Saturday, December 14, 2013

I guess he is anxious to stick it to Montana hunters in 2015, science be damned!

Sen. John Brenden, owner of Scobey Farms, from Scobey, MT, appears anxious to beat the rush to stick it to Montana hunters in the 2015 legislative session. He has already filed (drafting in process) LC0023 - Prohibit sage grouse hunting in Montana.
So heres some back story.  "Sage grouse With the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered to decide whether to list the sage grouse as an endangered species by 2015, Western states have been working to establish their own management plans. 'If you think the wolf was a big issue for Montana, it’s a piker compared to sage grouse,' said Sen. Bradley Hamlett, D-Cascade, who sits on the council and the governor’s advisory committee. The governor has appointed a sage grouse advisory committee which has scheduled 10 meetings between now and October. The plan is to have a draft out in October with a final report recommended by late November. Gov. Steve Bullock would then have until early January to make any adjustments with a plan finalized by the end of January, said Jeff Hagener, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Council member Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey, suggested that halting the state’s hunting season for sage grouse may satisfy concerns expressed by some of the state’s partners. Hagener noted that, scientifically, hunting hasn’t been seen as affecting the bird’s population, but the perception is that if oil and gas leasing may be disallowed in certain areas because the birds are few, then hunting shouldn’t be allowed."

Let's not let science get in the way of wildlife management, by any means.

"In their March 2010 listing decision, the USFWS concluded that the key threats to the continued survival of sage - grouse are 1) habitat loss, fragmentation, and modification and 2) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, particularly in relation to energy and other development. The USFWS also evaluated the 'utilization' (e.g. hunting) of sage-grouse and concluded that 'the greater sage-grouse is not threatened by overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes now or in the foreseeable future' "


 Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Strategy Page

American Plains Bison:Rewilding An Icon by James Bailey

For many, plains bison are the embodiment of wildness and the pre-settlement American West. After millenia of evolution through natural selection, however, the species was nearly exterminated, only to be subjected to domestication for more than 100 years. Domestication alters the bison genome through inbreeding, crossing with cattle genes, shrinking genetic diversity and artificial selection. These forces continue to replace natural selection and valued wild characteristics of bison. Does the future hold only continued domestication for plains bison in the United States?
With a view from over 50 years in the profession of wildlife biology, Bailey probes this and other questions in his original analysis of 44 conservation bison herds on native range in the United States. He focuses upon the gray area between wildness and domestication and sheds light on domesticating practices of Native American and government agencies, as well as commercial producers. He challenges the profession of wildlife management to expand its views of opportunities for manipulating wildlife populations. For bison, Bailey makes a strong case for creating large reserves to restore wild bison and their natural contributions to our grassland ecosystems.

Jim Bailey was professor of wildlife biology at Colorado State University for 20 years, teaching big-game management and wildlife nutrition. His first book was Principles of Wildlife Management. In retirement, he became interested in the management of bison in Yellowstone National Park. This led to his survey of the conservation status of bison in the United States and reassessment of wildlife management's influences upon the future evolution of large wild mammals.

You can purchase a copy of American Plains Bison, Rewilding An Icon,
at the following locations:

Bozeman - Country Bookshelf, 28 W. Main, Bozeman, MT 406-587-0166
Helena - Montana Book & Toy Co., 331 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 406-443-0260
Missoula - Fact & Fiction Downtown, 220 N Higgins, Missoula, MT 406-721-2881; University Center, 5 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT (in The Bookstore at UM) 406-243-1234
Missoula - The Book Exchange, 2335 Brooks St., Missoula, MT 406-728-6342
Check with your local book seller, you can ask them to contact Farcountry Press at
1-800-821-3874, or order from them directly.

Friday, October 4, 2013

MT Department of Livestock & Livestock Association Brucellosis Statements

Below is a link to the EMWH webpage dealing with the Sept. 10th testimony that Montana's DoL, Dr. Marty Zaluski gave before the Texas Animal Health Commission concerning their brucellosis rule change on cattle imports from Montana, Idah and Wyoming, the 2 GYA states affected by the brucellosis issue. There are a number of statements that we dont normally hear here in Montana on this subject, from the DoL on brucellosis. When I requested the written public comments from TAHC, I received a 72 page pdf file which not only included Zaluski's 50 pages, but statements from the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Cattlemen's Association, some Montana ranchers. The pdf file is broken up by submitter for easier viewing. Also available are the audio files of the testimony. I really hate transcribing, so I have only done the main testimony from Dr. Marty Zalusky, not all the questions and his answers that followed yet. Mr. Palmers testimony on audio file 10 is also pertinent.

DoL, "Montana's DSA includes 282 operations with 73,200 cattle and domestic bison. This fiscal year, 42,025 of the 73,200 animals have been tested to achieve a 99% confidence that the disease (if it exists) is present at a rate of less that 0.008%. The chance that any one Montana animal is brucellosis positive is 0.00024%." "In comparison, the state of Montana has an annual infection rate of 0.007% with five affected herds over six years since 2007." "There is no documented case of bulls spreading brucellosis." "So what happens is you have cattle properties that are typically on the flats, the river bottoms and the prairies, and then you have the elk ground that is alot of time in the forest. So its not like those elk are on private property typically, and in fact often times those elk are on BLM or Forest Service land," "So there are practices, its not like they come down on the flats, then spread out five fetuses and they take off."
Heres a really good one - no mention of bison, "So really the DSA in the state of Montana is in southwest Montana. And it is designed to identify the cattle at risk from brucellosis positive elk. So we know that brucellosis positive elk are in southwest Montana, they can potentially expose cattle and so the key to identifying the cattle at risk is to identify where the brucellosis positive elk are."

MSA, "There is an extremely low risk of brucellosis transfer posed by cattle coming out of Montana. While a small area of Montana in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) is affected by rare transfers of brucellosis from wildlife, the state of Montana has proven highly effective in its efforts to mitigate the spread of brucellosis."
Mr. Palmers testimony (audio file 10) on behalf of the Matador Cattle Company (Koch Industries), the owner of the Beaverhead Ranch in southwestern Montana, discussing how little of an issue this is, "the majority of those times those elk are not calving in the same location as the cows."
Darrel Stevenson, Stevenson Angus Ranch, "As you can see the rate of incidence is extraordinarily low and our policing system has proven to manage with superb efficiency....Why isnt the science trusted? As reviewed in the attached, incident rate in Montana is low and imported cattle to Texas become even lower with a pre-shipment test? With no documented case of bulls spreading Brucellosis, why are they bundled into the concern?"

I would like to ask this same question of the DoL who shot the lone bull bison on the Dome Mountain WMA after hazing it off the Dome Mountain Ranch (private property rights ignored) and shooting the 2 bull bison on the west side. DoL knows that bulls dont spread brucellosis, nor the bison to cattle, which is why he only addresses elk in his presentation. And based on the science and stats presented by Zaluski, as well as the statements from the associations and ranchers, brucellosis from elk is extremely low, extraordinarily low and easily manageable, mitigated. So why in Montana do they inflame the dialogue on this issue and we dont hear this kind of testimony and science?

I think it is time that we put wildlife management back into the hands of the FWP as far as bison are concerned and keep it there as far as the elk are concerned. Remove "eradication/elimination of brucellosis from wildlife reservoirs" from our Fish, Wildlife and Parks documents/statements, such as that which FWP is signed onto in the IBMP; support natural regulation of these wildlife in the Gallatin National Forest and the Yellowstone National Park, as it should be (their signatures should not be on the IBMP eradication/elimination of brucellosis either). Brucellosis is a minimal disease threat to the cattle industry (more cattle are killed by weather or vehicular accidents each year than years of extremely low brucellosis transmission from elk), which can be managed through the DoL herd plans that Zaluski describes, as well as efforts from FWP in minimizing possible transmission of brucellosis through approved Elk Working Group measures such as encouraging security and forage on public lands and hazing from private. 

Kathryn QannaYahu

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Public Comments Needed for Elk Foundation Public Access Land Purchase

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation - "RMEF secured an option on a 40 acre parcel that has access to Lewis and Clark National Forest. This part of the forest does not have an access point for miles in any direction. This will provide hunters with access to some of the best elk ground in all of Montana. RMEF paid $190,000. The seller was a very cooperative person who wanted to see public access improved in the area. Landowners such as that party are at the core of a land ethic that makes some places so special.
FWP wants to own the property and has offered RMEF $50,000 to take over ownership and management. FWP has committed to manage the area as a public trailhead. This will require approval of the FWP Commission and the Montana Land Board. " 

Here is a link to the FWP News Release 

Draft Environmental Assessment Proposed Red Hill Road - East Access Land Acquisition

Here is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Release

This looks like an awesome opportunity for public access in Montana, especially for public hunter access, which has become more restricted due to special interests locking out public access. Please take the time to send in public comments at the following:

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Red Hill Road – East Fork Access Acquisition EA 
PO Box 938 
Lewistown, MT 59457 
(406) 538-4658 ext. 228  

Also, please send a note of thanks to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, who was instrumental in this process and for their generosity.

Kathryn QannaYahu

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Public Comments Needed For 2014 Work Plan for Elk Management Guidelines in Areas with Brucellosis

The open ended, "unlimited number of..." 2014 Work Plan for Elk Management Guidelines in Areas with Brucellosis (actually an outline - not a plan) was accepted by the FWP Commission on August 8th. If the hunter / conservationists of Montana do not speak up and protest this "plan", it will become the default plan and will be used as the same open ended plan that was used this year. The elk work plan can be found on pdf at the link below, but I suggest sending your comments to   rather than using the electronic form, which does not give you a copy of what you submit. The deadline for comments is Friday, Sept. 13th, 2013, at 5PM.

A work plan was supposed to be created by a local elk brucellosis working group, but due to the fact that the administrator of this program bypassed the Jan. 10th, 2013 Commission approved Proposed Recommendations, concerning the establishment of local working groups, no local working group work plan could be submitted to the FWP Commission. This is what they got instead - an outline. A "plan" is generally defined as a program or method with a stated goal and objectives to meet that goal, not the "unlimited number of...". 

Background information on what took place in 2013:

Points concerning this plan can be found below.

2014 Work Plan for Elk Management Guidelines in Areas with Brucellosis

  1. Local Working Groups: It is crucial that there be implementation of the Elk Management Guidelines In Areas With Brucellosis Working Group Proposed Final Recommendations: Fundamental Objective # 2 - local working groups (collaboration of diverse representation - Sportspersons, Wildlife Enthusiasts, Landowners, Livestock Producers and other resource or land management agencies). "All would be open meetings." Montana Annotated Code 2-3-101-107
  2. Fundamental Objective # 3: Maximize Cost Effectiveness: These so called Dispersal "Hunts", hazing and rancher stackyard fencing efforts all utilize Game Damage forms and models, yet do not have the requirements of the Game Damage program Montana Annotated Code 87-1-225: "Regulation of wild animals, damaging property ---public hunting requirements. Landowner is only eligible for game damage if...allows public hunting during established hunting seasons..." This is not cost effective for sportsmen if they are not receiving public hunting access in exchange for these services. 
  3. Fundamental Objective #1: Minimize Transmission from elk to livestock - needs to focus on Habitat, increasing vegetation on WMA's and public lands to attract and retain elk (elk security to restore public herd), look at reducing grazing on FWP WMA's to provide more forage for wildlife, as well as evaluate later release dates to not interfere with elk calving.
  4. Dispersal Hunts: the word "hunt" should not be used. This is not a fair chase hunt situation, it is not ethical hunting, it is a removal. No dispersal removal activity should occur after Feb. 15th, the time period established for ethical hunting considering the gestation period of the cows. Also, no removals should occur in areas that are in decline/under objective. Removals should not be a first choice, but rather a last resort, if that.
  5.  Brucellosis: While capture, test and slaughter was added to the draft Proposed Recommendations in 2012, by the FWP editor, it was objected to by the original Working Group and removed for the Final Recommendations. This needs to be adamantly maintained, in light of the ranching community calling for capture test and slaughter, as well as legislative efforts to make it law. Dispersal hunts should not mimic this policy under another name. Gut piles from removals should be managed so that if an elk was infected, any possible brucella in birthing materials, lymph nodes and sexual organs does not present a mode of transmission to cattle or other elk, which would be counter productive to this program (gut piles were not managed in 2013). In addition, FWP is signed on to the IBMP 9 objectives, point 4 being "Commit to the eventual elimination of brucellosis in bison and other wildlife." The only other wildlife in Montana that carry Brucella abortus are our elk. FWP needs to remove themselves from this objective. In addition, USDA and its subsidaries such as APHIS, as well as the MTDoL are promoting and pushing the immunocontraceptive sterilization of our wildlife. This elk brucellosis management plan needs to reject any efforts by the ag/livestock interests in promoting immunocontraceptives or vaccines as a means of minimizing transmission of brucellosis to livestock. "Humans have rarely (if ever) eliminated a disease from a wildlife population without eliminating the wildlife population of concern."
  6. Managing for Wildlife: A number of FWP wildlife biologist and peer agency papers and comments concerning the elk brucellosis management plan stated repeatedly that FWP should not be managing elk like livestock, but as wildlife. 
  7. Education: There needs to be a concerted effort to produce wildlife management supported educational materials for the public, not this worst case scenario study quote of 81 days (last time I heard the presentation to the FWP Commissioners it was up to 100 days, which has never been duplicated in natural conditions) that brucella remains on the landscape. Even the MtDoL states 21-26 days. 81 or more days is inflammatory and counter productive to the goal of maximizing acceptability of the disease in wildlife and the elk populations. Also, much of the current presentation is advocating the business of the livestock industry and their interests. FWP is in the business of managing Fish, Wildlife and Parks, not livestock.  

Please contact  with public comments on this 2014 Work Plan For Elk Managment. The deadline for comments is Friday, Sept. 13th, 2013, at 5PM.

Kathryn QannaYahu

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reject the Elk Management In Areas With Brucellosis 2014 Work Plan

August 8th is the FWP Commissioners mtg, where they will vote on the Elk Management In Areas With Brucellosis 2014 Proposed Work Plan. This plan is basically the same open ended, do whatever you want to benefit certain ranchers, to hell with the wildlife biology and Montana hunters plan that was submitted to the Commission this spring, with some "Cover My Ass" thrown in. This "management" has been a debacle in my opinion. Please contact the FWP Commissioners to not approve the Elk Management in Area With Brucellosis 2014 Proposed Work Plan.

I read something interesting in the Bison EA, pg. 49, I thought I would share, since this pertains to elk and the northern elk herd, specifically elk HD 313, an area that is of concern involving the elk brucellosis management. Take a look at information provided by FWP wildlife biologists. This is an area that kill permits were issued to ranchers this spring, as part of the elk brucellosis management. HD 317, just north of 313 is where the dispersal hunts occurred.

Northern Boundary (HD313):
Hunting District 313 encompasses winter range for the Northern Yellowstone elk herd, a migratory herd that summers primarily within Yellowstone National Park and the Absaroka- Beartooth Wilderness. This population peaked during the 1980’s and 1990’s with a 10-year average of 15,304 during 1986-1995 and has been in decline since the late 1990’s. The highest number of elk observed during aerial surveys was 19,054 elk in 1994. The winter 2013 count resulted in 3,915 observed elk, a decline of 74% from the population average at its peak. The herd is counted cooperatively by Montana and Yellowstone National Park, and the portion of the herd that winters in Montana is managed with an objective of 4,000 elk. The 2013 count resulted in 3,000 elk wintering in Montana. The highest count of elk wintering in Montana was 8,626 in 1996 with a 10-year average of 5,444 during 1989-1998. Within HD 313 from 2004-2012, there has been an average of 1,344 elk hunters and 7,302 elk hunter days annually. The average number of elk harvested declined from 1,590 (average 2000-2006) to 259 (average 2007-2012). Hunting season structure is restrictive with antlerless harvest limited to 30 brow-tined bull/antlerless youth-only permits and unlimited permits for brow-tined bulls."

Points concerning the Work Plan

  • "To date, local working groups (which are supposed to have representation by Sportspersons, Wildlife enthusiasts, Landowners that do not raise livestock and Livestock Producers) have not been identified in all areas." Meetings have been set up, of primarily ranchers, in their homes, obstructing sportsmens groups and excluding the other stakeholders required by the Commission. Complaint letters have been ignored, Montana Annotated Code 2-3-101 - 107 open meeting has been obstructed and resulting FOIA's only partially filled, contrary to Dir. Hageners directions.
  • Again, the "Unknown number of..." aspects to this plan is not really a plan, but an opened ended recipe for continuing the practices that have been occurring with little accountability or transparency.
  • Why has FWP used sportspersons dollars to supply stackyard fencing, hazing, kill permits, etc. to ranchers that do not allow public access hunting during the established hunting season as the Game Damage Program requires (Landowners may be eligible for game damage assistance if they allow public hunting during established hunting seasons. Assistance may include hazing, repellants, temporary or permanent stackyard fencing, damage hunts, kill permits, or supplemental game damage licenses.)? When this question was brought up by one of the Elk Brucellosis Working Group members at the July 11th meeting in Bozeman, Quentin Kujala quickly replied to them that they, the Working Group, did not include it in their Proposed Recommendations that the FWP Commissioners approved. I have a number of questions with this. 1. Why did not Quentin Kujala, FWP's representative and manager of this program point this out to a “civilian” working group when they were compiling their proposed recommendations? 2. Why did no other FWP representative reviewing this document before presentation point this out? And if they did, why was it not presented to the Working Group? 3, Why did the FWP Commissioners not add this as an amendment to the Proposed Recommendations to protect Montana Sportsmen, their access and their dollars coming into FWP? 4. Why is this still not required in this work plan?
  • "Hunters will be selected using mechanisms "comparable" (this kind of ambiguity is what has been causing concerns.) to those used for game damage hunts." This should read, "Hunters will be selected from the Hunt Roster ("There is only one Hunt Roster and hunters from this roster may be identified for 3 types of hunts: Game Damage, Management Season, and Dispersal." - FWP website)."
  • "Dispersal hunts will be accomplished as early as possible in the risk season..." This whole section should lead with a statement that IF there is a concentration of elk in a commingling situation, then..., not the open ended objective of accomplishing dispersal hunts as early as possible. In effect, what this sounds like is a Montana elk hunt season from Sept. 7th through May 15th. also, Julie Cunningham, FWP's Region 3 wildlife biologist warned in an email, "Furthermore, I think of the Madison-Gallatin herd as an example here. Elk move out of the Gallatin into the Madison during winter. The more we hunt during winter, the more we are reducing a herd which spends summer on public lands and is publicly accessible through early hunting season, AND which is BELOW objective. We could be really hurting our Gallatin herd by allowing post-February hunting. I do have radio-collar data showing mid-winter migrations out of the Gallatin to back this up."
  • Gut pile management is crucial, IF this whole process is really about minimizing the risk of brucellosis transmission with cattle and other elk. This seasons gut piles were not managed. Why did Quentin Kujala and other FWP personnel familiar with the biology of brucellosis not insist on gut pile management? The only way a bull can transmit brucellosis to cattle is if he is infected (not just seropositive, showing antibodies to exposure), you kill him and then expose his lymph nodes and sexual organs to cattle or other elk. Likewise, with cow elk, with the addition of the birthing materials. There was one pregnant cow that was killed in this years "dispersal" hunts. This would have been a sure fire way, if she was infected/infectious to expose cattle and other elk to brucellosis.
  • Why is there nothing in this document about kill permits and dispersal hunts in areas under objective? The Northern Elk herd has been in an average decline of 6-8 % each year for the last decade. Kill permits were issued in HD 313, which is 25% below objective, with yearling bull counts of .56% (less than 1 percent). The dispersal hunt occurred in HD 317 which is 16% below objective, with yearling bull counts of .9% (less than 1 percent). There were no cow/calf counts in HD's 314, 315, 317, and 393. There should be some restrictions against kill permits and dispersal hunts in areas with such a decline, focusing on other means to achieve the dispersal.
  • Kill permit requirements should follow those of the fencing mentioned above - required public hunting during established hunting seasons and consideration of population numbers.
  • Local Working Groups - should be established based on the multi stakeholder representation. I called all the conservation and wildlife advocate groups from Gardiner over to Bozeman and not one even knew about this group and had not been asked to participate. GWA had asked repeatedly to participate and was denied.
  • The educational presentation needs some serious work to not look like and be presented as a livestock advocacy presentation, instead of a FWP wildlife presentation. Why is Quentin Kujala stating the inflammatory transmission risk time, from an abortion or birthing materials of brucellosis is 81 days? This is based on a worst case scenario test conducted by Keith Aune, Tom Roffe and others, which restricted any predation, sunlight and temps from normally affecting the bacteria. This has never been replicated in a natural brucellosis scenario. In fact at the Elk Working Group meeting on July 11th, Neil Anderson stated it was a race against the birds to get to an abortion event (notified by a VIT) and generally he lost. This inflammatory 81 day statement is not being qualified and is being used by ranchers as a war cry to eliminate elk and brucellosis from wildlife, even being incorporated on film, which is being passed around to the livestock community. Dr. Marty Zaluski, in public meetings such as the IBMP, has stated 21 days for the transmission period from an abortion. If birthing materials later in the season, the transmission period is even shorter due to temperature and sunlight.
  • "Explore potential habitat management adjustments on WMA's and other lands and hunting season recommendations designed to foster adjusted elk distribution." This section sounds like it is more concerned with elk population numbers, wanting to apply increased elk tag numbers, which has no bearing on brucellosis transmission risks from commingling, especially in areas, such as Park County, that are in a decline. As far as the hunting to affect elk distribution, a recent paper, Effects of Hunter Access and Habitat Security on Elk Habitat Selection in Landscapes With a Public and Private Land Matrix, published 2013, written by FWP's Kelly Proffitt, et al should be considered. They found that elk cow security was affected by threats such as public land hunting and motorized vehicles, causing them to congregate on private lands, which is reducing the public land herds available to the public hunters. "Focusing harvest pressure on private lands currently restricting hunter access while limiting harvests on public lands may be an effective strategy for redistributing elk onto public lands in areas where elk distribution is focused on private lands with limited public hunting access." (pg. 10) This goes back to my earlier point of hunter resources being used for private ranchers that do not allow this public hunter access - its a lose/lose for he Montana sportsmen. Increasing nearby hunting on WMA's will only increase the elk population densities on the very ranches that they are wanting less elk populations on, to reduce the possible spread of brucellosis, which is not a threat during the regular hunting season anyway. So why is this really here, unless the objective is population control or to really drive the elk to the private lands during hunting season?
  • As to "effective communication, education and outreach" with this Commission, the general public and landowners. I feel the Montana sportspersons should be included in this. I wholeheartedly agree. Y'all should be given the numerous documents from FWP wildlife biologists that you have been excluded from. Educating yourselves on these issues is necessary to your making wise wildlife management policy.
Please contact the FWP Commissions and ask them to reject this 2014 Elk Work Plan and call for an audit.

Kathryn QannaYahu

Friday, July 5, 2013

Montana's Elk Management In Areas With Brucellosis

The following post is a complex and interwoven subject, dealing with Montana's Elk Management In Areas With Brucellosis; the original 12 member Elk Brucellosis Working Group; the FWP Commission's adoption of the Proposed Final Recommendations on Jan. 10, 2013; the subsequent implementation of this program by Quentin Kujala who led the Elk Brucellosis Working Group; and the obstruction, lack of accountability and transparency in what should be a scientifically managed, multi-stakeholder public process concerning our public trust elk in Montana with the local elk brucellosis working groups. I highly suggest eating large amounts of organic dark chocolate to help process, of which copious amounts were utilized in the researching, analyzing  and presenting of this data for over half a year.

This article or any other similar action was not my first choice. It is the result of being forced to this action by numerous situations with some FWP employees, concerning myself and other concerned conservation sportspeople here in FWP Region 3. When you are confronted with the rejection of responsible wildlife science, excluded from the public process, stonewalled by the officials when you repeatedly protest these occurrences, when you have exhausted due process, you are left with the court of public opinion. Which is where I am at now. The purpose of this article is to bring awareness and thereby, hopefully, accountability and transparency to this process according to Montana Statues and the FWP Commission approved Proposed Recommendations. 

To make it easier to deal with the data, I have converted many documents obtained into PDF's and PNG's (you may need to zoom the image for better viewing) for universal viewing and printing. I hope that readers will look into the research and verify my statements, for I never expect anyone to just take my word for it. Beyond the verification, my greater hope is that Montana's conservationist sportspeople, wildlife and habitat advocates and general concerned public citizens will utilize the email links and phone numbers provided at the bottom to comment, question, complain to those in charge and fight for our elk, so that they do not go the way of the wild bison in Montana - hazed, shot, subjected to brucellosis test and slaughter, such as Rep. Alan Redfield suggested in his HB 312 - the elk brucellosis test and slaughter bill during this last legislation.There is  bigger picture here, which will have to be covered in a post all its own - the fundamental objectives of APHIS, USAHA and the DOL of eliminating brucellosis from known reservoirs - which includes elk.

July 11, 2013 is the next original Elk Brucellosis Working Group Meeting, that will review process and compile a report to the FWP Commission in Aug. There is only 1/2 hour public comment scheduled for this meeting.

Basic Elk Management In Areas With Brucellosis and Events Timeline
  •  Fall 2011 - FWP and Commission initiate the Elk Management Guidelines in Areas with Brucellosis Working Group
  • 1/12/2012 - a 12 member Working Group, chosen from over 40 applicants by FWP Director Joe Maurier, are notified of their acceptance. Noland and Raths are also ag/livestock, making 8 of the 12 members with ag/livestock interests.
  • 9/11/2012 - FWP Commission tentative adoption of Working Group Proposed Recommendations
  • 10/31/2012 - 1st FWP wildlife biologist comments against draft Proposed Recommendations. This one is a large list of points and very pertinent, "There are some points here that take us down some very dangerous roads. They are playing interests against one another, and I really have to wonder where the sportsmen’s voice is in all this. We could be paying landowners to fence out elk? Paying for vaccination? All the while reducing elk populations and thusly elk opportunities for sportsmen? I really hope that SOMEONE in our agency stands up to some of the points presented in here, or we may face some major problems in the future.", 2nd wildlife biologist comments. "Are livestock producers and other constituents willing to stand by this when other members of the public , MOGA, etc cry foul on us?" Neither of these statements were provided to the Working Group members, nor the FWP Commissioners. Names or identifiers have been blocked out to protect the conscientious biologists. Additional Science - Dr. Mark Albrechts chart (collaborated with Dr. Thomas Roffe) on Brucellosis Transmission from Elk Populations, Brucellosis Science Workshop Summary chart by Dave Hallac (YNP). 2012 Brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area (DSA). Zoom charts for better resolution.
  • 14/11/2012 - Dr. Mark Albrecht's (member of the Working Group) letter to FWP Commission asking them to reconsider their vote on the Proposed Recommendations. This letter was first sent to Quentin Kujala to see if it should be passed on to the Commission members.
  • 1/10/2013 - FWP Commission vote to approve Proposed Final Recommendations with commissioner's amendments. Dan Vermillion suggests that implementations go through Regional Supervisor and Regional Commissioner for authorization. Dan Vermillion is the Regional Commissioner. Commission minutes (page 5) verifying amendments and vote approval. At this point Gallatin Wildlife Association notifies FWP that they would like to participate in the local working group process.
  • Feb.-April 2013 elk dispersal hunts take place, $2000 stack Fencing paid to ranchers with sportsmen dollars (1st request before Final Recommendations were even voted on, more fencing in Feb., county commissioner has bigger stacks, wants more money (at least two documented cases of fencing showed the ranchers did not allow "public hunting access for wildlife distribution and population management". I do not have the forms, as I requested, for the other cases, nor a listing of all the cases as I requested.) , hazing - hunt details below
  • 2/15/2013 - 1st local brucellosis working group meeting at a Mill Creek rancher, Jim Melin's ranch, Friday Meeting, where 2 Gallatin Wildlife Association members (MWF affiliates), one of which Glenn Hockett the president, were on their way to Livingston to participate and are called, told they cannot attend that it is private, by FWP employee, directed by Quentin Kujala, approved by FWP Commission Chair Dan Vermillion as a "smart move".
  • 4/22/2013 - 2nd local brucellosis working group meeting at Park County Rod and Gun Club. Again, invitation from one of the Park County Rod and Gun Club members is rescinded and we are told it is a private meeting by Quentin Kujala. Kathryn QannaYahu receives clarification from Pat Flowers, Region 3 Supervisor, that according to Montana Statutes, this is a public meeting while the FWP employees are there and presenting. She takes Montana statues and goes to meeting anyway, despite Kujala's obstruction and is admitted to meeting. See email below for this verification. Kujala stated he checked with legal beforehand, but in a conversation with Dokter, not knowing Kujala stated this, she confirmed it was a public meeting while FWP was there. Montana Annotated Code
  • 4/24/2013 - Kathryn QannaYahu, as a concerned member of the public,conservation hunter and wildlife advocate emails official complaint letter concerning local working group meeting's obstruction with Quentin Kujala, Ken McDonald, Pat Flowers and Dan Vermillion. Kujala replies to recipients, "to make no response." No response was ever made by these officials, which prompted the Information Request.
  • 5/3/2013 - Kathryn QannaYahu files official Information Request Relating to Elk Management in Areas of Brucellosis with FWP Director Jeff Hagener. Hagener forwards request to Ken McDonald stating, "We need to comply with this request". Ken McDonald forwards to Quentin Kujala stating, "My first inclination is to send her to the website where the workgroup documents were placed. If she comes back for more..."
  •  5/24/2013 - Kathryn QannaYahu receives a CD in the mail with 388 sporadic emails, a fraction of the requested documentation.
  • 6/14/2013 - After trying to call FWP Dir. Jeff Hagener about obstruction and partial Information Request fulfillment, Kathryn QannaYahu is told Hagener will not be available until mid-July, call is forwarded to FWP attorney Rebecca Jakes Dockter, who advises to send Hagener another Information Request email outlining the missing documentation. Email is sent and according to return receipt, opened at 8:31 PM. This has not been fulfilled.
  • 6/24/2013 - Realizing I forgot to include the hunt roster information request in the unfulfilled information request, I sent another.
  • 7/1/2013 - Hunt Roster reply from Dokter, via Kujala.
    HD 317 (zoom to see clearly), HD 560 . Actually, anyone without a legal degree, reading my request will be able to see, once again, I have not received all of what I asked for - order the rosters were at, as of January 10th, which hunters were utilized on which dates since then - to current date, where they hunted, what the classification of the hunt was labeled (game damage, dispersal, etc.) and what they harvested.
  • 7/4/2013 - Rest of documentation has still not been received, nor any response to obstruction process by Hagener.

 Dispersal Hunt partial details. Due to the fact that I only received a small portion of my Information Request, I do not have complete details of this process. Here is what I do have. But first, I would like to lay some groundwork on this subject. 

On March 8, 2013, Brett French wrote an article, Northern park elk population still dropping. Wolf biologist Doug Smith and FWP biologist Karen Loveless are quoted concerning the declining elk numbers in the northern elk herd. The numbers this year are listed as being a 6% decline. The average decline is 8% in recent years.

"FWP counted only 11 calves per 100 cows last year, said Karen Loveless, an FWP biologist based in Livingston.'That’s really poor,' she said. 'As long as we have calf survival that low, I’m still really concerned.' To maintain the elk population, she said, calf recruitment would have to double to about 20 percent. To increase the herd, the recruitment rate would have to rise to 30 percent. The northern herd has been below that 30 percent rate for more than a decade, she added. 'Our objective for northern range elk wintering in Montana is 3,000 to 5,000,' Loveless said."
As a result of this article, in conjunction with my working group research I requested this years elk survey. Karen Loveless had not finished the final survey report but sent her stats.   The Mill Creek hunt was in HD 317. MAP (zoom). Recommendation for dispersal hunt at Mill Creek. 317's objective was 900. The count was 756. In the previous years report from Karen, she writes of district 317, "In 2012, 651 elk were observed, compared to 908 elk observed in 2011, 636 elk observed in 2010, and 937 in 2009. This count is 28% below the Elk Management Plan objective of 900 elk." This years count of 756 is 16% below objective.

Elk Management update PDF's recently released by FWP Region 3, Region 5

So why if the herd is in decline and these districts are below objective, is FWP having elk dispersal hunts there? 

Email from Kujala, dated May 2, 2013
I have heard from Rep. Redfield (Paradise Valley). He is complimentary of the current brucellosis-related efforts that include the late season dispersal hunts in Regions 3 and 5. I also understand he is interested in a summer meeting with landowners to talk about an extended cow hunt. Not really sure if this means the next iteration of dispersal hunts or an antlerless elk hunt that is defined more within the context of biennial season setting. Regardless, something we should visit on—for now I offer this as an FYI for you to contemplate and prepare for any next conversation we need to have. Please forward to your staff as you see fit. Obviously one possibility here is an interaction with the 5-week season discussion.
Thanks and sorry, Q"
This is the same Rep. Alan Redfield that sponsored the  HB 312 elk brucellosis test and slaughter bill this year. He is also one of the Paradise Valley ranchers contacted by FWP for the first rancher local working group meeting.

Recent (July 2, 2013) email from Dr. Bill Mealer, a member of the Safari Club, to other Safari Club members, adding FWP Commission Chairman Dan Vermillion (Livingston resident), complaining about the late dispersal hunts. Vermillion states that he authorized the Mill Creek hunts.

Elk Brucellosis Talking Points/Questions

Are after Feb 15 hunts a good idea?

What do the biologists think? (At least 2 commented negatively in internal letters)

Should hunts be implemented without open and transparent public discussion involving all 4 interest groups identified by the working group? (Hunters, livestock producers, wildlife enthusiasts, and non-livestock producing landowners) 

What was done with the gut piles? (leaving fetuses behind may actually increase the risk of transmission)

Since the game damage hunt format is being used did the landowners allow public hunting during the general season? ( What is public hunting?  Block management?  The neighbors?  Relatives?  This needs to be defined and checked)

Is there any conservation easement on the property by any organization that allows for winter range use? (If the landowner has previously been compensated for winter range use we question spending more sportsman dollars.)

Were other options tried first? – hazing, fencing?

Cost of implementation and if any of the cost was paid for with anything but sportsman dollars– biologist and staff time, fencing cost, hazing cost. (Fundamental objective #3 is cost effectiveness)  How many sportsman dollars are being spent?  And staff/biologist time counts,  as it appears they spend extensive time trying to appease livestock producers.

What license was used by those participating? – for the later hunts it appears the 2012 license would have expired so was a 2013 tag used?

Did the hunts keep the elk away?

Is the area at or below objective? ( if below should we be harvesting more elk?) HD 313 we are BELOW objective by 25% and HD 317 we are BELOW objective 16% (according to the local wildlife biologists statistics), yet hunts took place.

Were blood samples collected? 

What has been done to create an educational presentation for potential working groups utilizing responsible science and wildlife management, not politics?  ( Having good information that represents science is important if any group is to make headway on this problem) 

Is a rancher’s kitchen table the appropriate place to have meetings?  Will the result be equitable and fair?  Are all parties represented?  Is FWP seeking long term solutions or just hoping to give the rancher something? 

So are these working groups or deals between FWP and ranchers?  I think that needs to be clear.  Don’t call this a public process if it is not – remember members of the MWF affiliate Gallatin Wildlife Association were told on two occasions NOT to attend these meetings and complaints citing Montana Statutes public process were ignored by FWP officials.

Bottom line:
Open and transparent meetings and communication involving all interested user groups is the only way to achieve a long-term solution. (Numerous conservation/wildlife advocate groups were contacted to see if they were contacted, any time after Jan. 10, 2013, by FWP for their participation in this local working group process. All have stated they were not and were not even aware of what was going on here in FWP Region 3 and 5. They are becoming aware now.)

Since we are seeking to minimize transmission and not to eradicate, this will be a challenging process.  We must push to minimize transmission NOT to eradicate.  The first fundamental objective is minimize transmission.  HB 312, introduced by Rep. Alan Redfield, sought to eradicate. Several FWP e-mails seems to really focus on Rep. Redfield’s desires.  He needs education NOT appeasement.

Official Contacts for questions, comments and complaints
I would highly suggest carboning a witness for accountability, since obstruction has been seen in some cases.

Governor Steve Bullock - 406-444-3111

Tim Baker, Policy Advisor for Natural Resources - 406-444-7857

FWP Commissioners - (406) 444-7826
District 1, Gary J. Wolfe - (406) 493-9189 
District 2, Dan Vermillion - (406) 222-0624
District 3,  Richard Stuker - (406) 357-3495
District 4, Lawrence “Larry” Wetsit - (406) 650-7071
District 5, Matthew Tourtlotte - (406) 698-9696

FWP Director Jeff Hagener - (406) 444-3186
FWP Deputy Director Mike Volesky - 406) 444-4600

Ken McDonald, Bureau Chief - (406) 444-5645

Quentin Kujala, Wildlife Mngmnt Section Chief - (406) 444-5672

Pat Flowers, Region 3 Supervisor  -  (406) 994-4050

Main Elk Brucellosis Working Group Members

Mr. Mark R. Albrecht - 
Mr. John C. Anderson -
Mr. Ed Bukoskey - 
Mr. Joe Cohenour - 
Mr. Rick Douglass - 
Mr. Rick Gibson - 
Mr. Lorents Grosfield - 
Mr. Ken Hamlin - 
Mr. Raymond Marxer - 
Mr. Charlie Noland - 
Mr. William Raths - 
Mr. C. Thomas Rice -

Here's to accountability and transparency in Montana's Elk Management In Areas With Brucellosis.

Kathryn QannaYahu, concerned member of the public, conservation naturalist hunter and fisher (I have done primitive net and basket fishing to learn how, so I cant just say angler), wildlife advocate with traditional ag/livestock background now converted to organics and sustainability. Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah, Gallatin Wildlife Association and Montana Wildlife Federation member (but not writing this post on their behalf).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Restoring Montana's Wild Bison Populations

"If there be no place for wild bison in all of Montana, then surely we have crossed a line between the Last Best Place and the the Once Best Place." 
- Jim Bailey
National Bison Range, in western Montana, home to a very small population of bison. 

Base photo, before all my major graphics changes, from the USFWS. If only I could so easily edit more wild bison onto Montana public lands. 

Kathryn QannaYahu

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Private Capture of Federal Public Lands: A Brief Overview

By Jim Bailey, Wildlife Biologist

Our federal lands are an important public trust resource. They are owned by the public and managed by trustees (government agencies) to benefit current and future generations. Some refer to the public lands as “commons”. They note a tragic history of such lands. Without regulations, competing individuals have trashed the commons as each tried to obtain more than their share of benefits. Today, this threat to federal public trust lands is supposed to be controlled with prudent management by our trustee agencies, mostly the Forest Service, Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish & Wildlife Service. 

About 30 percent of Montana is federal public land. These lands are essential to the quality of life in our “Big Sky Country”. They are the scenery, the backdrop to our lives. They are vital components of the habitat for fish and wildlife that we treasure. They are places for all sorts of outdoor recreation. They are essential to tourism, our state’s largest industry. Public benefits from Montana’s federal lands are large and diverse. They must be protected for use and enjoyment by the people.

But, the tragedy of the commons is still with us. There are individuals and industries hell-bent on turning our federal lands into private profits. Their strategy is capture and control. Capture special or exclusive access to the land. Control the trustees, our government agencies and legislatures, to bend management policies in ways that favor special interests on our lands.

Capturing the public resource

Industries and other special interests have used laws, government policies and historical precedent to capture permanent, often exclusive, access to our federal public lands. 

The 1872 mining law is one example. Mining interests extract $2-3 billion annually from the public trust, mostly at the minimal cost of $2.50 to $5.00/acre. The 1872 mining law is a blatant case of private capture of the public trust. Results can be locally devastating. Yet, the amount of land involved is small by comparison with other private uses of the public land.

The most widespread capture of public land is the federal livestock grazing program. Over 14,000 square miles, about 10 percent of Montana, is federal land grazed by private livestock. Most of this land is managed by the BLM and Forest Service, but National Monuments and Wildlife Refuges are included. Grazing fees are low and have not kept pace with inflation. In some programs, half the funds from grazing fees must be reused to further enhance the private grazing. But, taxpayers pay most of the costs from the federal grazing program. 

Many public-land livestock operators believe they have a permanent “right” to their allotments. Banks often recognize this idea by considering the value from using the public land as private loan collateral. While legal standards proclaim that a public grazing allotment is a “privilege”, not a right, our land-management agencies rarely revoke the permanent connection of an allotment to a landowner’s private land. Moreover, new laws, such as wilderness designations, and court decisions often provide exceptions for livestock operators to use the public lands in contrast to the rights of all others. Each such new law or court decision strengthens the legal argument that the public’s right to determine how the public land will be used has been diminished.

Other federal lands are dedicated for coal and petroleum production. Impacts of these industries are large and growing in some parts of Montana. Wildlife populations have been decimated and rivers degraded. Historically, reclamation following these projects has often been lacking. Industry lobbyists in Congress and in the state legislature always oppose industry restrictions or regulations. Industry propagandists tell us that their impacts upon our landscape are minor while their contributions to the public welfare are large. Usually, as we look farther, in both space and time, from each industrial project on the public land, the costs increase and the benefits decrease for a larger number of the owners of the public land.

Ultimate control of federal land can be contrived by arranging for private access to land where public access has been eliminated. Small units of the federal land trust are isolated by private land and inaccessible without permission. The Forest Service and BLM have little say in managing many of these parcels. 

Many larger units of federal land have only a few public roads for access across adjacent private land. Private interests often seek to close these public roads. Limiting public access may provide an adjacent landowner with special benefits - without the tax assessments - from our public land. Such combinations of private and otherwise inaccessible public land can be a valuable commodity when sold to a hunting outfitter who will treat the public land as a private hunting reserve.

Controlling the public trustee

Private interests control our government trustees of the public lands in very many, sometimes obscure, ways. The most obvious approach is to fund the elections of friendly legislators and governors. However, the tactics of the resulting trustees of our public lands are often far from obvious. Uses of the public lands are skewed toward private benefits and away from long-term public values in very many ways. I can only refer to a few examples.

The ultimate government policy statement is a budget. Special interests contrive for Congress to fund the leasing of public lands while restricting funds for monitoring or regulating these uses. For many federal grazing allotments, there has not been a review of the allotment management plan in over a decade. Some have never had environmental costs and benefits analyzed under the National Environmental Protection Act. Congress has said that federal agencies may not diminish grazing allotments on public lands just because monitoring and review have not been completed. Then Congress fails to adequately fund the agencies for monitoring and review. Impacts to wildlife habitats are, at best, unknown or, at worst, serious.

Special interests routinely seek to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Since its inception, it has been our nation’s most powerful tool for preserving species and their habitats. The Act is the only institution providing consistency of restoration effort across state boundaries and across changes in state and federal government administrations.

I recently visited National Grasslands in other states. They are managed by the Forest Service. According to the National Forest Management Act, the Forest Service is to provide suitable habitat for native species, well distributed across its lands. I asked why the Grassland had no bison. One district ranger replied: “We can’t have bison because we are a multiple-use agency.” Another ranger said I should discuss bison with the local grazing association whose cattle use the Grassland. I wondered what “multiple use” meant to the Forest Service, and why private grazing associations had replaced the trustees of our public trust land.

Even state laws and policies contrive to limit wildlife possibilities in favor of private uses on our federal lands. Montana law requires that wildlife transplants are prohibited unless the commission determines there is no threat of harm to agricultural production. First, this is an impossible standard. Second, since livestock grazing on federal lands is “agricultural production”, it prohibits the public from deciding that a wildlife herd can be more publicly beneficial than a private grazing allotment on any federal land. As a consequence, FWP policy is that “any localized removal, transfer, or conversion of established domestic sheep allotments on public lands for the benefit of bighorns” should only occur if agreed to by the sheepherder. In the cases of bighorn sheep and bison, the Beaverhead National Forest and the C. M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, respectively, use this law as an excuse for not having adequate bighorn herds on the Forest or any bison on the Refuge. Thus, private interests capture uses on our federal lands by controlling the trustees of our public wildlife and our federal lands.


These are but a few examples of private capture of our federal lands and control of our public trustees. Such activity is abundant, widespread and relentless. Each special-interest project seems small or perhaps moderate in scope. Consequently, public awareness of the threat is limited but the cumulative results are enormous and increasing. Meanwhile, public options for using our lands are being constrained or eliminated, diminishing our legacy to future generations of Montanans.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Montana's Senator John Brenden's "Heathen Into Christian" Bison.

Recently,  Sen. John Brenden, on April 11th, 2013, during the SB 143 hearing before the House Agriculture Committee, compared wild bison in Montana, to heathens, and domesticated bison to Christians, "They are maintaining that bison from Yellowstone National Park are wildlife. There's been bills and discussions put in, that once they are in captivity, they become domesticated, or they're livestock. If I knew the exact transition, the moment that you go from being a heathen into a Christian, I don't know that answer. It's a very difficult one."

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This statement has larger ramifications than just the speciesism against wild bison in Montana; this is racism, against the Native American tribes, whose culture is intertwined with the bison. Brenden did not make an association of value between wild and domesticated bison, but made a moral association, which does not apply to animals, but to people.

The Native Americans across the U.S., as well as indigenous peoples across the world, have often been subjected to forced conversions to Christianity, or another dominant religion, in the guise of "civilizing" or "domesticating" them. This arrogant perspective that one belief system is superior and needs to be imposed on another is deplorable. The very term "heathen", from Old English hæðen, means "not Christian or Jewish". Perhaps this was a "Freudian Slip", revealing his views of Native Americans being herded onto reservations to be "domesticated" and often converted to Christianity, as being superior to those Native Americans that desire to uphold an older spiritual culture that views bison as kin.

In Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, by Richard Erdoes and John Fire Lame Deer, Lame Deer states, "It is the same with the buffalo. They have the power and the wisdom. We Sioux have a close relationship with the buffalo. He is our brother. We have many legends of buffalo changing themselves into men. And the Indians are built like the buffalo, too-big shoulders, narrow hips. According to our belief, the Buffalo Woman who brought us the peace pipe, which is at the center of our religion, was a beautiful maiden, and after she taught our tribes how to worship with the pipe, she changed herself into a white buffalo calf. So the buffalo is very sacred to us. You cant understand about nature, about the feelings we have toward it, unless you understand how close we are to the buffalo. That animal was almost like a part of ourselves, part of our souls.

The buffalo gave us everything we needed. Without it we were nothing. Our tipis were made of his skin. His hide was our bed, our blanket, our winter coat. It was our drum, throbbing through the night, alive, holy. Out of his skin we made our water bags. His flesh strengthened us, became flesh of our flesh. Not the smallest part of it was wasted. His stomach, a red-hot stone dropped into it, became our soup kettle. His horns were our spoons, the bones our knives, our women's awls and needles. Out of his sinews we made our bowstrings and thread. His ribs were fashioned into sleds for our children, his hoofs became rattles. His mighty skull, with the pipe leaning against it, was our sacred altar. The name of the greatest of all Sioux was Tatanka Iyotake--Sitting Bull. When you killed off the buffalo you also killed the Indian--the real, natural, 'wild' Indian." 

Now, that is not Christianity. That is what Sen. John Brenden would say was "heathen" - juxtaposed to Christianity. And this interconnectedness is not isolated to just the Lakota nation. While not having researched the other Montanan nations yet, I have heard a number of other Nations speak of the Bison, as related and sacred. An example of this was evident at the Montana Bison Rally, at the Helena Capitol, on March 12th, 2013. This video clip was made by the Buffalo Field Campaign. As soon as I can edit the full version of Sen. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy's speech, I will put it up. She spoke very clearly on the importance of the bison to the Native American nations in Montana.

This comment of Brenden's needs to be challenged and publicly called into question. He needs to be held accountable. Racism and lack of tolerance for other's spiritual practices has no place in a "civilized" society, certainly not in our legislature. 

Kathryn QannaYahu