Facing stiff opposition and lawsuits, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) appears to be backing off on parts of its plan to reduce elk populations near Yellowstone Park. Earlier this year, MFWP released its 2014 Work Plan for Elk Management Guidelines in Areas with Brucellosis, which includes recommendations for culling and allowing ranchers to kill up to three elk during a period risk period, which extends into spring when elk cows are pregnant.
Livestock organizations supported the plan as a means to reduce the risk of spreading brucellosis to cattle herds. Hunting and conservation groups, however, opposed the plan, and the Skyline Sportsmen’s Association and the Anaconda Sportsmen’s Club filed a lawsuit in early May to block the plan. The groups claim MFWP and its working group committed scientific, legal and Public Trust errors when it approved the 2014 plan, and the elk-brucellosis plan is based on political, rather than scientific information that should have been tested in a formal environmental review process.
The groups also claim that while wild elk are blamed for outbreaks of brucellosis among cattle, occurring only in a small location of the Paradise Valley, research raises questions whether these wildlife are solely responsible for the brucellosis infections in cattle.
Last week, according to news reports, state wildlife officials announced they would back off on the plan.
Quoted in a Reuters article, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim says “We’ve regrouped here and says. “Let’s not fight this, let’s work out an amicable solution.”