Out of the mouths of MT Board of Livestock & APHIS...
the APHIS Brucellosis Eradication Agenda,
to eradicate brucellosis in wildlife,
is alive and well and in Montana!

MT DOL Board of Livestock Meeting
March 18, 2014, Helena

The Board of Livestock met in Helena on March 18, 2014. On the Agenda was:
Action Item #3: Bison Environmental Assessment for Year Round Tolerance - this DOL Proposal took the existing Bison EA and added the MT BoL and DoL's conditions that Yellowstone National Park kill off bison to get their numbers down below 3000 or no extended habitat for bison in the state of Montana.
Legislative Proposal - Feral Swine
Miscellaneous Animal Health Updates, which included the Elk Capture Program, The Upper Yellowstone Watershed Basin Elk Management in Areas With Brucellosis Plan - Paradise Valley Modification

Sacrificing hundreds or thousands of bison, so that a few can enter Montana, just so that you can say that you are doing something, is bullshit!

Audio file, Time Markers and Transcription below.

MP3 2 hours 7 minutes

Bison Environmental Assessment for Year Round Tolerance, In the January BoL mtg they voted No Action.

8:00 - John Scully asks if bison are allowed further range outside Yellowstone, where you already have an elk population with brucellosis? Does the risk of transmission go up, down or stay the same, when you add buffalo with brucellosis to the same pasture?
11:20 - Dr. Marty Zaluski, MT State Veterinarian replied that the intent would be for it to not increase.
11:36 - Christian MacKay answered, "...minimally, if any, you would think that yes, the risk is higher, but it hasnt borne out to a transmission."

12:23 - John Scully asks why the 3000 Yellowstone National Park bison population hasnt worked?
Christian MacKay, "Theres no enforcement of the number."
Dr. Marty Zaluski, states this proposal creates an incentive to maintain population number at the agreed upon level (the IBMP).
12:23 - Scully, "Lets be honest, theres no political will to do it. In my view. Theres no political will to use the tools that are already in Statute and a part of the IBMP. So I'd like to ask, Doc (former MT DoL State Veterinarian, now MT APHIS VS - Dr. Tom Linfield) in back whether the Federal Rules have now been changed? (This refers to the Code of Federal Regulations, 4, 5, 6 and 7 down, right hand side, which advocates eradication of brucellosis in wildlife ).
15:38 - Dr. Tom Linfield, "Federal Rules have now been changed somewhat as far as portions of the brucellosis eradication rules, specifically, we have the Interim Rule that does change the way States are classified, maintaining their classification (Brucellosis Class Free Status). Just some other definition changes, so forth, but there have been some - the Rules themselves have not changed as far as the CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) we have the Interim Rule that does make some allowances as far as maintaining Class Free Status, even in the face of having infected herds within the prescribed areas (Designated Surveillance Area - DSA). (Montana is required to have a Brucellosis Management Plan and annual MOU, just as Wy and ID do, in order for APHIS to give Montana their Brucellosis Class Free Status. This is how they got control of the Fish, Wildlife & Parks concerning bison and elk, through the Governor. This has gone on since 2008 and a previous version occurred with Governors Marc Rosicot and Judy Martz.)
16:27 - Scully, "Has the Strategic Plan of APHIS 2010-2015 (right side 3rd down), has that changed?"
Dr. Tom Linfield (APHIS) - "I dont believe so."
Scully, "So it still states that we're to eliminate brucellosis from the nations cattle population?" ("Goal 4 - Develops control and eradication programs, with the assistance of State governments and industry participants, for invasive pests and diseases that have become established. Works to eliminate brucellosis from the Nation's cattle population, changing its disease surveillance strategy from one that focuses on disease detection and elimination at the State level to one that ensures the continued absence of disease in the domestic cattle population at the national level. - As well as eradication in wildlife.)
Linfield, "I believe thats correct."
Scully, "Can you tell me what you have done at the Federal level, to enforce the IBMP, with the Yellowstone National Park, in the manner in which they are managing their bison? Because clearly there is that requirement."
Linfield - I dont know the agency, APHIS Federal agency, has the specific authority to manage wildlife, so we have to be somewhat respectful as for, as their authority and responsibility and jurisdictions so, even though we have eradication program, as far as livestock and the goal there, the intent is to eradicate brucellosis in the entire countrys livestock industry, we dont have that same authority over management of wildlife (hence the mafia shakedown Brucellosis Management Plan requirement with each GYA state).
17:52 - Scully, "In your Concept Paper of Veterinary Services (APHIS VS, right side 2nd "Eradication depends on finding the last remaining brucellosis-reactor animal, the last remaining brucellosis-affected herd, and eliminating the disease from wildlife reservoirs"), doesnt it suggest that its your obligation to coordinate, cooperate, collaborate, whatever, with Yellowstone National Park, the State and producers, cause thats the only reservoir of brucellosis left in the United States?"
Linfield, "I believe thats accurate, as far as coordinating with the other agencies, but not necessarily extending our authority or jurisdiction beyond what we are legally able to do."

19:30 - Dr. Zaluski discusses the incentives of their proposal.

22:20 - Jan French asks if the whole Bison EA area can be fenced off, saying APHIS could do that. Dr. Zaluski defers to FWP Pat Flowers, saying there are wildlife corridor issues. Flowers points out legally it would not be possible. Then they discussed if bison passed the expanded habitat area they could be lethally removed.

24:20 - Scully brings up a budget, asks if the governors office has agreed to fund this whole thing?
Christian MacKay mentioned helicopter hazing cost $65-$75,000 one year. Under this plan they would not have that cost.
APHIS, Dr. Tom Linfield stated they continued to support the department through cooperative agreements, 90% dedicated to brucellosis related activities and primarily within the designated surveillance areas - how Dr. Zaluski and Christian utilize those funds for surveillance and mitigation is bore out in their work plan, APHIS is supporting the State as far as brucellosis, both as surveillance and mitigation efforts.
MacKay stated they were currently operating 100% under Governors budget. No indication from Governor or staff that they are going to scale back funding for the DSA.

32:00 - Christian MacKay states in reference to the Yellowstone National Park bison, "We're not going to let them out until the population goes down."
Scully, "We have the tools right now to change that population."
MacKay, "No we dont."
Scully, "Yes we do."
MacKay, "We dont have access to the Park."
They discussed the IBMP process and the 3000 population objective. If after hunting season, the numbers were not below 3000, then they would use trapping and slaughter.

36:37 - Scully, "We dont have the political will to eliminate elk that have brucellosis in the hottest time of the season, it just got moved from June 15th to April 15th, in the last year, in Oct., so why would we have the political will to do it to bison?"
Dr. Marty Zaluski then details capturing operations of bison, not having the capability of managing the larger numbers, having to rely on the Park to do this.

39:00 - John Scully, asks about the stocking rates of bison in the YNP. Is 3000 the appropriate stocking rate of bison in YNP and do they (YNP) agree with that?
FWP Pat Flowers stated that was the current population target in the IBMP and they have signed off on it. And so, based on that, Id say yes." (Actually, the YNP is forced to this number because of the APHIS and MT DOL objectives of reducing the brucellosis seroprevalence level by reducing the population. YNP does not manage any other wildlife in this manner and in conversations with the Park personnel, they have not expressed any "concern about overpopulation of bison in the Park," as another politically misinformed, canned response email from Governor Bullock's office released on March 14th.)

One of the BOL members asked, who had the authority to lethally remove the bison that "dont deserve to be outside the Park?" Dr. Zaluski answered that has always been the state veterinarians position, because of 81-2-120.

42:00 - John Scully brought up FWP position relative to hazing elk, local working groups, is not that contingent on public hunter access?
Pat Flowers answers no, the Statewide Working Group did not make that a requirement.

45:20 - Ed comments, "This board is supposed to protect cattle industry and not wildlife industry." They discussed nearby ranchers and their property.

Jan French stated, "Its (Bison EA) not ready yet, we're not ready yet to vote on anything. We voted last time on, calling on no, we dont want anything done...whatever in this draft is not enough, to prove to me that I should be voting yes to anything like this."

They continued the fencing conversation. Scully believed this belonged in the IBMP process.

57:00 - Jan French, "I frankly would like to have it, something positive done before we go into the IBMP, so that we are not accused of just stonewalling every time we turn around. I want to be able to say, 'We've dont this, and we need you to do this,' when we get to the IBMP."

A budget, 3000 head, survey of surrounding ranchers was to be done before further action.

1:04:00 - BOL asked Pat Flowers what they gain in this process. Flowers referred to dual status of bison and the "unholy marriage" with the Dept. of Livestock on managing them. He mentioned bison as a big game hunted species and this would provide a broader area for that, and they are also interested in managing bison as wildlife in Montana, that means having habitat available and managing their numbers through hunting. "Thats how we manage other populations, and in my opinion the more we can move in that direction, the better opportunity we have for taking the controversy out of this and normalizing how we manage them. I know it will never be as elk or different animals, they have a higher seroprevalence right now and for the foreseeable future, that reason will always be different in how we manage them. But the closer we come to managing them on a broader landscape, through hunting as opposed to other means, I think the more support we're going to get from the general public. I think we can provide for limited risk."

MacKay brought up the other important role of FWP has is recognition of Tribal Treaty Hunting Rights and working with those Tribes to coordinate those hunts along with the State licensed hunters. He stated they were up to 4 Tribes with Treaty Rights and another that is knocking at the door.

French stated hunting would not reduce wildlife numbers. Once reduced, you could manage with hunting. It would have to be a catastrophic event to reduce the wildlife population.

1:10:20 - Gene asked if increasing the bison population would increase the prevalence in the elk population, therefore putting more ranches at risk, not from the bison, but because the bison spread it to the elk and the elk to the cows?
Zaluski replies that transmission from bison to elk is alot less than they previously thought.
Flowers said it likely happening elk to elk rather than bison to elk.
The study bringing up who the vectors were was brought up - A Risk Analysis of Brucella abortus Transmission Among Bison, Elk, and Cattle in the Northern Greater Yellowstone Area (2010)

John Scully then brings up that hunting bison in Montana is contingent upon the approval of the Department of Livestock, which most MT hunters dont realize. Though the regulation is listed in MCA 87, the FWP portion of the Montana Law, it states DOL has jurisdictional authority, MCA 87-2-730 Bison Hunting in Montana "permitted only when authorized by the department of livestock under the provisions set forth in 81-2-120." "fair chase hunting of wild buffalo or bison, including requirements that hunting be conducted on foot and away from public roads and that there be no designation of specific wild buffalo or bison to be hunted; (e) means of taking and handling of carcasses in the field, which must include provisions for public safety because of the potential for the spread of infectious disease;" "87-2-730. (Effective March 1, 2014) . Special wild buffalo license -- regulation. (1) The public hunting of wild buffalo or bison that have been designated as a species in need of disease control under 81-2-120 is permitted only when authorized by the department of livestock under the provisions set forth in 81-2-120."

FERAL SWINE
1:15:20 - BOL discusses a legislative proposal to make Feral Swine in MT illegal. This was agreed by a number of stakeholders in Montana, including MWF, whose representative Nick Gevock spoke in favor of outlawing Feral Swine in MT. Having lived in Texas and had to deal with feral swine on our property, I can whole heartedly agree with how devastating feral swine are.

What was not mentioned during this discussion was that feral swine are not only a reservoir for Brucella suis, a brucellosis bacteria preferring swine populations, but they can also become infected with Brucella abortus, the variety favoring bovines and cervids (cattle, bison and elk). Academics are looking into whether swine are a dead end host of Brucella abortus, or if they can transmit it to cattle. Another disturbing note on the swine and brucellosis front is that currently there is no vaccine for swine brucellosis. Montana does not want feral swine here.

Elk Management in Areas with Brucellosis and Elk Surveillance
1:35:00 - BOL discussed the Park County Paradise Valley Working Group and their proposal to the FWP Commission to extend kill dates of elk to May 15th, as well as have FWP Sportsmens dollars pay for miles of large scale pasture fencing that will be 6-8 foot high, wildlife proof. At first they were confused about the language. Scully objected to anything that would require ranchers to have to allow public hunter access on their ranches. I clarified that this program operated outside of any Montana Law, not requiring public hunter access as in Game Damage laws. They also misunderstood a reference - as in Game Damage laws, involving the fencing, as to who would be be paying for this. I clarified that the reference was to FWP Sportsmens dollars paying for the fencing, which they then accepted, deciding against striking some of the language. My purpose in clarifying was to show that there were objections when they thought public hunter access was required and they might have to pay for fencing, but when they were shown there was no public hunter access and the massive, wildlife obstructing fencing would be paid for with MT FWP sportsmens dollars, those objections disappeared.

1:55:30 - Dr. Marty Zaluski and Dr. Eric Liska spoke about the FWP Elk Surveillance study where elk cows are captured, tested to see if they show antibodies to brucellosis. Those that are positive are collared to track movement, those pregnant receive vaginal transmitters. This winter they tested the Tobacco Roots, capturing 70 elk, all tested negative. East of there in HD 311, southwest of Belgrade, they captured 60 elk with 10 testing positive. As a result the Designated Surveillance Area will be expanding. The DSA is mandated by APHIS, forcing the GYA states to sign onto this action, in order to receive their livestock Brucellosis Class Free Status. This give APHIS control of our FWP concerning elk and bison due to brucellosis, which is why the Elk Management in Areas with Brucellosis program was created.

According to a MT Legislative DSA Inquiry, conducted in 2010, concerning the DSA, "Question: Is the DOL's Designated Surveillance For Brucellosis Official Order 10-01-D (January 13, 2010) an action that should have been is subject to the MEPA review process?
Answer: Probably, yes. The DOL is not a state agency that is exempted from MEPA. The DOL's administrative rules implementing MEPA, MEPA case law, provisions of the Montana constitution, dictates whether the DOL's Order is subject to MEPA review...Conclusion: Based on this unfortunately lengthy but necessary legal analysis, the DOL's Order probably should have been subject to the MEPA review process."

John Scully then asked for a comparative update on how each GYA state (Wyoming and Idaho) handles brucellosis.

 

Kathryn QannaYahu

 

 

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