On Thursday, November 21,2013, the Interagency
Bison Management Plan (IBMP) met at Chico Hot Springs for their
final meeting of the year. On the Agenda was a Brucellosis Seroprevalence Timeline
Discussion with 7 discussion goals: to begin clarifying future IBMP
directions with respect to seroprevalence for Partners and Public.
During this discussion, not only did Dol's Dr. Marty Zaluski and
Christian MacKay state that they were going to begin bison capture,
test and slaughter, vaccination program in late Feb. to March, but
that they had statutory rights to do this, regardless of any objections
or concerns that other IBMP partners presented. Dr. Marty Zaluski
repeatedly stated what their rights were as the authorization for
- potential new mandate for brucellosis control
in wildlife (APHIS)
- potential MDOL ramp up on bison vaccination
- status of bison remote vaccination (MDOL)
- potential for setting objectives for a boundary
vaccination program and determining feasibility of achieving those
- status of Tom Hobbs predictive seroprevalence
model publication and availability (NPS)
- brucellosis suppression as an IBMP goal
- discussion of overall value of seroprevalence
as a tool for achieving twin IBMP goals (all)
Timeline Discussion audio file MP3 1hour
3 minutes ( a number of the speakers are the supporting staff to
the voting partners, who sit behind the partners, not having a mic.
I had to manually raise the volume for these speakers to be able
to hear them, hence the noise distortion. Keith Lawrence, the quietest
of them all is still hard to hear.)
Below are key points of discussion transcribed
to give you an idea of the discussion. Suffice to say that I think
every agency there besides APHIS was upset and voicing their concerns
in opposition to this DoL bison vaccination program - vaccination
that involves the test and slaughter of our wild bison and treating
them like livestock with the tagging. I would first like to share
two important science facts concerning bison and brucellosis that
help to set the stage for the following information.
- "Median total risk to cattle from elk
and bison was 3.6 cattle-exposure event-days (95% P.I. 0.1 - 36.6).
The estimated percentage of cattle exposure risk from the Yellowstone
bison herd was small (0.0 - 0.3% of total
risk) compared with elk which contributed
99.7 - 100% of the total risk" - A
Risk Analysis of Brucella abortus Transmission Among Bison, Elk,
and Cattle in the Northern Greater Yellowstone Area (2010),
which DoL's Dr. Marty Zaluski was one of 7 authors on. - page
- "Montana's DSA includes 282 operations
with 73,200 cattle and domestic bison. This fiscal year, 42,025
of the 73,200 animals have been tested to achieve a 99% confidence
that the disease (if it exists) is present at a rate of less that
0.008%. The chance that any one Montana animal is brucellosis
positive is 0.00024%." Dr. Marty Zaluski also stated,
"So really the DSA in the state of Montana is in southwest
Montana. And it is designed to identify the cattle at risk from
brucellosis positive elk. So we know that brucellosis positive
elk are in southwest Montana, they can potentially expose cattle
and so the key to identifying the cattle at risk is to identify
where the brucellosis positive elk are."
Testimony and documentation submitted to the TAHC, Sept. 10, 2013.
Bison were not mentioned by Zaluski. So if bison pose 0.0 - 0.3%
risk of brucellosis transmission to cattle and of the 99.7 - 100%
risk from elk to cattle - that being 0.00024%, we are really looking
at a very rare risk of brucellosis transmission to cattle, one
certainly not ethically, socially and economically justified by
the draconian test and slaughter measures by the DoL and APHIS.
Second, I would also like to preface the Seroprevalence
Timeline Discussion with some additional groundwork of the situation.
The DoL holds two voting seats on the IBMP. One is Christian MacKay,
Executive Officer, and Dr. Marty Zaluski as DoL's state veterinarian.
No other agency has two voting members represented. As partners
on the IBMP, Dr. Marty Zaluski has made a lethal decision concerning
the test and slaughter bison vaccination plan, without involving
the other IBMP partners. This shows a complete disrespect and disregard
for the IBMP process, the other Montana State and Federal agencies,
as well as the Tribal Nations who have been partnered in this process.
At which point, as a Montanan I have to ask, if Dr. Zaluski has
such disregard for other representatives of Montana's public, how
would the ag/livestock industry feel if they and their concerns
were being likewise summarily dismissed?
Furthermore, the Dol is a Montana state agency,
a public agency, tasked with the general supervision over and, so
far as possible, protect the livestock interests of the state from
theft and disease and recommend legislation that in the judgment
of the department fosters the livestock industry. Dr. Marty Zaluski
is a science trained veterinarian, utilizing that science to carry
out the Montana directives of protecting the livestock interests
of the state from theft and disease. Dr. Zaluski utilized the current
science on brucellosis to advocate for Montana's livestock at the
Texas Animal Health Commission (mentioned and linked above). Yet,
he has hypocritically denied that same science in Montana, giving
Montana a black eye that we dont manage based on responsible science,
but rather prejudice and politics - losing credibility. He has ignored
not only peer science, but ignored science of which he has been
a contributor to in making this bison slaughter/vaccination determination.
By doing so, he has deceived the very livestock
constituency that he is a servant of, as to the real (low) threat
of brucellosis from wildlife to livestock and the real efficacy
of a vaccination program. This causes the cattle ranchers to have
false expectations that wildlife brucellosis eradication is obtainable
and economical - a silver bullet. Therefore they are abandoning
realistic efforts to protect their industry and Montana's Brucellosis
Class Free Status. Per the science of which he has been a part of,
this is an internal theft to the Department of Livestock, the State
of Montana and her taxpayers, as well as the federal taxpayers whose
monies fund this deception of brucellosis eradication/vaccination
in wildlife (Brucellosis
Eradication Economics - including the state legislators sponsoring
of earmarks and appropriations that are for brucellosis eradication
in wildlife, funneled through a defunct organization to the GYA
states Depts. of Livestock), to the detriment of the cattle industry
who would have benefited far more from a more effective cattle vaccine
(cattle genome and Brucella abortus genome have both been
completely mapped - all the tools necessary in creating a more efficient
cattle vaccine) as well as real solutions in adaptive management
to protect the livestock from the 0.0-0.3% chance of any brucellosis
tranmission from bison (if it can occur in the wild) and the 0.00024%
chance that any Montana cattle will become brucellosis positive
Dr. Marty Zaluski (Department
of Livestock) stated they were going to be vaccinating bison on
the west side, utilizing a mobile trap setup. When asked what this
was going to look like he responds, "The traditional way that
we vaccinate the bison is we take the positives,
we vaccinate the negatives
and we take the positives to slaughter."
When asked about the numbers he replies, "The
goal will be to have as big of an impact as possible on seroprevalence."
Concerning marking the vaccinated bison Zaluski states, "At
a minimum we would put a steel tag on these animals so we would
have a reference should those animals be captured again. And then
I would expect some kind of temporary visual marker."
Pat Flowers (FWP Region 3
Supervisor) asked when was the last time DoL vaccinated? Someone
to the side stated 2005. Flowers asks, "So what has changed
from '05 to 2014, that now it's become a priority?" (EMWH
Note: In the winter
of 2005-2006 it was registered as a mild winter with a population
of about 5000 bison. "Since 2000, about 3,200 bison have been
removed from the Yellowstone herd with over 1000 animals, or 20%
of the total population culled during the winter of 2005-2006. These
actions have been controversial with animal advocay groups."
Risk Analysis of Brucella abortus Transmission Among Bison,
Elk and Cattle in the Greater Yellowstone Area, 2010 - pgs.
99,100. This 20% reduction of the herd not only affects the population
numbers, but herd dynamics and genetics of an already small population.
The horrible publicity this event received carried into the next
few years, with additional slaughterings causing the herd to be
reduced by 1/3. Groups
decry Yellowstone bison slaughter. The outcry from the 2005-2006
slaughter reached such levels that an Oversight
Hearing On Yellowstone National Park Bison was set within the
House (Federal) in the 110th Congress, March 20th, 2007. Raul M.
Grijalva (Chairman of the Subcommittee) stated, "Any legitimate
threat of disease must be managed effectively but of equal importance
- the slaughter of bison needs to stop... Effective disease control
and free-roaming bison are not mutually exclusive. Given the enormous
scientific and financial
resources of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, along
with the resources and expertise of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho,
I am confident that bison and cattle can be managed in a way that
is not a death sentence for either species." The
GAO Report (full 52 pg. pdf), "GAO is recommending that
Agriculture and Interior—with the Montana state agencies—improve
their accountability, transparency, and management of Yellowstone
bison by developing measurable objectives and reporting yearly on
progress, among other actions.") Are we looking at a repeat
of the horrific 2005-2006 slaughterings and the detrimental ramifications
that resulted for Montana on the world stage, as well as the bison?
Zaluski replies that seroprevalence
has always been important.
Flowers asks, "So have
you projected how many animals you'd have to vaccinate over time
to have any meaningful impact on seroprevalence? What's the endgame?"
Zaluski, "The endgame
would be to improve the herd, immunity of the herd."
Flowers,"Have you projected
or in any way modeled what that's going to look like over time and
so you can describe, because there's, I mean there's some trade
offs to doing this in terms of hunting opportunities and that sort
of thing and it would be helpful for this group to know what those
trade offs are, in order to evaluate that. I think it would be helpful
if you could tell us what projected outcome you expect over time,
in terms of seroprevalence."
Zaluski gives no projection
or modeling. He states that what has been done is insignificant.
Flowers, "So you said what we've done
so far is insignificant. What number would be significant? That's
what I'm trying to get at. What I'm concerned about is that we're
throwing darts at a dart board without knowing where the target
is and it comes at expense and it comes at some trade off with hunting
opportunity and such. I think we need to identify what the target
is or at least project what we think the target is over time. How
many bison we would have to vaccinate to get there. I'm just, in
some ways very similar to what we are doing in terms of a harvest
plan. We have goals of how many we are going to harvest every year
in order to bring it back to target population levels. It seems
like we would want to do the same with seroprevalence, with vaccination,
in order to achieve reduced seroprevalence."
Zaluski wants vaccination
to be partnered on the northside as well. Christian MacKay
(DoL) said they would kick this off late February - early March
(time of mid-gestation which causes more abortions).
Dave Hallac (Yellowstone National
Park), "A perfect example is the science we have right now
shows that vaccinating animals in that time you plan to do it is
the worst possible time." Hallac brings up the Science
Panel and their recommendations (which Zaluski has
Science Review Workshop Panelists Report 2013. Pg.
6, vaccination - Cost ineffective tool. Hallac brought up many points
about the controversy concerning bison vaccine effectiveness. See
Vaccination Science, compiled by Kathryn QannaYahu,
not supplied by the NPS or Dave Hallac.
Don Herriott (USDA APHIS),
"To address the issue of the
elk, we've had conversations recently where we want to attempt to
broaden the conversation, which is not part of the IBMP, to include
elk, in our 3 states partners too, evaluate, come up with a plan
of what we can do to decrease the risk, decrease the prevalence
of these species in wildlife, both elk and bison. So theres ? that
we would like to do, that we are prevented from doing, but I think
we need to do those things." See
the APHIS Brucellosis Eradication in Wildlife Agenda
Jim Stone (I think) (Inter
Tribal Buffalo Council) expressed concern about the "partnership",
that DoL was laying down a course of action prior to input from
the partners; felt that this discussion should be the priority.
He asked where the science was, had read the report that said there
was almost no positive result from the vaccination program at this
time. "From our perspective, in a partnership, I don't know
how many resources one agency should throw at the politics."
He said, "that a public agency, such as DoL, program should
have been vetted through a couple different forums."
Majel Russel (ITBC attorney),
"ITBC has a larger goal of protecting the bison in their habitat
and trying to prevent unnecessary interference to these animals
in that habitat, and I think that it's difficult for us to be a
partner and have a partnership here, at this table and then sort
of be surprised about an action that you're going to take without