From Buffalo Field Campaign -
Farm Bill Could Mean Killing of Sick Bison in
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
HELENA, Mont., April 18 -- National Park Service
officials and environmentalists say a provision in the farm bill could
lead to the slaughter of bison and elk in Yellowstone and other national
The provision, the Animal Health Protection Act, was
added to the bill in the Senate by Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa,
to consolidate and broaden the Department of Agriculture's authority to
manage animal disease. The purpose was to make it easier for
agricultural officials to respond to livestock diseases like mad cow and
foot-and-mouth and to counter possible food contamination by terrorists.
The contention comes down to the word "animal" in the
definition of the "pests" that would be subject to the department's new
authority. That addition, critics say, would give that department
control over any animals that threaten livestock.
Among those that could be affected, the critics say,
would be elk and bison in Yellowstone, which have brucellosis in large
numbers. Ranchers in Montana and Wyoming fear that the disease could be
passed on to their cattle.
The Interior Department, which oversees national parks
and has authority over wildlife, has opposed efforts to kill infected
elk and bison under a philosophy that nature should be allowed to take
Even though there have been no documented cases of
brucellosis transmission to domestic cows in the wild, Montana has a
zero-tolerance policy and shoots any buffalo that leave Yellowstone.
"For 60 years, the state veterinarians and Department of
Agriculture have wanted to come into the park, round up elk and bison,
test them and slaughter the ones that have brucellosis," the chief
scientist at Yellowstone, John Varley, said. "My guess is that would be
their first priority."
A spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department said the
bill was not intended to grant the agency authority over other
"Any action we would take that involves another
government agency, we would consult with them very closely," the
spokeswoman, Alisa Harrison, said. "We work closely with the National
A spokesman for Mr. Harkin's office said the language in
a small but critical section of the bill that transferred authority was
"It wasn't Senator Harkin's intent to infringe on the
Department of Interior's jurisdiction," the spokesman, Seth Boffeli,
said. "We are working with wildlife groups and are hopeful a compromise
can be reached."
Based on past studies of the 3,000 or so bison in
Yellowstone, Mr. Varley said, up to 80 percent of the animals could test
positive for brucellosis and could, under the proposed legislation, be
shipped to slaughter. Yellowstone bison are descendants of the few
animals that survived the slaughter in the late 19th century. They are
the last free-roaming herd in the West.
Steve Torbit, senior scientist for the National Wildlife
Federation in Denver and a former wildlife biologist for Colorado and
Wyoming and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, said the
proposed legislation would also usurp a state's authority to manage its
"It would," Mr. Torbit said, "give authority to kill
wildlife to a single special interest, the livestock industry."
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Please take 5 minutes and contact your two Senators with
your opinion regarding the above. Their contact info is at:
Call your Senator's local office (as well as their D.C. office) today.
You may also phone the United States Capitol switchboard at (202)
224-3121 and an operator will connect you directly with the Senate
office you request.
Let them know that our last wild buffalo must be
For the Buffalo!
Go on to Dealing With
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