Politics Magazine

Bison, Cattle and the Great Plains/Rocky Mountains

Posted on the 08 March 2013 by Calvinthedog

I got this from Defenders of Wildlife. I have no idea why these idiot cattle ranchers in Montana hate buffalo so much. Does anyone have any ideas?

I have a feeling that it might have to do with brucellosis. It is true that bison do have brucellosis, and theoretically they could transmit it to cattle. Cattle can be devastated by brucellosis. However, to my knowledge, there has not yet been a single case of bison to cattle brucellosis transmission. Apparently bison need to have very close contact with cattle to transmit the disease, and that just does not happen in the wild. It might occur in a zoo or game farm or some artificial environment where you threw the animals together.

I understand at least as of 15-20 years ago, there were parts of the northern Great Plains that were actually losing population in many areas of the states. I think especially of North Dakota and South Dakota. Some counties are nearly hanging up the Going out Business sign as the number of residents goes too low to support county services. Some towns have become virtual ghost towns. Many of the remaining are elderly people living alone. There are many abandoned old homes in some of these counties. If you have the guts, you can poke around these old homes. They still have a lot of period furniture, old clothes, old books, old lamps and other accessories. Wild animals are now reclaiming a lot of these old homes and you will often ferret them out when you go into these old houses.

I am not sure what the depopulation is all about. Does anyone have any ideas?

Anyway, I believe that what we ought to do in these depopulated areas is have the state condemn the land and buy it out. Then run bison on it or allow private bison ranchers to lease the land and run bison on it. Or sell it to bison farmers so they can run bison on it. If no one wants to run bison on the land, you can open it up to private harvest by hunters or you can lease use of it to private bison harvesting concerns so they can harvest the bison and ship it to slaughterhouses for packaging to consumers.

Bison is said to taste a lot like beef but it is very much better for you. The Plains Indians lived on bison meat for millenia and there was little evidence of any harm to them from this diet. Bison meat is very lean and low fat.

In particular, the Great Plains evolved with bison! There is a whole ecosystem that has been almost completely destroyed out there with the elimination of the bison. Prairie dogs and the black footed ferret are two of those that have been hit the hardest. The black footed ferret was nearly driven to extinction, mostly by extermination campaigns waged by cattle ranchers against prairie dogs. Cattlemen slaughter prairie dogs because they say that stupid cows trip over their prairie dog burrows and the dogs compete with cows for forage.

As you can tell, I have an extremely low opinion of cattle ranchers! However, they do have some potential. Perhaps we could allow ranchers who agree not to exterminate everything that is not a cow on their land to charge a lower price for their beef. Call it “endangered species beef.” Even better yet, hit those ranchers who will not undertake these measures with a tax that raises the price of their beef by maybe 10% above the conservationist ranchers. The good ranchers would be allowed to sell for cheaper and slap a pro-environment label on their beef. This is a sort of a market friendly regulation that I like, but as you can see, it still involves government regulation, taxation and so on. But carrot and stick approaches are usually nice.

It’s the latest threat to wild bison conservation.

All we have worked for could be severely compromised if a batch of bad bison bills passes through Montana’s state legislature. Some of Montana’s most extreme anti-wildlife legislators are attempting to make restoration of wild bison to the Great Plains nearly impossible.

A Massive Assault on Bison

The worst of the bills, SB 143, would:

  • Order Montana officials to “immediately” kill or remove all wild bison migrating into Montana;
  • Prohibit wild bison relocation anywhere in Montana except to the National Bison Range – where wild bison are already located;
  • Establish a bison hunt “statewide and at any time of the year;” and
  • Allow landowners to shoot wild bison on private land.

To add insult to injury:

  • SB 256 would make Montana’s wildlife agency liable for any property damage from wild bison, a precedent meant to financially prohibit bison restoration;
  • SB 341 would require Montana’s wildlife agency to navigate a massive list of additional hurdles prior to relocation of any wildlife species and prohibit relocation if the species could impact livestock grazing, clearly intended to prevent bison relocation; and
  • HB 396 would attempt to give county commissioners veto power over bison restoration within their counties – even on tribal lands and our federal public lands.

Our Plan for Bison

Defenders of Wildlife’s Rockies and Plains team is working overtime to turn back this cruel assault on bison recovery.

We’re working with a diverse coalition of tribes and conservation organizations to testify against these bills and mobilize opposition; we’re getting word out to the media to bring attention to these bills; and we’re organizing Montanans to show up at the Montana capitol, make phone calls and send emails to exert grassroots pressure on legislators and the governor.

Our efforts are beginning to pay off. Three of the eight anti-bison bills are now dead. But five more remain a threat to wild bison in Montana — and we need your help more than ever to continue this critical work.

Last year, we helped relocate 61 pure wild bison from Yellowstone National Park to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. It was the start of an historic effort to restore Yellowstone bison to key places in the Great Plains – an effort that is now in jeopardy, unless we can turn back this latest assault. Please help today!

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