Withdraw from the Interagency Bison Management Plan

This news release was just issued by Buffalo Allies of Bozeman.

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Contact: Chris Klatt
June 12, 2008

Buffalo Allies of Bozeman Calls on Governor Schweitzer to Withdraw from Interagency Bison Management Plan.
Brucellosis outbreak where there are no bison shows that IBMP is not working for buffalo or for cows.

(Bozeman, Mont.) – The grassroots citizens group Buffalo Allies of Bozeman responded to the Monday announcement of brucellosis in a cattle herd in the Paradise Valley with a challenge to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to withdraw from the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP).

According to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report, the IBMP “lacks accountability and transparency.” The IBMP has also been criticized by Gov. Schweitzer. Despite criticism, federal and state government agencies acted under the IBMP to sanction the slaughter of over 1,600 wild bison this past winter under the guise of preventing the spread of disease to cattle. However, the largest slaughter of buffalo since the 19th century did not prevent cattle in Greater Yellowstone from being afflicted. “There has never been transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle in the wild, and it is clear that no link can be made between the current outbreak in Pray and Yellowstone’s buffalo herds, which haven’t been that far north in the Paradise Valley since they were extirpated for livestock interests. It’s time to scrap the useless IBMP, which treats buffalo as diseased, domesticated animals instead of as wildlife,” said Buffalo Allies member Jim Macdonald.

Buffalo Allies of Bozeman contends that there is no reason bison should be considered “a species requiring disease control,” as they are currently classified under Montana law. The group supports a legislative bill proposed by the Gallatin Wildlife Association, which has in part called for repealing Montana law 81-2-120, where bison are managed by the Department of Livestock as a disease issue.

“These American icons are the only animals that cross Yellowstone National Park’s boundary with a death sentence,” said Macdonald. “The current rhetoric from state officials refuses to consider that diseased Mexican Corriente roping cattle may have been the source of the outbreak in Pray. Let’s stop pouring tax dollars into a failed plan, where we spend more than what Montana’s economy will suffer for losing its brucellosis-free status.”

The grassroots group will be hosting a forum at the Bozeman Public Library on Monday, June 30, at 6:30 PM with State Representative Mike Phillips. This forum will introduce ways in which Bozeman residents can take action to stop the mistreatment of buffalo. In addition to these events, Buffalo Allies of Bozeman will be hosting a community potluck in Beall Park on Sunday, June 29, at 7 PM.

Buffalo Allies of Bozeman meets every Wednesday at 7 PM at Montana State University’s Strand Union Building. For more information, please visit: http://www.buffaloallies.org.



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  1. vicki Avatar

    Right on!!!! It is about time some one made a bold and widely heard statement.
    You are doing the right thing Jim, and Allies. I am so very thankful that your initiative is making some waves, keep up the great job. I wish you, and your allies the very best of luck and hope your percevierence takes bison to a higher place of regard in society and politics!!!

  2. Jim Macdonald Avatar


    Thank you very much. We worked as a team the past couple days to get this together – it was a good effort that drew in a lot of information being shared over lists and email loops. The things that Robert Hoskins has been arguing about Corriente roping cattle and brucellosis was especially influential.

    I think, for us, it was important for people to know that the bison slaughter was a complete waste in terms of brucellosis prevention. It didn’t stop it, bison are dead, cattle still have brucellosis, and over time the savings from ending the program ($3 million a year over the past dozen years) would have more than paid for a brucellosis outbreak caused by other cattle ($6 million a year in a billion dollar industry statewide) for a couple of years. We didn’t go to that economic level because it’s even more absurd than that – the two issues (brucellosis and bison management) aren’t really connected, and it’s just another shot in the gut that this brucellosis has happened for no reason.

    I was up last night distributing the release to as many places as I could. Thanks Ralph for putting this up front and center here.

    We’re going to keep plugging away. Generally, though it’s hard to get people involved in the community, those we meet are by and large supportive. That’s not the story that comes across when we here the livestock industry screaming in the press.

  3. Indamani Avatar

    Thank you, Jim, for putting out the press release. We need more people like you to expose the cover-ups and lies perpetuated by the IBMP. Do ‘keep plugging away’ and also keep on hammering the point home that the IBMP is not working and should be abandoned.

  4. Monty Avatar

    For ten years, or maybe longer, I have been reading this website. And I am amazed at all of the unselfish individuals and organizations who give so much of their time in attempting to hold back or change the “development tide” that threatens every critter that walks, crawls, flys or swims. Thanks!

  5. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    Good press release, Jim. Now if the governor will act in a timely fashon.


  6. sal Avatar

    Cool, go get ’em guys!! Grrrr.

  7. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Thanks for all the kind comments. It’s going to take so much more to make the dent in perception we need to get more traction locally on this. But, this is a good start.

    Hey, anyone see that Schweitzer’s opponent, Roy Brown, put out a press release on brucellosis? Here it is, if you are interested. Really, it’s more of the same, slightly worse, but in practical terms, would be more of the same.

    The point I’m making is that there is no electoral choice for buffalo advocates in the Montana gubernatorial race. It’s really time to get serious about almost any other means of trying to influence the issue. People have gotten into bed with Schweitzer, and it didn’t work. He screwed them, but he screwed them over. Not supporting Schweitzer is good from a moral standpoint – don’t put any effort campaigning for him – but it won’t fundamentally change the situation – even if he somehow lost, not now – not in the future. There have to be other pressure points, right? Shame, embarrassment, but overall, strong organization that can keep carrying these things out.

    This is a tiny and insufficient step; if it doesn’t inspire more people to take more tiny steps, it won’t succeed.

  8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I think the issue is not to influence the election one way or another, because I doubt that will happen, but what can be done is to strip away any moral authority that Schweitzer has to “lead” the state of Montana. In other words, go after his flaky moderate/progressive image in the regional and national press. Put an ad in the New York Times calling him a liar. He’s just another lying politician who just happens to have presided over the biggest slaughter of bison in modern times, surpassing that republican hack Marc Racicot. Make sure his image fits the truth.

    Here’s a letter I sent to Schweitzer recently about his simpering letter to the livestock industry over Montana losing its brucellosis free status. Interestingly, the press hasn’t done anything with this letter at all, so I’ve included it. Jim, you’re welcome to use it any way.

    11 June 2008

    Dear Governor Schweitzer

    I have just read your letter (included below) to Montana’s livestock industry regarding the latest incidence of brucellosis in a Montana cattle herd, Art Burns’ herd of Corrientes near Pray, Montana. I must say, you’ve outdone yourself today. When the public didn’t think you could go any further in betraying the public trust in wildlife, you’ve proven us wrong–again.

    I would like to bring your attention to the following paragraph in your letter:

    “Looking forward, Montana will continue to manage the risk of brucellosis transmission, but as I have been saying, we need better tools. While we do not yet know for certain, it appears that the likely source of transmission in the current case was again through elk.”

    “Again through elk”? Surely you’re aware, Governor, from confidential briefings by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, Parks, and Livestock that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever–that is to say, none–that elk had anything to do with the Morgan/Bridger brucellosis incident a year ago, and there is no valid scientific reason to believe that elk had anything to do with the recent discovery of brucellosis in Art Burns’ herd, a discovery that now has cost Montana its brucellosis-free status. My goodness, just what valid epidemiological work has been completed on this most recent incident? The initial tests of the one infected heifer from Burns’ herd, now dearly departed from us, only came back this week from Iowa. Such unerring speculomancy to blame it all on elk so early! Furthermore, just what valid epidemiological work has been done on the Morgan/Bridger incident that occurred a year ago, for which a report is required by law within 60 days? Well beyond the 60-day deadline–actually, we’re 10 months beyond the deadline–we the public have yet to see any epidemiological reports or data on what happened to the Morgan/Bridger herd. We are bereft of scientific edification concerning this matter.

    Science, Governor, requires facts, not innuendo or propaganda.

    On the contrary, we have good reason to believe that both incidents are due to the importation of brucellosis-infected Corriente cattle into Montana. In other words, we have every reason to believe that Montana’s brucellosis “problem,” rather than being wild elk or bison, is actually the flawed USDA market surveillance system that allows “hot” cattle to enter the system and then fall, like leaves of a poison tree, into the herds of individual ranchers to wreck havoc.

    We of course all know the true purpose of disease management in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho: not to control disease, but to control wild, free-ranging wildlife for the benefit of that fading but brutal Western oligarchy, the livestock industry, to which you have addressed this embarrassingly simpering letter. We have spent millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars ostensibly to prevent the transmission of brucellosis from bison and elk to cattle, and yet here we have the real disease threat to Montana cattle before us: the livestock industry itself. Were the bison and elk herds of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem not suffering such inhumane abuse in the name of the livestock industry, the situation would be laughable.

    Governor, were I a Montana resident, I would immediately begin a “Dump Schweitzer. He lied about the Buffalo. What else has he lied about?” campaign to bring about your defeat in the coming election. Have you so completely forgotten your promise four years ago to bring about “tolerance” in Montana for the buffalo? We the public haven’t forgotten; in the year of your re-election, 2008, we know that you, and you alone, are responsible for the worst slaughter of bison in modern times, surpassing the record of your Republican predecessor Marc Racicot.

    So, can we expect a similar campaign of elk slaughter in Montana in the future to protect the livestock industry from itself, as we’re doing here in Wyoming? That possibility is certainly suggested in your letter to your constituency, the livestock industry. The public be damned, apparently.

    Very truly yours,
    Robert Hoskins
    Crowheart, Wyoming

    June 11, 2008

    Dear Friend of Montana’s Livestock Industry:

    As you know by now, increased testing in the Paradise Valley has yielded a second case of brucellosis in the state, which means Montana will be downgraded from “class free” status to “class A” status within a matter of weeks. Livestock producers will now be required to test bulls and non-spayed females 18 months or older, 30 days prior to interstate movement.

    I assure you that I will do everything in my power to see that Montana regains its class free status as quickly as possible, and that we keep it. We can apply to regain status one year from the date the last reactor was destroyed, or May 27, 2009. At that time, USDA will conduct its review and hopefully restore the state’s status.

    I have been advocating for a better brucellosis management strategy since taking office. I began in the spring of 2006 to call for a solution that would prevent the entire state from losing its brucellosis status if another case turned up in the area next to Yellowstone. I feared that without the creation of a small, separate management zone immediately around the Park, increased testing would result in Montana suffering the same fate as Idaho and Wyoming, which lost their disease-free status.

    In May 2007, Montana’s first case was discovered in a Bridger cattle herd, resulting in the destruction of 585 animals. Again, I offered the idea of a small, separate management zone. I requested a meeting with USDA, and was encouraged to learn that they could provide for “split-state status,” in the area immediately surrounding the Park. It would have involved increased testing and other precautionary measures. Less than 5% of Montana’s cattle or land area would have been affected.

    Plenty of misinformation and division surrounded this split-state status idea. I asked the Montana Board of Livestock to work with the livestock industry to consider an appropriate course of action. The Montana Cattleman’s Association supported the idea of split-state status, while the lobbyists and leadership of the Montana Stockgrowers Association continued to mischaracterize the idea, generating pockets of intense opposition.

    It was my hope that all of Montana’s livestock industry would work proactively with the Board of Livestock to address the situation. If we had laid the groundwork for split-state status last year, the entire state’s cattle industry would not now be subject to loss of class free status. Recently, some have claimed that Montana during the past year couldn’t have implemented split-state status in this small area quickly enough to prevent our present statewide loss of status. I find that hard to believe, considering that to begin to regain our status we will now have to implement statewide measures in only a matter of weeks.

    A compilation of news articles, correspondence with USDA, and other documents relating to split-state status can be found at: http://www.governor.mt.gov/brucellosis/brucellosislinks.asp

    Looking forward, Montana will continue to manage the risk of brucellosis transmission, but as I have been saying, we need better tools. While we do not yet know for certain, it appears that the likely source of transmission in the current case was again through elk. The good news so far is that all other animals in the herd have tested negative, but we must now continue the test-out with any contact herds.

    Together, with Montana’s US Senators, we are intent on accelerating vaccine research for the elimination of the disease. With the recently negotiated RTR grazing agreement, we have eliminated the risk of transmission from what was the largest, closest cattle herd. We need to make adaptive changes to the Interagency Bison Management Plan so that it can become an effective tool. We will also continue to press USDA for more sensible solutions, including necessary changes to federal disease management regulations. Federal regulations in place right now were created to deal with disease in cattle on a herd-to-herd basis, and obviously have little practical application to the complex nature of disease management when the reservoir is wildlife.

    The beef industry is near to my heart. It has been so, in my family and yours, likely for generations. The health of Montana’s industry—and especially the quality of its genetics—is just as dear to Montana’s economy. Side by side, we will continue to ensure it remains strong.



  9. Jim Macdonald Avatar


    I’m going to make sure at the very least this is posted to our Web site. As I shared with you in an email, I’m 100% for calling him out and letting him no that he is no friend of the buffalo.

    Thanks so much,

  10. Catbestland Avatar

    In his letter to the “Friends of Montana’s Livestock Industry”, clearly the governor is seeking more liberal disease management tools to deal with wildlife which he claims to be the “reservoir” of disease. In my view he is seeking approval from the livestock industry to pursue this avenue. He is dancing around the outright suggestion that wildlife need to be more strictly controlled to see how much support he will have from cattlemen in this endeavor. Woe for wildlife of every species is on the horizon if he is successful in his attempt.

    Have you recieved any response from the governor? Do you expect any?

  11. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I have never received a reply to any letter I’ve written to Schweitzer. Nor do I expect one. That’s why I send them to everyone I can think of. As Jim says, we have to call him out on this as strongly as we can.

    Montana journalist George Ochenski has an interesting take on the Schweitzer-Stockgrower feud. Check it out at the Missoula Independent:


    I find it interesting that you won’t find Schweitzer’s letter on his website (nor the Stockgrowers’ website) and that the press didn’t report on it. I sent my letter on the same day as Schweitzer released his letter to the press; I got a copy through the press. His letter appears to have fallen on deaf hears, except those of bison activists, who don’t buy his alleged “concern” for buffalo.


  12. vicki Avatar

    If there is a response, I am certain it will be the same pre-written and politically stale letters that we have all received when writing objections to wolf and bison management previously.
    Were I looking for employment as a writer, I most certainly could find employment writing bogus cover letters spewing retoric about the good intentions and well meant efforts of the government in the states most publicly critisized for lack of ethical actions toward the public’s land and animals. They seem to be needing a lot of CYOA help lately.
    I wonder if anyone could tell me how it looks for Schweitzer’s re-election? Do the current polls give any indication what people have been swayed by his lies?
    I can hardly stomache the dishonest and self-serving crud that rolls off this guy’s tongue. Utilizing or re-working the Interagency Bison Management plan is a joke. The plan is in place simply to empower greedy, and selfish cattlemen to further rape our public lands, and decimated public interests and trust. How and why utilize a plan that is unneccesary and derived with malice as it’s primary motivation.
    When there is a factual need for bison to be managed, or elk, we should create a reasonable and scientifcally merrited plan to protect all interests. I support a plan to manage the spread of brucellosis in Montana’s cattle… let it began with the immediate quarantine of all Montana’s cattle to private lands, and let it end with blame being placed where it lies…on cattle. Let the plan be specific that all cattle being raised remain on private land until there is scientific evidence to support the extinction of brucellosis, and in such, assure that cattle not be allowed withing proximety to public lands where they might contaminate our bison or elk herds….in effort to preserve the distinction of classifying these animals non-threatened species. Furthermore, let it be known that the possibility exists in theory that cattle might expose big horns, elk, deer, bison and numerous other species. Though the possibility exists in it’s most infinite form, and we have no evidentiary support, we must act expeditiously to contain and eliminate any possible transfer of desease from private animals to public herds…whatever their genetic distinction.
    After all, history has proven that we needn’t have any scientific merrit to our efforts, just a personal motivation… and the ability to ‘b.s.’ our public.

  13. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    As for polls, Schweitzer has a wide lead in polls here. However, no one that I know about polls about buffalo. Certainly, with the big professional environmental groups on his side, and his efforts to parse the problem through the split state status (so he can appear to be like Solomon), there’s no doubt a perception gap in the public – that would be my hypothesis.

    So, stop the B.S. (bison slaughter + Brian Schweitzer).


  14. vicki Avatar

    Montana is beginning to seem a bit to ‘Good Ole Boy’. WHo votes for a man like him? What other points of his platform would make him at all appealing?
    Could we get him to swear any of his b.s. in court? Toss him in for purgery? My goodness, this man is as bogus and crooked as they get!

  15. Heather Avatar

    Montana has always been good ole boy – and I’ve lived here since 1980. He seems to be good on Vet issues, but, of course, not environmental. I never received any reply back from either Schweitzer or Tester regarding wolf issues and I voted for both of them!

  16. Heather Avatar

    I must correct one part of my last statement. I did receive response to one of my wolf complaint letters (ie advocacy for them) from Tester – he said he was looking out for the ranchers basically.

  17. vicki Avatar

    that does not suprise me. I think the hardest part of voting is figuring what you can and can not be comfortable with in politican. I just feel very strongly that when some one proves to be so absolutely dishonest (more so than the average politican), you have to question their ability to follow through or do the right thing, for anyone, or anything.
    Maybe the next governor won’t be such a parasite.

  18. Save the Bison Avatar
    Save the Bison

    Thanks Mike for sticking up for the Bison. I hope you have the spine to push this through. If you don’t I hope you have the spine to whine about it to the press. We need to put animals first over the bad ranchers, They are just pigs and don’t want to work with the bison or any of our groups. Thanks again Representative Phillips for all you can do.


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Ralph Maughan