File this under "all politics is local"

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 10:43:40 11/24/15

In Reply to: Memo reads a legal mess! posted by Beej


I was surprised to see that Citizens for Balanced Use got so involved in the bison management issue. Kerry White, their uber-energetic (think Energizer Bunny) stalwart leader is a long time advocate for opening up trails on public lands to off-road motorized use, be that ATV's, dirt bikes, 4x4's, or snowmobiles. The bison disposition issue seems a bit far afield from his usual stomping grounds. I don't know Kerry personally, but I have read his op-ed letters in newspapers and magazines for years. I did know one of the Big Sky Snowriders leaders. He lived a few doors down from me in Livingston. He is a good guy, although he has a penchant for pushing the envelope on his snowmobile. He's been buried in avalanches multiple times. The last one almost took him out for good. He survived with some serious injuries. I didn't see his organization sounding off on the bison issue, even though Park County has been the local "center" of the ag industry pushback.

One of your present county commissioners was the State of Montana agricultural extension agent in Park County when I was a county employee. He was an intelligent guy who could run circles around the county commissioners in office back then. I was thrilled when he decided to run for the commission, and I actively supported his candidacy. He was running against someone who was the poorest excuse for a representative of the people I have ever seen. Thankfully, he beat the incumbent, and there was widespread rejoicing. During his first term, one of the other commissioners, who had served for quite some time, was a rancher in the south end of Park County. I got to know that fellow when I worked for the county, and found him to be a very good, very hardworking fellow. I have vivid memories of seeing him falling asleep in commission meetings during calving season. I also knew his wife, who was a public health nurse, and taught courses on pre and post-natal health care to expectant parents. I remember having a conversation with her one evening during calving season. She said she and her husband had been up all night "pulling calves". This woman was providing an invaluable service to low income families in the community, and was probably not getting paid much for doing it. Eventually, when the IBMP members started loosening the death sentence for migrating bison leaving Yellowstone, the Park County Commissioners filed a lawsuit to stop it. I didn't agree with the lawsuit, because there were barriers in place during the winter and spring to prevent bison from migrating into or beyond Yankee Jim Canyon, but having participated in the interest-based protocol of the Yellowstone Bison Citizens Working Group, I understood where Jim and Marty were coming from. This is why I harbor the most enmity for APHIS, who has incredible power to impact on this issue, but instead, chooses to sit on its bureaucratic butt! They make the rules that govern brucellosis-free status for the states, and what happens when you have an outbreak. I still have to scratch my head when I see repeated outbreaks in GYE documented scientifically to have been contracted from elk.

One last little tidbit: During the working group sessions, we had an amazing number of subject matter experts participate, or at least present. The overwhelming thinking was that even if a foolproof vaccine was created, it would not likely resolve this problem. You get into all these complications, like how do you deliver the vaccine. (The NPS experiment with "bio-bullets" was an abject failure.) You also would have to address the strong likelihood of elk or other species re-infecting unvaccinated bison somewhere down the road. IMHO the most practical solution is to designate the valley (and adjacent hillsides) between the North Entrance and Yankee Jim Canyon as "critical winter range" for bison. Then you use trap and transplant, hunting, and nature to control the herd size.


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