WY state vet's assurance should calm ranchers on brucellosis

It should calm them, but doubtful it will-

“It’s difficult to imagine a safer or better home for 14 Yellowstone bison than Guernsey State Park, which was suggested by Wyoming officials to host the animals.” Read the rest of the story in the Casper Star Tribune editorial.





  1. vickif Avatar

    YOu have got to be kidding!
    Please, someone, get these people a clue!
    Replace Yellowstone bison with”clean” animals, how profoundly stupid! Obviously, brucellosis hasn’t kept the bison from procreating in a sustainable manor. It is simply humans which limit their continued population growth and geneic diversity.
    I am all for expaniding habitat, but not if the intention is to white wash a natural population into a cattle-baron dictated aseptic heard.
    We should let bison be bison…and roam. If co-mingling is an issue, put the cattle behind fences-on private land! Oh, wait, we might lose that whopping 1.35 dollars amonth per head….
    Gee! I see logic is the ever abounding source of authority in all things wild…urgh!

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Several of us closely involved in bison conservation have called the Casper Star-Tribune (CST) editors several times over the last couple of months to point out the illegality and other serious problems of transferring quarantine bison not only to Ted Turner but also to Guernsey State Park, which is a horrible place to put wild bison, to no avail. We’re still getting asinine editorials.

    The CST has gone a long way into decline from the days when Wyoming Republicans called the CST the “Casper Red Star,” the good old days of hard journalism and principled politics when Anne McKinnon, Charles Levendosky, and Dan Neal were there. Now, the only good the paper serves is to start fires in my wood stove.

    Re: using clean bison to replace diseased bison in the Park–that is, slaughter all the diseased bison and then move in “clean” bison–has always been at the heart of the quarantine program, but it’s only now that the livestock industry is openly talking about it. Previously, quarantine supporters talked about having clean bison with which to replace Yellowstone bison should there be a catastrophe. Right. It’s one reason we’ve always opposed the quarantine program.

    The most obvious reason this idea is asinine is that clean bison would immediately be reinfected by elk. Obviously, the livestock vets know this; it’s just a cover to kill off as many “diseased” bison as possible with a promise of restocking the Park. It’s an empty promise. No one actually has any intention of putting “clean bison” back into the Park regardless.


  3. Jeff Avatar

    Robert what is the problem with Guernsey State Park? I’ve never been there but the idea of having numerous small herds of genetically pure bison scattered around the plains.

  4. JB Avatar

    Jeff, I don’t want to speak for Robert, but here’s my problem:

    “…the pasture would be double-fenced, including an interior electrical fence. The pasture boundary next to National Guard and private land would have a third layer of fence.”

    So now Bison not only need to be “clean” (i.e. uninfected), they have to be behind a double-fence? Kind of takes the “wild” out of wildlife.

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Aside from JB’s comment, which I agree with, folks at Guernsey have stated that excess bison would be sold. Guernsey is not a big place. But selling bison is not acceptable.

    The quarantine program has been touted as a way to get disease free Yellowstone bison scattered around on public and tribal lands. Yet when push comes to shove, it seems that no one’s willing to actually put wild Yellowstone bison on public and tribal lands. The quarantine program is a fraud; it’s a way of producing disease free livestock, not disease free wild bison.

    Another problem is that it’s been reported that Guernsey doesn’t yet have the money to build the necessary infrastucture for these bison. This lack of funding is supposedly one of the reasons the Fort Belknap proposal has been turned down. I’d rather see these bison be kept until Belknap is ready to receive them.


  6. Jeff Avatar

    Thanks for the update, I didn’t realize they were planning on selling off the calves in the future. I was naively assuming that this would simply be a public seed stock to reinvigorate existing herds with good genes.

  7. vickif Avatar

    Isn’t it amazing how capitalism squeeks into it all? It has been the guiding force all along. Selling calves is just a bit more obvious than saying “let’s do something to keep the bison from grazing on grass our cows can eat for 1.35 dollars a month….”

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Buffalo are like wolves. People think they are inherently dangerous to cattle. Funny since cattle are so dangerous to so many animals and plants.

  9. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    A problem I have with putting them in a state park, over public lands, is your taking a national asset and transferring to state ownership. Guernsey is a state park, not a national park, hence all management decisions would be made by the state of Wyoming. This is one of the reasons I also opposed the quarantine plan. These bison need to be placed where they will be managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and not a state game agency or state livestock agency…

  10. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    One of the biggest problems I have with the state managing bison is the same as with wolves, the livestock interests have far to much power over how public assets are managed, if we could get the livestock interests out of it completely, then my objections to state management would be far less..

  11. Jeff Avatar

    Save Bears there is a fine line between national asset and state asset. Bison outside of YNP and GTNP are managed by WY G & F. A state park is still public land and public ownership—look at what Utah is doing creating a second herd beyond the Henry Mtns in the Bookcliffs of Eastern Utah.

  12. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Jeff, I understand this very well, but at the heart of the matter, these bison were taken from a national park, everybody had the ability to equally comment on their management, now they are under state control and FWP will listen to a non resident comments and concerns, I can tell you from my experience working for the agency, non-resident comments and concerns are given far less attention..

    It also comes down to how they classify bison outside a certain geographic area, much like they did wolves, bison are not considered wildlife except around the parks..

  13. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Hard issues.

    Technically, one of our legal arguments against the Turner/Guerney transfers is that quarantine bison are still under the ultimate jurisdiction of Yellowstone National Park; these bison went into the quarantine feasibility study under a research permit from the Park that set firm restrictions on their disposition, those restrictions being no commercialization or privatization of quarantine bison. Additionally, the permit was issued to APHIS, not FWP, so the federal agency APHIS still has operational control (to use a military term, Save Bears) over the quarantine bison, not FWP. The Park still retains “command authority.”

    The Park research permit envisions quarantine bison going only to public or tribal lands as publicly owned wild bison, not privately owned livestock.

    Those interested in the nitty gritty legal problems with the Turner/Guernsey proposal should read our formal comments here: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/legislative/bisonquarantine.html.

    As to livestock industry control over the process, that’s the root problem. The industry wields equal control over the federal and state governments (e.g., the FWS won’t touch our demands to restore bison to the Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Montana, as the industry is absolutely opposed to bison restoration anywhere in Montana). It’s a problem that won’t be solved until we destroy the political power of the livestock industry to control wildlife and wildlife management. This means, among other things, that conservationists should not support capitulatory groups like Defenders of Wildlife or the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, but rather principled groups like Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign

    Those who talk compromise and collaboration with the livestock industry are just as much a problem as the industry itself.


  14. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    RH – Kinda like talking compromise with a enviromental/animal rights groups – see link below, 30 years of lawsuits and research to come to a conclusion about thinning a deer herd.


  15. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Let the best man (or woman) win.


  16. Stephany Avatar

    Let the wolves manage the wildlife! Problem solved. Also, wolves should start getting awards every time they take a domestic cow.

  17. jerryB Avatar

    Robert H ………Thanks for this comment. Not many are willing to “shed the light” on Defenders.

    It’s a problem that won’t be solved until we destroy the political power of the livestock industry to control wildlife and wildlife management. This means, among other things, that conservationists should not support capitulatory groups like Defenders of Wildlife or the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, but rather principled groups like Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign

    Those who talk compromise and collaboration with the livestock industry are just as much a problem as the industry itself.”

  18. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    By the way, Defenders is supporting the Turner proposal.

    I have a copy of Defenders’ comments on quarantine bison if any one is interested.


  19. jerryB Avatar

    Robert H..
    I’d like a copy. Ralph has OK to fwd my email to you, although you may have it.

  20. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Just emailed them to you.


  21. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I would like a copy if you care to send it to me..

  22. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    On the way SB.

  23. JB Avatar

    TWB wrote: “RH – Kinda like talking compromise with a enviromental/animal rights groups…”

    But the article cited states: “The move to reduce the deer population comes after nearly three decades of research and opposition from animal-rights advocates.”

    TWB: Please don’t equate environmental groups with animal rights activists. Two very different groups, with (most of the time) very different objectives.

  24. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Bullshit, Bullshit and goddamn it…


    Does anyone else have any information on this.

    This was and AP story I picked up in one of the Montana Newspapers this eveing!!!!

  25. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Save bears, I agree that is bullshit. How many of those are going to end up as burgers?

  26. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    JB – I will let you carry the water on that one – split hairs as they say.

  27. Todd Wilkinson Avatar
    Todd Wilkinson

    People: With all due respect, I believe that I’ve established my credibility over the years in writing on behalf of wild and free bison coming out of Yellowstone. However, this gratuitous bashing of Turner, and assigning some sinister motivation to him and his organization, as has also been suggested here and implied in some stories written by AP writer Matt Brown, is nonsense. I’ve been working on a book about Turner’s environmental work for the last four years. While there are legitimate discussions to be had about the best way of establishing wild and free ranging bison herds seeded from Yellowstone, accusing Turner of pursuing some sort of profit motive is unsupported by fact. Moreover, and with a friendly hello offered here to Mike, my longtime friend at the Buffalo Field Campaign, and to Robert Hoskins, this tact, gentlemen, of maligning GYC and Defenders in addition to Ted and Russ Miller, also is bogus. You are needlessly creating antagonism with allies who share a longer term vision for bison conservation and ecological recovery. Isn’t longterm what matters?

  28. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    As a former employee of FWP working with Bison issues, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with your take on Turner.

  29. JB Avatar


    Personally, I don’t see anything “sinister” in Tedd Turner’s motives. Whether he is profit-driven is debatable, however. Still, it isn’t Turner motives/actions that bother me with respect to bison. It is (1) the precedent set by giving away wildlife (a publicly-owned resource) solely–SOLELY for the protection of the livestock industry, and (2) the fact that this action will ultimately delay the establishment of wild and free-roaming bison.

    You are right, we share the same longterm goal. Any idea how much longer we’ll have to wait if we follow this course of action?

  30. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Todd – thanks for your input.

  31. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    My thoughts on this;

    1) Transfer of public wildlife to private lands has been going on forever in America. Hundreds of bison are sold off at auction every fall at all the refuges and state herds. Elk are “given” to non and quasi profits from both Montana and Wyoming who then auction off the “excess” at their own auctions to fund their programs. To use this generalized argument against putting public onto private is just going to hurt the cause of those who are not wanting to see YNP’s bison go to Turners. I do believe those who philosophically oppose transfer are more specific in their vison but they should distance themselves from those “hunters” and anti Turnertypes who think only short term. To allow these types to join the band wagon of dissent only dilutes their cause.

    2) The Indian tribes “wanting” these bison also have well entrenched and powerful cattle culture majorities within the tribal structure. A segment of the tribe may want bison but it is a very hard sell long term. Tribal politics are volitale and I doubt any bison herd would be “safe” on any of their lands, at least to the degree any govt. organization perceives is needed politically. Those wanting bison to go on these lands down the road could very easily be hurting their case pushing for tribal ownership as stated in the original govt. agreements.

    For those in the tribe wanting these bison they may not get the majority of the tribe to follow through but at least they gain some measure of success just by promoting this measure. Plus it brings some attention to their own herds of bison …and the more the tribal members know of this already established tribal herd the more they will elevate it in their minds.

    3) Turner, I see, as actually wanting these bison for the “good cause”, not profit. Hell, I see none of his bison operations having the main focus on making money. It is for the environment, habitat etc….the same as most other lands by “privates” or any organization does for a higher cause.

    I don’t agree with the genetic purity focus going on in “scientific” community now….I feel culture and well infrastructured herds are most important for genetic variability and ecological sustainability….and these poor orphans have lost all chance at this being seperated as calves…but more power to Ted if these animals help him maintain still further committment to the environment.

    4)I think the main reasons for those wanting Yel. Bison to remain Yel. bison are and have been always the same. It was an poorly conceived quarintine plan from the beginning and the states and federal govt. tried to snowjob the public by saying these quarentined bison would go to the Indians and public lands. I’d say focus on calling them on the carpet for this. I say expand on this failure of plan by saying the rest of this plan is also poorly thought out. That the Yellowstone herd should be allowed to expand out of the Park onto other public lands ….and then those red necks who want to “hunt” them can do so…not bash Ted Turner. He actually is doing more…putting thoughts to the ground. And those poor orphans will actually have a better life. I say let these animals finally have some peace.

    5) And lastly, I think those opposed to animals going to Ted need to understand it is the “end run” of politics, the flanking, that disturbs them the most. They probably already know this but I say don’t deflect away from stategies countering this attempt. The govt. bison committee is already showing its vulnerability. Go at the core.. and stay there.

  32. JB Avatar

    The question folks should be asking is what will happen if the “Turner Plan” is set aside as too controversial? Will MT slaughter these bison, or continue to quarantine them? If the latter, will a suitable public lands location be found sooner than 5 years (the time allotted for their Turner ranch vacation)?

    What does the Turner Plan do other than let Montana and the NPS off the hook for another five years?

  33. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    JB – I appreciate your point – maybe the main issue for the state of MT currently (short term), is the funding necessary to provide the infrastructure on any public lands for bison. The budget outlook (more negative each month) combined with the state constitution budget guidelines makes a “new” wildlife program less than likely. I, like you hope this is not a long term “fix”.

  34. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Let’s start with JB’s question, as it’s the most important.

    The short answer is that the Turner plan perfectly fits political realities that are prejudiced against the conservation of WILD bison outside Yellowstone National Park. In a sense, handing these bison over to Ted Turner does let Montana and the NPS off the hook for another five years, the hook (petard) upon which they’ve hoisted themselves in making promises about wild bison conservation and restoration they cannot keep and quite frankly never intended to keep.

    What we’re getting out of quarantine program are disease free livestock, not disease free wild bison. In a sense, they’ve been destined for Ted Turner all along.

    There seems to be an assumption among some out there that the bison quarantine program is legitimate, that is, that the agencies actually intended to restore disease-free wild bison to public and tribal lands on the Great Plains and Intermountain West to which bison are native. The assumption is invalid because the stated purpose of the program never had, and will never get, buy in from the livestock industry, despite propaganda to the contrary from the IBMP agencies. The state vets, ranchers, and the industry as a whole has been adamantly opposed to wild bison restoration. Transport of bison-as-livestock is another matter.

    The agencies are well aware of this fundamental opposition to wild bison conservation and restoration and have fully capitulated to it.

    The quarantine idea for Yellowstone bison has been around since the early 90s when first proposed by the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes at Fort Belknap in northeastern Montana, a proposal that was picked up by the Intertribal Bison Cooperative when it was formed in 1994. The idea of wild bison restoration has always been opposed by the livestock industry however, which does not want wild bison out on the landscape to compete with cattle and existing livestock restricted land management, especially on public lands that ranchers, not the public, control. This is the basis of what I call the brucellosis fraud: it’s not brucellosis in bison that is a threat to the livestock industry, rather, wild, free-roaming bison themselves are a threat to the livestock industry as an obsolete oligarchy hanging on to its illegitimate 19th century powers and privileges over land use and wildlife management.

    In short, brucellosis is just a cover to keep wild bison out of Montana because that’s what the industry wants and demands and has gotten.

    Fast forward to the 2004 Quarantine Feasibility Study (QFS) proposal put together by APHIS and Montana FWP. The proposal specifically stated that recipients for QFS bison would be identified by the beginning of Phase II/III (the actual scientific experiment of test and slaughter; phase I was the original transfer of bison to the QFS facility) so that these recipients could get ready for Phase IV dispersal of QFS bison. This never happened; in fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that any attempt was made by any government agency at any time to identify and secure legal Phase IV recipients either before or during phase II/III, even though the ITBC itself has long since identified potential tribal recipients.

    We should also realize that from the beginning of the QFS five years ago it has been both publicly promised by the agencies and legally established in various formal decision documents issued under the Montana Environmental Policy Act that among the criteria for recipients of QFS bison is that they would agree to use QFS bison only for wild bison conservation/restoration purposes and would neither privatize nor commercialize them. These criteria would be written into legally enforceable contracts and would also apply to recipient Tribes. These criteria against privatization and commercialization of QFS bison are also written into the research permit that authorized APHIS to take bison from Yellowstone National Park in the first place.

    You all can study the legal problems with the Turner proposal in more detail in the comments posted on the Buffalo Field Campaign website at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/legislative/bisonquarantine.html. We also discuss why slaughter is not a legitimate option. At best slaughter is a red herring, at worst it just blackmail.

    Given this history, it is interesting, is it not, that all of a sudden we have an overpopulation emergency at the quarantine facility because FWP can’t find legal homes for QFS bison, that is for disease free wild bison as opposed to disease free livestock, when FWP has had five long years to identify and secure legal recipients, as promised and legally required. Now, why is that? Are any of you going to argue that this unfortunate situation just happened, that it’s an unforeseen circumstance, an act of God for which no human being, biologist, or bureaucrat is responsible? Such an argument would go against the facts. The livestock industry is fully in charge of bison management, and the industry isn’t interested in wild bison conservation and restoration. It is interested in turning wild bison into livestock.

    I’ve stated my philosophical and policy reasons for opposing the Turner proposal elsewhere and I don’t feel like repeating them here. I’ve already gone on too long. Let’s just stay with the fact that the proposal is demonstrably illegal in a number of ways, all of which are discussed in my and others’ formal comments to FWP posted at the BFC website.

    It seems to me that regardless of what you think about the public trust vs. privatization/commercialization of wildlife or about Ted Turner’s alleged altruistic motives for “taking care” of these bison (although Russ Miller has admitted in public that there is a profit motive, and commercialization is part of the original Turner proposal) or about whether Defenders and GYC are worthy allies in bison conservation, one should be concerned that politics is trumping the law.

    Those who support giving these bison to Ted Turner are in supporting an illegal action. I’ll save discussion of supporters’ motives for ignoring the illegalities until a later time. I’ve got work to do.


  35. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    RH – sounds like a better legal “strategy” is needed?

  36. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Your meaning isn’t clear. We’ve got a good legal strategy–the public trust. What’s needed is a better political strategy for implementing the public trust, a strategy that has as a critical goal the destruction of the political power of the livestock industy to control land use and wildlife management.

    Note that I said destroy the political power of the industry, not destroy the industry itself. This is in line with Aldo Leopold’s goal of transforming arrogant conquerors into citizens of the land community.



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan