Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat
Fish, Wildlife & Parks and FWP Commission
Elk Brucellosis Management Plan

Press Release - Jan. 10, 2015
EMWH Sues FWP & Commission, Charging No Science, Law Violations and Breach of Public Trust

In a lawsuit filed Friday, Jan. 9th, in Helena District Court, Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat argues that Montana's Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the FWP Commission committed scientific, legal and Public Trust errors when it bypassed the required Environmental Impact Study in favor of the political Elk Management in Areas with Brucellosis program and subsequent Work Plans. The FWP elk brucellosis plan involves pasture wide, tall wildlife obstructing fences paid for by sportsmen dollars, kill permits and removal hunts available, in essence anytime of the year, within 4 Montana counties, with no private landowner requirement of public hunter access as in current game damage laws - a move towards privatizing our wildlife.

Kathryn QannaYahu, founder of Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat (EMWH), whose motto is, “Putting the 'Public' Back in 'Public Trust' “ stated, “The cost is too high for our elk, and wildlife management in general, to not proceed with a lawsuit to force FWP and the FWP Commission to follow the laws already on the books concerning elk management in Montana. We can't afford politics instead of science, our wildlife can't afford the politics.

As a conservation hunter, I advocate for the Public Trust Doctrine, a cornerstone of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which holds that certain natural resources, such as water, fish and wildlife, are held in trust by the government for the benefit of the people. The Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) requires scientific wildlife and habitat management.”

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) is a member of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). In WAFWA's PTD Resolution it mandates, “that fish and wildlife resources are to be held in trust by government for the benefit of present and future generations.” It further states, “...the public must be made aware of this Public Trust, and it must be enforceable against the government.” Dyrck Van Hyning, a conservationists from Great Falls added, “Under Montana law, 'the ownership of wild animals is in the state, held by it in its sovereign capacity for the use and benefit of the people'. We are asking the MFWP to base any future elk-brucellosis management activities upon rules based in sound science and upon adequate environmental impact study and review.”

Ron Moody, a former FWP Commissioner and hunter from Lewistown, reviewed the lawsuit and said, "I believe there is a valid legal question as to whether the FWP Department is properly following existing state law when they allow elk to be killed on lands where no public hunting was allowed as part of their brucellosis management plan. The department clearly disagrees and the only way to settle the dispute is by litigation."

Brucellosis is spread by the inhalation or ingestion of infected birthing birthing materials. Just having elk commingling on the landscape does not spread brucellosis. Wild elk are blamed for outbreaks of brucellosis among cattle in the GYA. The FWP elk brucellosis management and work plan being challenged by the EMWH lawsuit will use methods similar to the way wild bison are handled around Yellowstone Park by the Montana Department of Livestock. Yet research is surfacing which questions whether these wildlife are solely responsible for the brucellosis infections in Montana cattle, showing there are cases of cattle transmission and vaccination infection in the domestic bison. For cattle ranchers to be protected, they need the science so they are not deceived by a costly political shell game.

Moody also said: "At the end of the day, both livestock producers and wildlife advocates can only come out winners if we get to the roots of how brucellosis got into wild elk herds in the first place and stop that infection path. We should focus on removing the problem rather than applying political band-aids."

In spring of 2014, Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat created an online petition to request the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) conduct an updated review of Wildlife Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area. This fall, the NAS agreed to review the current science available. They last produced a report on the subject in 1998. Science has advanced in brucellosis research, including genetics. Which is part of the research QannaYahu has undertaken for the last three years of her wild elk and bison advocacy in Montana. Montana hunter and wildlife advocate Glenn Monahan who signed the petition added, “Wildlife management decisions need to be based on the best available science, not politics. Agency actions that affect wildlife and the habitat they depend on should be evaluated through an environmental impact process.”

QannaYahu says, “The goal of the lawsuit is to enforce our FWP and FWP Commission trustees to uphold our Montana wildlife law and Public Trust Doctrine. Going to Commission meetings and work groups, submitting written and public comments for 2 years, the public has been ignored, the science has been ignored. We gave FWP and the Commission every opportunity to do the right thing. We had no choice but to file a lawsuit to protect our Public Trust.”

Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat
Kathryn QannaYahu

For Background Information:
Elk Managment In Areas With Brucellosis page
Park County "Working Group" page
Brucellosis in the GYA Page







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