Livestock Groups Consider MOU for Brucellosis Management | Podcast

PodcastThe National Public Lands Council is hosting their annual meeting this week in Cody, Wyoming. Several Montana ranchers are taking advantage of the close proximity to attend the conference and meeting with public land users from across the country. Montana Stockgrowers and Montana Public Lands Council has several representatives at the meeting and we’ll be catching up later with Jay Bodner to learn more about the big topics of discussion coming out of the event.

Ranchers representing the Montana Public Lands Council in Cody this week include Vicki Olson of Malta and MPLC President, John and Joe Helle from Dillon, George Trischman from Sheridan and Johnny Schultz

Earlier, Montana Stockgrowers took part in a Tri-State Meeting prior to the PLC conference in Cody, to meet with representatives from our neighboring states of Idaho and Wyoming. MSGA Executive Vice President, Errol Rice, shares more about the topics discussed on the Stockgrowers podcast. As part of the meeting, the three states agreed to encourage state and federal agencies to create a working committee that will work toward better solutions for managing brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

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Livestock Groups Submit Comments on Yellowstone-Area Bison Management

brucellosisThe 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:

  1. No increase in the current population goal of 3,000 for the entire Yellowstone area bison herd.
  2. No further increases of the current areas outside YNP where migrating bison are tolerated.
  3. 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.

Public Comment Period and Meetings on Bison Management

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There are a number of bison planning efforts underway that impact the state of Montana and so MSGA is providing a brief update on these planning documents and how members can become involved. The first effort is between the National Park Service (NPS) and the State of Montana, who 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.

NPS and State of Montana will be hosting a series of three public scoping open houses in Bozeman, Gardiner, and West Yellowstone, Montana. The open houses will have an identical format and agenda. The meetings will be held in Bozeman on June 2 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Gardiner on June 3 at the Gardiner School, and West Yellowstone on June 4 at the Holiday Inn. Each meeting will run from 6 to 8 p.m. and have an identical agenda.

This document planning process is in the scoping phase, which is the first opportunity to provide comments. The comment deadline is June 15, 2015. Comments can be submitted online at NPS Planning, Environment & Public Comment or by mail to:

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone Bison Management Plan EIS
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

There are currently six preliminary draft alternatives, ranging from No Action alternative to year-round bison tolerance. This EIS is designed to update the 2001 Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP).

MSGA is currently reviewing these draft alternatives and will provide talking points to members and submit comments to the NPS. Even though this is the first phase in the planning process, MSGA has been active in communication with our Congressional delegation, APHIS and MT state agencies over impacts of bison to our members.

In addition, MT FWP is finalizing a Statewide Bison Conservation and Management EIS.  FWP has stated the development of this EIS is to address the potential for bison restoration in Montana. There have been four draft alternatives developed, ranging from No Action to bison being restored on public lands. FWP plans to release a draft in late May, followed by a 90-day comment period. MSGA, along with a number of members, attended a series of meeting held by FWP to discuss the development of this EIS. MSGA will once again be very involved in commenting on this document and providing talking points to members, upon its release.

Click here to visit the NPS website and learn more about Yellowstone’s Bison Management Plans.