In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, today Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has banned the importation of bison into Montana thereby preventing Yellowstone National Park from exporting bison into Montana for slaughter. The Governor's Executive Order appears to be in response to federal litigation filed by Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign to prevent the slaughter of Yellowstone bison and the federal court decision issued by Montana federal District Court Judge Charles C. Lovell on February 14, 2011.
No doubt Governor Schweitzer is acting to outflank his Republican opponents in the Montana legislature by appearing to act decisively to protect Montana cattle from brucellosis; however, the executive order has the ancillary effect of saving the lives of many bison now held in corrals by the National Park Service inside Yellowstone Park.
If the Executive Order is maintained by the Governor for the full 90 days, that may be long enough for spring grass to become available for bison inside the Park provided the Park Service continues to feed corraled bison until then.
The Associated Press has a new article about Governor Schweitzer's action.
EXECUTIVE ORDER PROHIBITING THE IMPORTATION OF BISON INTO THE STATE OF MONTANA FOR A PERIOD OF 90 DAYS
WHEREAS, brucellosis is an infectious disease and Yellowstone National Park bison exhibit a brucellosis sero-prevalence rate of approximately 50%; and
WHEREAS, the Montana Department of Livestock has adopted a surveillance program that has been highlysuccessful in detecting brucellosis-affected herds and preventing the exportation of diseased livestock from Montana; and
WHEREAS, the United States Department of the Interior has recently indicated its intent to transport Yellowstone bison into Montana for slaughter at Montana facilities, which presents an unacceptable risk for the transmission of brucellosis to Montana livestock; and
WHEREAS, Montana legislators and livestock interests have expressed grave concerns that because of the high incidence of brucellosis in Yellowstone National Park bison, the importation of any bison from Yellowstone National Park into Montana presents an unacceptable risk for the transmission of brucellosis to Montana cattle; and
WHEREAS, several pieces of legislation have been introduced in the 2011 Montana Legislature that propose sweeping changes to bison management in Montana; and
WHEREAS, for over ten years management under the current court-ordered Interagency Bison Management Plan has resulted in no reduction in the prevalence of brucellosis in bison, nor has it resulted in a sustainable population control model for Yellowstone bison; and
WHEREAS, under Mont. Code Ann. § 81-2-112, the governor may issue a proclamation prohibiting the importation of diseased animals to Montana.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BRIAN SCHWEITZER, Governor of the State of Montana, by virtue of the authority vested in me pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. § 81-2-112, do hereby declare a prohibition on the importation of Yellowstone bison into areas of Montana that are outside of the designated surveillance area as designated by the Department of Livestock through administrative rule for a period of 90 days.