulated and over grazed, causing the bison to exit the YNP. Bison are migratory, naturally migrating out of YNP, which was only a small part of their traditional range.

And reducing seroprevalence, which does not equal infection/infectious, but also represents acquired immunity, though initially may possibly be reduced by test and slaughter, will likely increase seroprevalence due to a dynamic referred to as "richochet". "During the course of our simulations, we observed a dynamic that we refer to as a richochet, which is likely to be generally applicable to other disease control and eradication programs. As seroprevalence and herd immunity declined due to test -and-remove or sterilization, a proportion of simulations had large subsequent increases in seroprevalence, sometimes increasing to pretreatment levels." "Thus the occurrence of superspreading events are likely to increase as herd immunity decreases." "Reductions in brucellosis seroprevalence are likely to result in increases in population growth rate. In the Yellowstone context, an increased growth rate will probably result in more bison leaving the park and increased boundary removals...the costs of boundary management could potentially increase in the future if bison have higher population growth rates." - Simulating sterilization, vaccination, and test - and-remove as brucellosis control measures in bison. 2011

25:42 > Jim Hagenbarth, MT rancher, and the Bison Citizens Working Group

Jim spoke about his participation on the Bison Citizens Working Group and their recommendations to the IBMP. He did state that he personally opposed the Bison EA later.

33:33 > Comments From the Public

Bill O'Connell, ag producer & hunter, stating the need for extended habitat, that hunting is management tool, what is occurring presently is not even a hunt, its a shoot them when they step across the boundary.

Jim Bailey, retired wildlife biologist and professor, author of American Plains Bison, Rewilding An Icon, stated that a lot had been spoken concerning numbers of bison, pointed out that the EA says that this decision does not change, in any way, the IBMP goals for numbers of bison.

Jim Hagenbarth, rancher, Voiced voting No Action, opposed Natural Regulation, brought up YNP numbers and stated No Action until Parks Service steps up to the plate and manages their numbers.

Errol Rice, Montana Stockgrowers Association, No Action, spoke to representing commercial interest in the beef industry, including advocating sending reps to other states concerning the brucellosis import situations (TAHC), spoke of maintaining the DSA and marketing interests.

At the TAHC Hearing in Texas, MT DOL's Dr. Marty Zaluski stated, "So really the DSA in the state of Montana is in southwest Montana. And it is designed to identify the cattle at risk from brucellosis positive elk. So we know that brucellosis positive elk are in southwest Montana, they can potentially expose cattle and so the key to identifying the cattle at risk is to identify where the brucellosis positive elk are." There was no mention of bison, because bison Brucella genetics are different. Brucellosis Science Review Workshop Panelists Report 2013. "To date, no documented transmission of brucellosis from Yellowstone bison to cattle has occurred." "Our results indicate that elk and cattle isolates are virtually identical genetically, differing by only one to two mutational steps. On the contrary, bison B. abortus differed from cattle and elk by 12-20 mutational steps."- DNA Genotyping Suggests that Recent Brucellosis Outbreaks in the Greater Yellowstone Area Originated from Elk, 2009. Molecular Epidemiology of Brucella abortus Isolates from Cattle, Elk, and Bison in the United States, 1998 to 2011, 2012.

Errol Rice, Montana Stockgrowers Association, submitted a letter to the TAHC in Sept. 2013, stating, "There is an extremely low risk of brucellosis transfer posed by cattle coming out of Montana. While a small area of Montana in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) is affected by rare transfers of brucellosis from wildlife, the state of Montana has proven highly effective in its efforts to mitigate the spread of brucellosis. The states testing provides for a 99% confidence of finding brucellosis at a level of less that 0.0008%."

42:20 > Discussion of the Board of Livestock

John Scully, rancher, begins a long questioning period, which I will not refute line by line or this would turn into a book. I will address some of the main issues brought up involving who spreads brucellosis, seroprevalence, risk threat, etc. He kept trying to get Zaluski and MacKay to answer questions about the Ted Turner domestic bison herds, which Dr. Marty Zaluski kept trying to explain, and John Scully, not only being a rancher, but an attorney should know, Zaluski could not reveal legally. Scully continued to insinuate Turners domestic bison being diseased and infecting wild elk.

  • The YNP is not being overgrazed, mismanaged, which I linked to above.
  • "Median total risk to cattle from elk and bison was 3.6 cattle-exposure event-days (95% P.I. 0.1 - 36.6). The estimated percentage of cattle exposure risk from the Yellowstone bison herd was small (0.0 - 0.3% of total risk) compared with elk which contributed 99.7 - 100% of the total risk" - A Risk Analysis of Brucella abortus Transmission Among Bison, Elk, and Cattle in the Northern Greater Yellowstone Area (2010), which DoL's Dr. Marty Zaluski was one of 7 authors on. - page 41.
  • "Minimal opportunity exists for B. abortus transmission from bison to elk under current natural conditions in the northern GYA. The reasons for this lower probability of adequet contact for B. abortus transmission, even when spatiotemporal overlap occurred, are likely immunological or behavioral. Differences in the immune systems of elk compared with bison may make them less susceptible to infection. These immunological differences may also account for the different responses of elk and bison to vaccination, leading to the failure of elk to be protected by RB51 vaccination while bison acquire some protection from the vaccine. Also, anecdotally, bison are more dominant than elk and may drive elk off grazing areas, increasing their opportunity for exposure to elk infectious material but decreasing the opportunity for elk to be exposed to bison infectious material." Ibid
  • "However, because bison rarely transmit B. abortus to elk, management alternatives such as vaccination that reduce bison seroprevalence are unlikely to reduce transmission from elk to cattle." Ibid
  • "Our results indicate that elk and cattle isolates are virtually identical genetically, differing by only one to two mutational steps. On the contrary, bison B. abortus differed from cattle and elk by 12-20 mutaional steps. These results suggest that the recent brucellosis outbreaks in cattle in Idaho and Wyoming originated from elk, not bison...The relatively high genetic divergence between elk and bison B. abortus isolates suggests that B. abortus might not be exchanged extensively between elk and bison, though additional sampling (including more recent bison isolates) and genotyping are required to access this issue." - DNA Genotyping Suggests that Recent Brucellosis Outbreaks in the Greater Yellowstone Area Originated from Elk. 2009
  • Seropositive does not equal infection/infectious, it can represent immunity.

1:09:45 > Board Discussion

Farm Bureau submits letter opting for Alernative A - No Action

Board discussion and comments continued to center around reducing YNP bison numbers, that the YNP is over grazed and not adequate forage. Christian MacKay describes a history of conflict between YNP and the State of Montana, again, bringing up population management. "I see this as a potential to start getting at some of that conflict, start getting - We want this from you (repeated statements of low bison population numbers), you want this from us (expanded bison habitat in Montana - BUT this is something that 78% of polled Montanans have stated they wanted on Montana public lands- not an objective of the YNP committing some sort of National Park sprawl and taking over Montana). When you get to what we want, we can offer what we have."

1:28:13 > Board Decides to make a decision on the Bison EA

Board votes unanimously to vote Option A, No Action, no qualifications.

Board then discusses population numbers and economics, with Scully suggesting, instead of working on a "new" EA, throw their energies into working on the new IBMP EIS. Christian MacKay also speaks of numbers, older numbers, and going into the new IBMP EIS with that, working on that sooner rather than later. Scully moved that Zaluski and MacKay work on population numbers, economics, disease control recommendations and come back to the Board of Livestock with those recommendations. Motion was passed.

The Department of Livestock issued a News Release Jan. 14, 2014

"The Montana Board of Livestock has weighed in on a draft environmental analysis (EA) regarding year-round tolerance of bison outside of Yellowstone National Park by initially endorsing the no-action alternative (Alternative A).

'We’re keeping the door open, but the board unanimously believes there are unanswered questions that need to be resolved before we can do anything other than support the no action alternative,' said board chair Jan French, a cattle industry representative from Hobson, after the board concluded its meeting earlier today.

'Specifically, we’d like to see more information about bison population thresholds,' she said. 'Would more habitat mean more bison? We don’t know, and with the park’s bison population hovering at near-record highs, it just wouldn’t be prudent to move forward without having more information on that and a few other topics.'

As such, the board directed Department of Livestock staff to work with the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks to try and come up with more details. French said the board will revisit the draft EA as more information becomes available."

If you listen, there was no discussion to keeping the door open on the Bison EA. The Board voted against the Bison EA and instructed Zaluski and MacKay, to coordinate with FWP and any other agencies or industries to work towards the new IBMP EIS, not to revisit the Bison EA.

 

 

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