by Rick Lamplugh, author and wildlife advocate
Since 1985, almost 11,000 genetically pure bison have been killed in the controversial bison hunt outside the park and the ship-to-slaughter from within the park. These deplorable actions are required by the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), supposedly to reduce the risk of brucellosis transmission to cattle. Other goals of the IBMP include confining bison within Yellowstone and reducing the park’s herd from 5,000 to 3,000.
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This plan was written in 2000 by a court-ordered coalition of federal and state agencies including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Montana Department of Livestock, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Three Native American groups, the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, and the Nez Perce Tribe, joined the coalition a few years later.
Every year, representatives from these organizations decide how many bison will be killed by the hunt and ship-to-slaughter. The IBMP holds three meetings a year at which the public can comment. I—along with many others—attend these meetings to speak for bison. Here’s the comment I made at the last meeting.
I’m a member of the Bear Creek Council and a resident of Gardiner, Montana.
I have two points to make:
First, I—and many other stakeholders—want more input into bison management than a two- to four-minute public comment allows. We want input into management strategies as they develop.
To that end, I request that the IBMP appoint two new partners to sit at the table. One would represent the conservation community. The other would be an unbiased scientist.
Currently, once bison leave Yellowstone, all IBMP partners have a voice in how those bison die. What’s missing are partners asserting how those bison should live, how the range and population of our national mammal should be expanded.
My second point: The resistance to allowing Yellowstone bison onto more public lands in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem can no longer be justified based on the risk of possibly transmitting brucellosis to cattle. Disease regulators and wildlife managers know that the risk of transmission from bison to cattle is minuscule compared to the actual transmission from elk to cattle. While there has never been a transmission from wild bison to cattle, elk have transmitted brucellosis to cattle more than 27 times since the year 2000.
Experience has also shown that the economic hardship that Montana’s livestock industry claims brucellosis causes is really questionable. The infrequent outbreaks of brucellosis in cattle due to elk have been quickly isolated and eradicated. Furthermore, despite those transmissions of brucellosis from elk to cattle, annual cattle sales in Montana surpassed $1 billion six times during the 2005-2013 period. And cattle prices have hit record highs.
Let’s be honest. Brucellosis is not the real issue; sharing grassland is. Continuing to claim that brucellosis is the issue just makes the IBMP look either dishonest or uninformed. Neither adds to your credibility.
That’s the comment I made. Others spoke in support of bison as well. I urge you to attend an IBMP meeting. See how decisions are made to manage Yellowstone’s bison. Make your opinion known on how you want bison treated. The next IBMP meeting is April 25 in West Yellowstone, Montana. To learn more about the IBMP.
You can find other ways to help by regularly checking out the Buffalo Field Campaign.
Indie author Rick Lamplugh writes to protect wildlife and preserve wild lands. His new bestseller, Deep into Yellowstone, is available signed from Rick, or unsigned on Amazon.
His other bestseller, In the Temple of Wolves, is available signed, or unsigned.
A signed set of both is available with free shipping.
Photo by Rick Lamplugh