Lies and misinformation on brucellosis issue

Are cattle ranchers good neighbors? This question deserves a thorough examination.

First, let’s get a few undisputable facts out of the way. The disease brucellosis was brought to this country by cattle. It was never here on this continent prior to the arrival of domestic cattle. Cattle infected other ungulates such as bison and elk. Ranchers who graze cattle on public land, such as Forest Service lands, are subsidized by taxpayers. They pay about $1.35 per cow/calf pair to graze their cattle on public lands. The Tea Party calls this welfare — taxpayer-subsidized anything is welfare.

Ranchers are not required to fence their animals in. Cattle can wander anywhere they want, including highways where unsuspecting drivers can hit one and kill themselves. Ranchers are not held responsible. Some ranchers dewater streams and harm fisheries by taking public water to irrigate their private lands. Many ranchers refuse to allow hunters on their lands yet complain about too many ungulates on their land.

In a recent Enterprise article, Bruce Malcom, a Paradise Valley rancher, was quoted as saying “We’ve pulled those elk down ourselves. We’ve increased our outputs and our efficiency with our irrigation systems, but now elk are here all year long.” I appreciate Mr. Malcom’s honesty. But, in my opinion, ranchers aren’t good neighbors.

MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) recently held a meeting in Livingston on their “Elk Work Plan”for areas where elk exist in areas with brucellosis. This plan allows lethal removal of elk on private ranches where cattle winter. Park County has 12,533 elk that congregate in six different hunting districts, and this number of elk is “right at objective,”according to FWP.

Since 2007, which is a seven-year time period, there have been a whopping four brucellosis infections in cattle in Park County. Did those ranchers take personal responsibility for their cattle? No. Did they vaccinate their cattle against brucellosis? No. Did they undertake ranching on natural elk winter range? Yes.

These ranchers deserve no compensation of any kind, and hunters certainly should not be asked to sacrifice elk for ranchers’ irresponsible behavior.

Ranchers aren’t the only ones to blame in this misinformation campaign. FWP is as guilty as any entity. The Enterprise article quoted Jerry O’Hair, a Paradise Valley rancher, as saying brucellosis came into the valley from animals in Yellowstone National Park. He said “I’m pretty darned confused about this whole thing. I’ve got an elk problem. I’ve got a brucellosis problem also. FWP refuses to address it.”

Mr. O’Hair is indeed confused — and wrong. First, animals in YNP didn’t bring brucellosis into the valley and second, FWP isn’t responsible for Mr. O’Hair’s irresponsible behavior. Mr. O’Hair wins the Bad Rancher Neighbor Award. At the FWP meeting, ranchers suggested that FWP reconsider hunting quotas and FWP objective numbers for elk in Paradise Valley, despite the aforementioned number of elk being “right at objective.”

There is another bogeyman in this fight. The grey wolf. Park County Commissioner Jim Durgan claims he and other landowners are seeing larger numbers of elk in higher concentrations than ever before. He said the 800-pound elephant in the room starts with a “w” and ends with an “f.” Meanwhile Big Game Forever, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are all raising money to battle the “decimation” of elk herds in Paradise Valley due to the dreaded wolf.

Who is lying? The ranchers or the sportsmen? You can’t have it both ways, boys, so you better get your story straight.

But the truth remains, both are lying. And FWP has done absolutely nothing to educate ranchers or sportsmen about brucellosis, elk, or bison because they have allowed themselves to be held hostage by the indefatigable MT Department of Livestock that spews inaccurate information on a daily basis.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Park County is the only remaining plaintiff in the bogus bison lawsuit. Who is paying for this lawsuit? The people who live and pay taxes in Park County, including me. I for one am sick to death of Park County squandering my tax dollars on one unwarranted lawsuit after another. And why do they do it? To appease the cattle ranchers in Park County.

Another recent Enterprise article stated since 2007, the four brucellosis infections have been traced to elk — yet bison continue to be the whipping boy of the disgraceful MT. Dept. of Livestock, FWP and our Governor Bullock.

It is time to wake up and smell the coffee. Cattle ranchers are bad neighbors; sportsmen groups lie about wolves; FWP fails miserably to educate the public about brucellosis; and Park County officials squander taxpayer dollars on wasteful lawsuits to appease a certain constituent — ranchers. I’m sick to death of all of it.

It’s time to hold all of these entities accountable for their lies and misinformation. Don’t eat Paradise Valley beef; don’t send money to sportsmen groups that lie; appoint people to MT Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks that have a spine; and find a way to get Brett Linneweber out of office. That would be a good beginning.

Denise Boggs