Thursday, November 26, 2009

USFWS Wastes Taxpayer's Money Again

Same song, umpteenth verse at refuge

November 25, 2009 Jackson Hole News & Guide page 5A

By Lloyd Dorsey

It's been said that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different outcomes. So it is with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's recent decision to spend another $5 million of taxpayer monies to construct yet another new sprinkler system on the battered National Elk Refuge.

The refuge has irrigated pastures and fed hay or pellets to the elk for nearly a century now Š and the elk defoliated the refuge and become sick with brucellosis, necrotic stomatitis, scabies, hoof rot and other diseases due to too many animals in unnaturally close quarters.

In more recent times the old irrigation ditches on the refuge were augmented with costly side-roll and pivot sprinklers, the elk were fed alfalfa pellets Š and the elk still defoliated the refuge and became sick. So, in 2007, after a $4 million Environmental Impact Statement, the expensive feeding and irrigating continued Š and the elk still defoliated the refuge and got sick.

Now in 2009 their plan is to spend $5 million on more sprinklers Š and the elk . . . well, you get the grim picture.

None of us needs to be reminded that while Wyoming does have an arid climate, rain and snow still falls here. Native plants still grow in the spring and summer. Elk, bison and other wildlife evolved over thousands of years to thrive in western Wyoming's environment along with such native plants as willows, aspen, bunch grasses and rabbit brush. It was a healthy system.

The natural capital in such a system is free. We just need to quit baiting elk on the Elk Refuge with irrigated plots or pellets and give those willow shrubs nibbled to their nubs a chance. Imagine, Jackson Hole, watching the Elk Refuge return to such a healthy condition with native flora and fauna right before your very eyes. Not unlike the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.

Instead, in a state that prides itself on fiscal responsibility we have a financial boondoggle. The new irrigation system was supposed to cost $2.8 million; now it's at $5 million. From 2001-07, the Fish & Wildlife Service and Park Service spent millions of dollars analyzing how best to manage elk and bison in Jackson Hole. They ignored their own scientists who recommended a route that would have, "result(ed) in the greatest overall benefit to the biological and physical environment", the alternative recommended overwhelmingly by the public and by biologists who believe phasing out feeding is necessary to stop habitat loss and prevent epidemics of Chronic Wasting Disease.

It boggles the mind- in the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the home of internationally treasured fish and wildlife species and the site of some of America's most spectacular landscapes, an intensely artificial wildlife management approach has developed that has turned the Elk Refuge into a glorified winter zoo. With sick animals.

By heavily manipulating wildlife and their habitat the consequences on the Elk Refuge are habitat destruction, loss of wildlife diversity and disease. A century of evidence proves this no matter how good the original intentions were. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in June 2009 determined that the Elk Refuge was one of the 10 most imperiled wildlife refuges of 540 in the entire nation. They called the circumstances on the Elk Refuge a "wildlife time bomb".

The USFWS now turns to a California-based contractor to waste millions of hard-earned American taxpayer dollars to artificially water plants that would still attract elk and bison in unnaturally dense concentrations. Meanwhile the USFWS reneged on pledges to help with fencing projects that would allow elk and bison to range freely without commingling with the few cattle remaining in local valleys during winter.

Same old, same old. The dominant theme on the Elk Refuge under the current plan is still artificial feeding no matter what they call it.

Elk herds no longer require this kind of intensive manipulation to survive or even thrive. Populations are at record levels in Wyoming and other regions. After a century, it's time to expeditiously take the Jackson elk herd off its circa-1912 life-support. Science tells us that free-ranging elk herds have the best chance of being healthy and sustaining themselves well into the future - not dense concentrations of elk chasing after feed trucks to irrigated plots where they wallow in the disease-ridden muck.

It's high time we start solving old problems with new ideas that really aren't so new. It's time we allow elk to thrive in native habitats, in populations balanced with the carrying capacity of the native plants and soils that sustain them. After all, we know from most valleys in surrounding states and elsewhere in Wyoming that Rocky Mountain elk are faring quite well in Rocky Mountain winters - without hay, alfalfa pellets and $5 million sprinklers.

Lloyd Dorsey is a conservation advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in Jackson.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brucellosis Battle Continues

Montana Department of Livestock
301 N. Roberts/PO Box 202001
Helena MT 59620-2001
On the web at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009/FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Steve Merritt
Public Information Officer
Montana Department of Livestock

BOL Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Brucellosis Order

The Montana Board of Livestock is seeking public comment on a draft order that proposes to create Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) for continued brucellosis surveillance, vaccination and traceability requirements in areas with risk of brucellosis transmission from wildlife to livestock.

The proposed order specifies:
  • Boundaries for the DSA;
  • Testing requirements for eligible animals;
  • Individual animal identification;
  • Requirements for mandatory Official Calfhood Vaccination (OCV).
State veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski, who presented the draft order to the Board of Livestock at its meeting in Helena last week, said the order "picks up where the Brucellosis Action Plan left off."

"The draft order basically outlines a plan for surveillance and monitoring in increased-risk areas after the state's Brucellosis Action Plan (BAP) sunsets on January 10," Zaluski said. "We've known all along that some components of the BAP would be needed in some areas after it sunsets, and this order is consistent with what we've discussed with producers."

If approved, the order would create a surveillance area that is significantly smaller than the seven-county area - Area 1 - created by the state's Brucellosis Action Plan.

"I think we've shown that monitoring is an effective tool for detecting disease, and that it ultimately helps protect the marketability of Montana's livestock," Zaluski said.

The order also extends requirements for producers in Area 1 of the BAP who have not yet completed an operation-specific risk survey or whole-herd brucellosis testing. Producers with livestock in Area 1 are encouraged to contact Dr. Eric Liska (; 406/444-2043), the department's brucellosis veternarian, to complete a risk survey as soon as possible.

Comments on the proposed order, which can be viewed and/or downloaded at, will be accepted through December 16, and can be submitted to the Department of Livestock via email at or U.S. Postal mail at DSA Comments, Montana Department of Livestock, Helena MT, 59620-2001.

Zaluski added that the comment period for the DSA is related to, but separate from, a USDA-APHIS comment period on a concept paper proposing changes in the nation's federal brucellosis program (see the October 7 press release, APHIS Plan Open for Public Comment, for additional details).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interagency Bison Management Plan

November 17 & 18 were the IBMP meetings to decide the fate of the last remaining genetically pure, continuously wild buffalo in this country. Below are the notes from these meetings written by Stephany Seay.


Three tribal representatives were at the table:
* ITBC - Christina Krocher
* Nez Perce - Brooklyn Baptise
* Confederated Salish & Kootenai - Tom McDonald

Good News First:
~AMP changes reflect there will be additional tolerance for bulls North of Duck Creek; expand suitable habitat for bull bison west of Cutler Lake and Cutler Meadow; expand suitable habitat for bull bison in the Maiden Baisen area off Little Trail Creek on east side of Yellowstone River (as outlined in IBMP Annual Report for 2008-2009 - see press release pasted below)
~ APHIS & Idaho Fish & Game want to study bull bison semen more closely to ensure the zero risk, and if that's what they find, bulls may be tolerated in Idaho.

*Adaptive Management / '09-'10 Operations:
~ DOL opened with expressing frustrating at "repeated breaches" of bison moving into Zone 3 via the South Side of the Madison River
~ Zaluski said that 250 on the Butte and 25 on the South Side ("flats" they called it) triggers breeches
~ DOL claims there's "no habitat" on the South Side (they forgot about the burn)
~ Zaluski proposed a change to the Adaptive Management Plan: NO BUFFALO ALLOWED on the South Side, or LIMIT the number of buffalo on Horse Butte
~ DOL wants to take immediate management actions if buffalo are on the south side: 1. Capture; 2. Haze back into Park; 3. Haze to Horse Butte
~ DOL claimed 13 "breaches" on the South Side last spring
"The bison did not behave like we hoped they would" ~ Mary Zaluski

~ Cattle arrived at Povah's on 6/17. Apparenty, he runs some cow/calf pairs, and also 200 steers (brucellosis proof livestock). He leases the land, so DOL says they "never know" what he'll have, since he's a private property owner and can pretty much do what he wants
~ Tierny and Zaluski claimed there were "a lot" of other producers affected by buffalo "breaching" into Zone 3, but they couldn't name any of the ranchers or places.

They proposed a change to the Adaptive Mangement Plan under 1.1 and 1.1A. to allow NO buffalo on the South Side. This was met with some resistance by Yellowstone and Gallatin.
~ "The triggers we've established are much too tolerant" ~ Marty Zaluski
~ Tierny kept expressing how difficult it is to haze bison from the south side and how much time, people and money it takes to continue to do it.
~ Suzanne Lewis and Mary Erickson were not in agreement with changing the plan to reflect zero buffalo on south side.
~ Lewis actually said that more habitat needs to be established outside the Park. Echoed, strongly, by P.J. White who really raised his voice for the buffalo this time.
~ Mary Erickson said that one year's worth of data is not enough to make such a significant change to AMP, and that if they don't allow buffalo on South Side, then that removes 1/2 of Zone 2
~ Everyone agreed they were in disagreement, and hence at a stalemate and would take it up again on Day 2 of the meetings.
~ Lewis and Erickson said that even though the agents may have had to work hard, there was NO THREAT OF TRANSMISSION with having buffalo on the South Side.
~ Erickson & Lwewis told the DOL that they already had the tools and authority in the AMP to deal with these "breaches" yet they chose not to use them. DOL response was very confusing, but they disagreed.
~ Both Nez Perce and Salish-Kootenai reps said that 1) one year of data is insigificant and should not be the catalyst for such suggested changes; 2) The DOL should be aware of the producers and what they are bringing on to the landscape if they want to make good decisions

Royal Teton Ranch:
~ Fencing will now only be around RTR office; County will not let them put fencing along county access road.
~ Cattle guards have been eliminated
~ There will be a fence along Cinnibar Road to West end of RTR
~ Fence built on north side, south side fence under construction
~ Fencing should be complete 1st week of December
~ Hazing would take place where fencing will now be absent

~ DOL: No new action on Stockgrowers' lawsuit
~ NPS: Being sued. It's with Dept. of Justice. 60 days to respond. Likely NPS and GNF will not be able to speak so freely while suit is in progress.

U.S. Animal Health Association ~ 5 Resolutions
* can be found at
1. I missed that one
2. Wildlife agencies in GYA are standardizing elk protocall
3. Suport creating of research facilities
4. Ask USDA to commit resources to swine brucellosis (brucella suis)
5. Removal of brucella abortus from (bio-terror) select agent list (a long shot)

Public Comments:
* A rancher from Paradise Valley
* Jim Bailey, GWA
* Glenn Hockett, GWA
* Stephany Seay, BFC
* Matt Skokland, NRDC
* County Commissioner, Paradise Valley
* Rancher, Paradise Valley

11/18/09 ~ ROUND TWO:

'09-'10 Operating Procedures Continued
~ Compromise on AMP changes: DOL wants 15 buffalo only, and only 2 "breaches" are allowed, after which management actions will be triggered.
~ Erickson and Lewis saw no difference then in keeping the number at the current 30, if dates remain same and DOL has authority to take management actions
~ DOL would like agencies to consider a population reduction/cap on Horse Butte (250 too many)
~ Dates bison would be allowed to be on South Side would remain the same as in 2008 AMP
~ DOL wants access to GNF lands that are closed to snowmobiles for management and monitoring.
~ Erickson said that they already have access for management. DOL said they want it for monitoring.
(Randy, GNF biologist feels very strongly that this is a BAD idea as he knows tourists will follow those tracks and he said he would recommend against it)
~ Erickson said that this would be a modification of their travel plan restrictions (the only good thing they've done)
~ Tierny, DOL said that if they can't use snowmobiles, they'll "have no choice" but to bring out the helicopter
~ Lewis agreed that it may be possible that allowing "unlimited" bison on Horse Butte is creating a "spillover" to the South Side
~ DOL wants to monitor and define population CAP on Horse Butte
** By the end of this discussion it appears (but was not clear) that they would continue to allow 30 buffalo on the Southside, dates would stay the same, but after two "breaches" management action would be taken. I asked them to clairify during my comment time, but the agencies will not answer questions from "the audience" as they call us.

DOL Contacting GNF for Authorization in Operations:
~ Erickson wanted to strike language in the AMP that said the DOL will "make a reasonable attempt to contact a rep from USFS to" and make it read: "the DOL will obtain authorization for the use of motorized vehicles on NF roads."
~ DOL moaned that they need to be able to do what they want, when they need to, especially at Duck Creek.
~ Tierny reminded Mary Erickson more than once that DOL "is a law enforcement agency" (IS THAT TRUE??)
~ Randy, GNF biologist said that there is always someone available for them to call and there's never been a problem in the past.
~ DOL (Shane Grube and Tierny) continued to complain and moan
~ Language will be reworked to satisfy both GNF & DOL

~ Brucellosis prevalance study was dropped from the agenda
~ Brief mention of Brucellosis Concept Paper (comments through 12/04)
~ Montana's Brucellosis Action Plan "sunsets" in January 11
~ National Brucellosis Zone being discussed/developed
~ There is a Comment Period Open for the Brucellosis Survelience Area through 12/16 (I have no info on this currently)

~ Very brief report about agencies considering placement of bison. NO MENTION was made that they were recommending they go to Turner!!

Public Comments:
~ Rancher from Paradise Valley
~ Another Rancher from Paradise Valley (Ranchers complained that they had no representation at the table!!!)
~ Glen Hockett, GWA
~ Matt Skokland, NRDC
~ Mike Pearson, GYC
~ Stephany Seay, BFC
~ MIKE MEASE!!!! Had the last and most beautiful-to-the-point words. :)

*NEXT MEETING: April 18 & 19 @ FWP in Bozeman


Bison get more tolerance in Montana, but fix elusive (B.S.)

Wind Cave NP bison arrive in Mexico
Rapid City Journal

Nice Quote

"If you talk to the animals they will talk to you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them. And what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys." --Chief Dan George

Chief Geswanouth Slahoot (Dan George) was born in North Vancouver. He was chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation from 1951 to 1963. He was a poet and actor appearing in many films and t.v. series including Cariboo Country. In 1971 he was made an officer in the Order of Canada which is the highest award given by the government on behalf of the Queen of Canada.

For more info: