The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), Montana Association of State Grazing Districts (MASGD and the Montana Public Lands Council (PLC), recently provided comments to Yellowstone National Park, regarding the Yellowstone-area Bison Management Plan/EIS.
Currently, the National Park Service (NPS) and the State of Montana are serving as joint lead agencies in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a plan to manage Yellowstone-area bison. As stated in their documents, the goal is to minimizing brucellosis transmission between these wild bison and livestock to the extent practicable. This EIS would be developed to replace the existing Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). In addition to submitting comments, MSGA also attended the public scoping open house in Bozeman.
The main basis of our comments, were the result of policy that was passed at the MSGA Mid-Year meeting. Those recommendations included:
- No increase in the current population goal of 3,000 for the entire Yellowstone area bison herd.
- No further increases of the current areas outside YNP where migrating bison are tolerated.
- Continual vaccination of captured bison in the Park.
In reviewing the preliminary draft alternatives, our organizations most support the current No Action alternative. This alternative incorporates population control, spring haze back dates, vaccination, culling, hunting and shipment of excess animals to processing facilities. While other alternatives include some components of this alternate, the remainder of the alternatives tend to reduce management actions by the agency, which in our view will lead to greater conflicts.
The comments also included provisions in each alternative that we supported or opposed. Some of those concerns included removal of livestock from private land or federal grazing leases on the Forest Service or other federal lands. These private lands and grazing leases are an important element to any ranching operation and the removal of livestock from these areas will put these family ranches in jeopardy.
Lastly, it was our recommendation YNP, stay the EIS planning until the National Academy of Science’s study of brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area is complete. This study is scheduled to examine factors associated with the increased occurrence of brucellosis transmission from wildlife to livestock and the recent expansion of brucellosis in non-feedground elk. In addition, it is slated to consider the role of feeding grounds, predators, population size and other factors in facilitating brucellosis infection.
One important aspect will be the committee’s work to explore the likelihood of developing vaccines that are more effective, delivery systems, and diagnostic protocols for cattle, bison and elk. Our organizations feel it is imperative to engage and complete this critical study before any action is taken on the Yellowstone-area Bison Management Plan/EIS.