Governor Schweitzer will be meeting with the new head of Yellowstone Park to discuss the fate of 500 bison who left the park and were tested for brucellosis. Some have apparently tested positive, and the governor has so far, stopped the slaughter of the infected animals. Throughout these past several years, the issue of brucellosis in bison and elk has been contentious, emotional, and thorny. There has never been a sound management plan deployed that will protect Montana wildlife.
One major issue has been overlooked in all of the back and forth between state and federal officials, as well as conservation groups and the cattle industry: the culpability, negligence and denial of the cattle industry itself. I am a politician, I am also a pragmatist. This issue for too long has been determined and predicated by the desire of either political party, and their respective politicians and party leaders' political interests. What party desires the financial and other support of the Cattlemen's Association and other industry groups? This question has always dictated the fate of the Yellowstone bison and elk herds.
I ask: when will the cattle industry be held accountable for damaging our wildlife? Brucellosis is not an indigenous disease, it was brought here and wreaked havoc on our wildlife. It was brought here by cattle ranchers, and they should help pay the cost of cleaning up their mess. Its simple. They get no free pass from me.
There is something else our elected leaders are not telling us: brucellosis, in all of its variant forms, can also be contracted by dogs. Therein, we can see the underlying effort to once again, eradicate the wolves. Wyoming legislators have already expressed concern about the possibility of wolves transmitting the disease. Instead of allowing the cattle industry to run the policy in our statehouses, and deploy scare tactics to dance around the Endangered Species Act--when will our politicians hold them accountable to clean up this disease?
It is a painful reality that some animals will be slaughtered in the course of eradicating this disease. If politicians, Schweitzer included, really cared about this issue: he would hold the cattle industry's feet to the fire. They created this, its time to fix it. They have been allowed to vaccinate their cattle but leave the wildlife festering in disease, with no industry accountability.
The cattle industry is only one group that must contribute to ridding our ecosystem of this disease, the brucellosis bacteria was once a biological weapon used by our government. These are the primary propagators of disease, they should do the work and provide the resources for clean up. It is astounding to me that our federal elected Senators and Congressman have been sitting on their hands this long, with no questions, no accountability, no public pressure. It is time for some truth telling, not only on the issue of the bison, but the real motivations behind the wolf issue. It is time to do something about this for the sake of our wildlife heritage.