Yellowstone Conservation Groups:  Focus on Livestock, Not Wildlife, to Manage Brucellosis 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 15, 2017

Contact: 

Lloyd Dorsey, Sierra Club, 307-690-1967, Lloyd.dorsey@sierraclub.org
Glenn Hockett, Gallatin Wildlife Association, 406-581-6352, glhockett@bresnan.net
Josh Osher, Western Watersheds Project, 406-830-3099, josh@westernwatersheds.org
Roger Hayden, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, 307-730-2000, roger@wyomingwildlifeadvocates.org

Yellowstone Conservation Groups:  Focus on Livestock, Not Wildlife, to Manage Brucellosis 

Bozeman, MT — Conservation groups joined together today in calling for a concerted focus on livestock management – rather than intrusive manipulation of native wildlife – to reduce the spread of the livestock disease brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The groups’ policy statement and recommendations come partly in response to a report released earlier this year by the National Academies of Science on brucellosis in the region.

“Much has changed over the last decade regarding what is known about brucellosis, and it’s time to take a fresh look at how the agencies manage this disease. The science shows that solutions must be focused toward the livestock industry,” said Lloyd Dorsey, Conservation Director for Sierra Club’s Wyoming Chapter. 

Originally transmitted from domestic livestock to wild bison and elk, brucellosis now exists at low levels in bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone region. During the past decade thousands of wild Yellowstone bison have been killed in misguided attempts by management agencies to reduce the risk of transmission of the disease to cattle; the Interagency Bison Management Plan partners recently approved a plan to kill up to 600 more bison this winter. There has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission to cattle from wild bison; all recent incidents have involved elk and some are now calling for intensive management of wild elk. The 2017 National Academies of Sciences’ brucellosis report recommends a “sharp focus” on elk.

“We don’t need to go down the same road when the agencies were vaccinating elk and bison and conducting test and slaughter operations,” said Glenn Hockett, President of the Gallatin Wildlife Association. “Essentially, wildlife should be valued and treated like wildlife, not livestock. The agencies need to focus on livestock-centric solutions like vaccinating cattle and fencing them in.”

“Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds, where animals are bunched tightly together for months at a time, are a vector for spreading disease. Phasing out feedgrounds, along with proactive livestock management, is key to reducing the risk of brucellosis transmission,” said Roger Hayden, Executive Director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. 

The Greater Yellowstone region is world-renowned for its iconic wildlife including grizzly bears, gray wolves, and large herds of bison and elk. More recently, the region has also become famous for being home to some of the longest, newly discovered deer, elk and pronghorn migrations in North America. The Yellowstone region is treasured by millions of Americans and visitors from around the world for its spectacular wildlands and wildlife, which are critical to the regional economy.

“Healthy native wildlife populations, including predators and scavengers, belong on our public lands,” said Josh Osher, Montana Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Public lands managers should seek proactive solutions to reduce conflicts including targeted voluntary grazing permit retirement and ending predator killing programs. The region’s economy is dependent on a healthy ecosystem and the full complement of healthy native wildlife.”

The groups’ detailed brucellosis management recommendations include:

  • Focusing management actions on livestock instead of wildlife
  • Ensuring a healthy natural balance, including encouraging ecologically-effective populations of native carnivores to help reduce the spread of disease
  • Eliminating state and federal-sponsored feedlots in Wyoming that spread disease

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