Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Transparency of the Montana 2013 Legislative Bison Crosshairs

For over a month I have closely watched the 2013 Montana Legislative Session. It is difficult to describe the overwhelming attack on Montana's wildlife and the public's access. There is a very concerted effort to erode the public's rights, putting them in the hands of a privileged elite. For example, HB 404, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Flynn (rancher and outfitter in Townsend, MT) - Provide funding for block management program. This bill seeks to fund Montana's Block Management Program, a program where the State leases land from private landowners, so that public hunters can hunt on that land. The catch is, the funding will come out of Habitat Montana, a program where the State purchases land for public access. Habitat Montana benefits the Montana public, while Block Management ultimately benefits the private landowner. While Block Management can be beneficial to the public hunter, it should not be at the cost of the better benefit - that of purchasing land, making it available to all the public of Montana for many purposes.

HB 404 is the epitome of what is taking place in the Montana 2013 Legislative Session - the removal of what is public, for the benefit of a minority (5%) elite agriculture/ranching industry. And no other wildlife is in this legislative crosshairs like the Wild Bison.

There are 10 House and Senate bills (short titles) that target the Bison.

SB 143 - Revise bison management, sponsored by Sen. John Brenden (Republican, owner of Brenden Farms in Scobey). Senate Fish & Game Committee. This bill would allow year round hunting on any bison that stepped out of the YNP, would prohibit the transfer, relocation and transplantation of any wild bison - equates them with diseased vermin.

SB 256 - Making FWP liable for private property damages caused by wild buffalo/bison, sponsored by Sen. Frederick (Eric) Moore (Republican, rancher, co-owner Solaris Feeders Llc. - cattle feed, Miles City). Senate Fish & Game Committee. This bill would make the FWP liable for any private property damages from bison, contrary to the status of all other Montana wildlife, provided by the Montana Supreme Court ruling of C. R. Rathbone.

SB 305 - Generally revise laws governing bison management in Montana, sponsored by Sen. Jim Peterson (Republican, owner Jim Peterson Ranch). Senate Fish & Game. This bill would prevent bison, such as the American Prairie Reserve pure bison, being released with a transplanted wild herd (such as at the CMR) to increase the genetic stock.

SB 341 - Establish criteria for transplantation or augmentation of wildlife, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Olsen Fielder (Republican,Silverline Projects Inc., "Wildlife Damage Control", husband Paul Fielder Montana Trappers Association).Senate Fish & Game Committee. This bill seriously prohibits any release, transplanting, etc.of bison by means of public rejection, "implemented only after it is determined that transplantation or augmentation of a wildlife species will not jeopardize existing grazing allotments" on public land, is possibly a traffic hazard, require approval of county commissioners, require nearby private landowners permission, ad nauseam.

HB 249 - Revising laws related to presence of bison/buffalo on private property, sponsored by Rep. Alan Doane (Republican, rancher in Bloomfield/Glendive). House Appropriations Committee. This bill gives private property owners the right to kill wild bison as they see fit.

HB 328 - Allowing hunter notification of wild buffalo/bison location, sponsored by Rep. Ted Washburn (Republican, Big Game Hunting). House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee. This bill gives the Dept. of Livestock the authority to determine if a wild bison can be killed with a hunt,notification of license recipients as to when and where they may hunt, including the location of the wild bison. (Thats not a hunt when you demand exactly where the bison is.)

HB 396 - Revise laws regarding translocation of wild buffalo/bison, sponsored by Rep. Mike Lang (Republican, owner Northern Ag Service Malta). House Agriculture Committee. This bill grants authority to local County Commissioners to veto the release, relocation and transplantation of any brucellosis free bison.

HB 484 - Generally revise bison laws, sponsored by Rep. Alan Redfield (Republican., rancher - Davis Creek Ranch Livingston). House Agriculture Committee. This bill is very insidious, seeking slaughter of any wild bison exiting the YNP, capturing for experimenting, vaccinating, treating all wild bison as diseased vermin, gives the Dept. of Livestock the primary authority over wild bison, ...

HB 507 - Generally revising management of wild buffalo and wild bison, sponsored by Rep. Bill Harris (Republican, Rancher, Outfitter - Harris Ranch, Fort Musselshell Outfitters). House Agriculture Committee.This bill applies livestock laws to wild bison, restricts release and transplanting, holds the Dept. of Livestock as the authority over wild bison, may not transplant any wild bison outside of nearby area of YNP. Any animal leaving the YNP are the property of the Dept. of Livestock to do as they see fit.

HB 312 - Revise laws relating to brucellosis surveillance, sponsored by Rep. Alan Redfield (Republican, rancher - Davis Creek Ranch Livingston). House Agriculture Committee. This bill is a test and slaughter bill, not only of elk, but also bison, charging FWP for the financial bill.

Each of these bills contains more detrimental language than the very short descriptions I have provided. If you will notice, there is a political party common denominator in all these anti-bison bills - Republican. Why are these republicans so adamantly set on destroying the wild bison and prohibiting them from being released elsewhere in Montana? Well, if you read the language, you see 2 common thoughts expressed - grazing competition and disease (brucellosis). 

Supposed Brucellosis Threat

So lets tackle the brucellosis issue for a moment. There has not been one documented case of a bison transmitting brucellosis to any livestock. And since science has advanced to the point that they can genotype the Brucella abortus found in the recent cattle outbreaks, they have all shown to be from elk, not bison. The Department of Livestock knows this and even posts it to their news release section of their website for the last 5 years. In fact, in the last 5 years there have been 9 cases from about 5 or 6 herds. In 2008, Paradise Valley (1 cow). In 2010,  Gallatin (1 domestic bison cow) county, on Turner's Flying D Ranch (speaking with Eric Liska of MTDOL, he stated that there were other bison, but no specific numbers could be provided, that were not cultured, but simply tested seropositive, meaning they had antibodies, showing they had been exposed but were not cultured to see if they were infective. I asked for a location on their website confirming the data and none could be provided.) In 2011, 2 cattle herds had positives in Park (6 on one ranch - confirmed at the Brucellosis in Yellowstone Bison, Science Review and Workshop, presenter Dr. Marty Zaluski), and Madison (1 bull) counties. According to MTDOL, the genotype indicates the brucellosis came from elk.  MTDOL Livestock News Releases  9 cases of brucellosis to warrant the massive killings of 2009 YNP bison for  these last 5 years.

Not all bison are exposed to brucellosis, first brought to wildlife by the livestock industry. Of those exposed, not all are infectious. Brucella abortus can only be transmitted through contact with an aborted fetus (generally the first calf) and those birthing fluids for a very short period of time (heat and sunlight, as well as animal scavenging seriously diminish the possible exposure time). Bison bulls, calves, yearlings and non-pregnant females do not shed infected materials that can possibly spread brucellosis. Possibly infected females, in their first pregnancy, are the only possible risk. But as stated before, there has not been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle. 

Interview with Dr. Marty Zaluski - Montana State Veterinarian, Dept. of Livestock

In a recent interview (Feb. 12th, 2013), I asked Marty a number of specific questions about bison and brucellosis. 

Q: From a health perspective, were you comfortable with the movement of bison from quarantine to Fort Peck? 

A: Yes, he had no reservation about their health status, but believes it would be good to follow up, to make sure they remain free of brucellosis.

Q: Did you approve moving the bison herd from Elk Island Park in Alberta, Canada to the American Prairie Reserve in Montana? Are you comfortable with their health status? Could these bison be used for restoration of a wild bison herd here in Montana? 

A: Yes, Marty approved the health status of the APR bison and was comfortable with their being brucellosis free. And yes, they could be used for restoration. His, "focus is quite narrow for disease issue."  

Q: Could the wild bison on Turner's Green Ranch be used for restoration? 

A: Yes, they are the most tested herd and have been proven to be free of brucellosis. The risk is infinitesimally small.

Q: What's your assessment of disease transmission from bison to cattle - under the current program? 

A: Not zero, its low. You cant prove a negative. The current management is a result of tradition. 

Questions to the radical anti-wildlife ag/livestock industry.

Why, when the Montana State Veterinarian has had no reservations about the health of the transplanted herds, and sees an infinitesimally small risk of transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle, do so many of the radical ag/livestock industry treat wild bison as diseased vermin and legislativally demand their slaughter? Especially since they know the known cases come from elk? Because this is not about brucellosis, this is about grazing and the nearly free grazing rights on public lands that they want access to and the wild bison not to have access to. 

As to SB 212, the oft quoted anti-bison bill that became law in 2011, that required the FWP management of wild bison that are released or transplanted in Montana, it does not apply to the wild bison that are entering Montana on their own, which is part of the recent spat of legislative bullsh$it erupting right now. 212 makes the state liable for the costs for this bison management, which does not apply to any other wildlife in Montana. This needs to change. Wild Bison are wildlife, not livestock and need to be treated as such. Which brings me to the Bison Brucellosis Workshop.

Bison Brucellosis Workshop Agenda Feb. 26-28, 2013

A Bison Brucellosis Workshop is being held at the Chico Hot Springs Resort in Pray, MT, on February 26-28, 2013. On the first day, from 2:30 - 3:00 Disease Suppression: Immunocontraceptives will be presented. This is the frickin' experimental drug GonaCon. The Department of Agriculture APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) has developed a "vaccine" on captured bison that migrated out of YNP. When the GnRH vaccine is injected into the animal's body, the body's immune response neutralizes the hormone's function, resulting in infertility in both males and females. 

This is our wildlife they want to make infertile. And what about the effect on anyone eating bison meat that has been "innocultated" with this GonaCon"vaccine". We know that livestock treated with growth hormones, antibiotics and such, pass into the meat and milk and affect the humans that eat it. Will this also transfer to those that hunt the bison and eat the meat? Or those that simply eat the bison meat? Will this make humans infertile as well? They have used this on deer as well. This should not even be on the table at this workshop. Our wildlife is wild and should not be treated with infertility drugs.

Just after this debacle of an idea, from 3:00-3:30 is Disease Suppression: Vaccination. This is the plain old garden variety bad idea brucellosis vaccinating our wildlife bullsh$it. What hunter wants to eat vaccinated wildlife? What economic success is there going to be in trying to inoculate a free roaming population of wildlife? In fact, when I spoke with Dr. Marty Zaluski about HB 312 and seroprevalence reduction in wildlife through vaccination, he answered, "Vaccinating elk is not viable, vaccinating bison poses challenges, there is no hope at all in vaccinating elk." 

Dr. Bruce L. Smith stated in his letter to the HB 312 committe, "Tools for reducing prevalence of brucellosis, and for that matter other diseases in free-ranging wildlife, are limited compared to those for remedying the disease among infected herds of cattle: tools such as prophylactic vaccinations, culling, test and slaughter, or whole herd depopulation. My experience in Wyoming shows that available vaccines (S19 and RB51) are so marginally efficacious in protecting elk against field strain brucellosis infection and preventing brucellosis-induced abortions that they are not a viable management tool. Wyoming’s experimental test and slaughter program—implemented to greatly reduce or eliminate brucellosis in feedground elk—was abandoned after 5 years due to its tremendous budgetary costs and failure to achieve the program’s goal. The most cost-effective means of limiting exposure and infection of susceptible cattle herds to brucellosis from potentially infected bison or elk are to calfhood vaccinate cattle herds and proactively implement practices that limit species sympatry and comingling during periods when transmission is most likely to occur." 

We need to get the radical ag/livestock industry out of legislating our wildlife as livestock. Wild bison are wildlife and have a right to be here in Montana as wildlife, just as all the other wildlife populations. The Montana public has a right to that wildlife. 5% of the ag/livestock industry should not hold over 50% of the legislative seats to push their special interest agendas on us.

Please take a few moments and contact these legislators and get these anti bison bills killed.  

Call: 406-444-4800

 Kathryn QannaYahu


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  2. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic.
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