The Montana Farm Bureau is urging Montanans to oppose any changes to the National Park Service (NPS) Environmental Assessment (EA) of the Yellowstone National Park’s Bison Quarantine Plan. In January, the NPS released an EA with three proposed alternatives establishing additional quarantine facilities for park bison. Public comments on the EA had the deadline of February 15, 2016, but that comment period has been extended to February 29, 2016.
“Farm Bureau believes in taking the ‘no action’ alternative, meaning nothing about current management practices, would change,” said MFBF State Affairs Director Chelcie Cargill. Cargill explains that the other two alternatives—the establishment of an additional quarantine facility inside the Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) or sending non-quarantined bison to Fort Peck reservation for quarantine there, are not acceptable.
“We are gravely concerned about bison being quarantined outside of the DSA and the impacts that may pose regarding marketing and increased regulation of Montana cattle,” she said. “The state veterinarian has no jurisdiction within tribal boundaries and there will be no management area surrounding the reservation. Our concern is there are no mitigation strategies in place to provide quick response and accurate testing should quarantined bison come in contact with cattle on or off the reservation. In addition, the EA claims that any damage to crops, fencing, or property caused by buffalo that have escaped from their range units would be addressed by the tribes, but there is no supporting documentation outlining what protocols would be in place and how these situations would be handled.”
The idea to build a new quarantine facility somewhere on the DSA makes no sense since a quarantine facility already exists. “The Corwin Springs Facility, near the northern entrance to YNP, is leased to APHIS and the Montana Department of Livestock for brucellosis research. Farm Bureau believes the NPS shouldn’t explore additional quarantine facilities anywhere else in Montana and should begin utilizing the existing facility,” Cargill said.
She points out that additional bison management tools, including an increased opportunity for the public to hunt the animals, has not been fully addressed.
The EA situation has not gone unnoticed by the Montana’s leaders in Washington. D.C. Senator Steve Daines and Representative Ryan Zinke, sent a letter to the National Park Service, urging an extension of the comment period on EA.
“We appreciate that Senator Daines and Representative Zinke were successful in explaining to the Park Service that more time was needed for public comment, especially from people who will be directly impacted by changes in the quarantine process like those in Northeastern Montana,” said MFBF National Affairs Director Nicole Rolf.
“We urge anyone who hasn’t made a comment on the YNP’s Bison Quarantine Plan to read the EA and send their comments to the Park Service,” added Rolf. “It’s important to make a decision that does not endanger livestock, people, property and the economy of Montana.”
Comments may be submitted online: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/BisonQuarantine. Written comments may be submitted to: Quarantine Relocation
Source: Montana Farm Bureau Federation
Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.