Comment Period Opens on DSA Boundary Adjustment; Public Meeting Set for July 2

DSA-map2_closeupPublic comment on expanding the state’s Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) for brucellosis to include a 365-square mile chunk of land between Norris and Three Forks (see map) opened late last week.

The Montana Board of Livestock at its last meeting approved putting the proposal out for review after learning that 10 of 60 elk in the corresponding elk hunting district (HD311) recently tested positive for exposure to brucellosis. State veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski said brucellosis-positive elk were not previously known to exist in the area, which is home to about 50 cattle producers and 12,000 head of cattle.

Created in 2010 with extensive input from the livestock industry and USDA-APHIS, the four-county (Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison and Park) DSA is designed to prevent the spread of brucellosis and protect the marketability of Montana cattle. Cattle within the DSA are subject to additional testing, vaccination and identification requirements.

If approved, the boundary adjustment would be the third since the DSA was implemented in January 2010. Other adjustments occurred when brucellosis-positive elk where found in 2011 and 2012 on the western edge of the DSA in Beaverhead County.

The department will host a public meeting at 10 a.m. on July 2 at Headwaters Livestock Auction in Three Forks to discuss the proposal. Public comment will be accepted at the meeting, or can be submitted via email at MDOLcomments@mt.gov or via US postal mail at Christian Mackay, 301 N. Roberts St., Room 308, P.O. Box 202001, Helena, MT 59620-2001.

The public comment period closes July 12.

Board of Livestock Indefinitely Tables Action on Bison Environmental Assessment

Montana Department of Livestock DOLThis week the Board of Livestock met in Helena for their May meeting. One of the major items on the agenda was to review proposals from Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and the Department of Livestock (DOL) on an Environmental Assessment that would allow more tolerance of Yellowstone bison on its western boundary.

Click here to listen to this podcast on SoundCloud.

Since the beginning of the Bison Environmental Assessment, MSGA has submitted extensive written comments supporting a no action alternative. The Board of Livestock (BOL), during its three previous meetings in January, March and now May, have also discussed this Environmental Assessment in great detail. In particular, there was an addendum to the EA, which allowed for a population objective that would trigger whether or not Yellowstone bison could come into the state of Montana.

We were very pleased today that the BOL voted unanimously to table indefinitely the subject of the bison EA. While MSGA was very grateful that the DOL, FWP and the Governor’s office were very transparent and allowed us to have adequate input into this proposal and hear our suggestions quite seriously, we still are not able to support the proposal as it was written.

MSGA has continued a close working relationship with the DOL on issues that are important to ranchers across the state of Montana. Moving forward we will be working with the state agencies on a future IBMP plan and encourage ranchers across the state to work with MSGA to provide their input.

Brucellosis in the state of Montana is not going to go away anytime soon. The big call to action for the ranching community and the members of MSGA is to think critically about how to manage the complexity of this issue of brucellosis as it persists in Yellowstone bison, migratory elk, and how it affects our ability to raise commercial cattle in southwestern Montana.

In the next several months and years to come, the state of Montana is going to be engaging in a full-fledged Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to rewrite the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) from its current version, which was adopted in 2000. Under this process, Governor Bullock and the administration will be taking the lead on what the inputs to this plan will look like from the state of Montana’s perspective. MSGA certainly looks forward to engaging proactively in the process and getting input from our stakeholders at all levels so that we can provide credible information into how to best develop a management plan or bison as relates to the state of Montana.

One of the most immediate and best ways to engage in this conversation is to attend MSGA committee meetings, in particular our Cattle Health subcommittee, which will be meeting in Miles City on June 14. Our team will be having a very comprehensive discussion about brucellosis in bison and elk, as well as our own designated surveillance area for the state of Montana. Ranchers may also send or e-mail your comments to MSGA office and let us know your thoughts on how we can best develop a more comprehensive management plan for the state of Montana at all levels of the brucellosis debate.

For more information on attending our June policy meetings, you can go to the website, mtbeef.org, and find details on our Mid Year meeting in Miles City. We can also be reached by phone at (406) 442-3420.

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Montana Rancher Profile: Bob Sitz

MSGA’s multimedia intern Lauren Chase interviewed Montana rancher, Bob Sitz of Sitz Angus Ranch. Bob and his brother Jim have ranches headquartered in Harrison and Dillon, Montana. Sitz Angus is able to stay successful even though they are faced with a multitude of issues ranging from the brucellosis disease, logging, wolves, and water quality.

This video is brought to you by MSGA’s Research, Education, and Endowment Foundation.

June 18, 2010 – MSGA Friday Video Update with Errol Rice

This week, Executive Vice President of MSGA, Errol Rice, talks about the successful Mid-Year Meeting in Dillon, Montana, MSGA-sponsored Range Days, an open house about bison brucellosis vaccination, and an amendment that could change the Antiquities Act. Watch the video update to find out more.

USAHA passes resolution to regionalize GYA for brucellosis

The Northern Ag Network continued coverage of the USAHA, reporting that the U.S. Animal Health Association finished their meeting yesterday and the association approved a resolution to regionalize brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. USDA is required to respond to the group.

According to Northern Ag’s report,The resolution has 5 key concepts:
1 – We must recognize that the level of risk for brucellosis exposure varies geographically in each state in the GYA.
2 – We must implement and enhance traceability and have more rigorous testing for brucellosis.
3 – Additional cases must be allowed to be found in the GYA without it affecting the free status of the state.
4 – Advancements in the elimination of brucela abortus need to be made to eradicate brucellosis from the wildlife.
5 – We need to support funding for these efforts.

According to Dr. Zaluski, Montana State Veterinarian, the border of a buffer zone around Yellowstone National Park would be determined by a joint effort between the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the states. Producers in this area will be required to undergo more intensive management of their livestock.

Visit http://www.northernbroadcasting.com/stories_detail.asp?ID=1281 to read the Northern Ag Network’s report and hear audio from Zaluski.

U.S. Animal Health Association considers new plan for brucellosis in GYA

The Northern Ag Network reported today that the U.S. Animal Health Association is considering a resolution that could change the way brucellosis is dealt with in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Check out the article with sound clips of an interview with Dr. Walt Cook, Wyoming’s State Veterinarian. http://www.northernbroadcasting.com/stories_detail.asp?ID=1274

According to Northern Ag Network’s report, USAHA supports the concept of regionalizing the GYA. There will be a zone around Yellowstone National Park in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming that will not affect the brucellosis status of the rest of the states. Cook said that increased testing requirements will be required for the zone, but did not say who would pay for it. The report mentioned that the “group did stress that there needed to be a more aggressive approach taken to help handle the problem in the wildlife,” but did not give any specifics about what they intended to do about brucellosis in wildlife.

The resolution will be voted on today. Stay tuned for more information.

DOL to hold town meetings for draft Brucellosis Action Plan

The Montana Department of Livestock has scheduled a series of meetings to discuss its draft brucellosis action plan, which is open for public comment through November 1.

Meetings will be held: (more…)

Upcoming IBMP Meetings

Is allowing more tolerance for diseased bison the right thing to do in our current brucellosis crisis?

by Errol Rice, MSGA Executive Vice President

At a time when Montana needs to be extra cautious about brucellosis, I find it a bit perplexing that the Interagency Bison Management Plan partners are working hard to allow more tolerance for diseased bison outside Yellowstone National Park. Our State Veterinarian has released a complicated Brucellosis Action Plan with excessive and onerous surveillance and testing requirements for areas around Yellowstone National Park, yet he is so far willing to accept the idea of 300, or possibly more, untested bison on Horse Butte near West Yellowstone. (more…)

Montana looking for Brucellosis Task Force members

DOL – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Montana Department of Livestock are looking for ranchers and wildlife enthusiasts to serve on a task force designed to develop solutions to the spread of brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

The seven-member task force will make science-based recommendations on wildlife and livestock management in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) to reduce the risk of transmission of the disease. (more…)

MDOL extends comment period on draft brucellosis plan

DOL – The Montana Department of Livestock is extending the public comment period on its draft Brucellosis Action Plan by three weeks through Saturday, November 1.

State veterinarian Dr. Martin Zaluski said the public has expressed “significant interest” in the plan and is asking for more time to comment. (more…)