Volume 4, Number 46 - February 10, 2005
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Governor supports elk test-and-removal
Governor Dave Freudenthal said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that he supports the proposal to test and remove brucellosis-infected elk from the Pinedale elk herd unit.
“I’m willing to see it proceed,” he said, with two caveats. First, it needs to be understood that the Pinedale project is a pilot project, experimental in nature, he said.
In addition, Freudenthal said: “It is not to be construed as an endorsement of state policy going forward. Clearly, it is a research effort, not an adoption of policy.”
Freudenthal made the comment in an exclusive half-hour interview devoted to the issue of brucellosis and the recent report submitted to him by the Wyoming Brucellosis Task Force.
“It is clearly not a popular decision, but it’s fair to give it a try,” Freudenthal said.
“I’m uncomfortable with it,” Freudenthal admitted, adding that it’s a case where he will not allow his personal comfort level to preclude an action that could produce meaningful information.
“Doing the right thing isn’t always fun,” he said.
Speaking of this overall reaction to the committee’s report, Freudenthal said he was extremely impressed by the amount of work the group accomplished in a short period of time.
“They teed up a set of really hard decisions we’ll be making over the next four or five years,” Freudenthal said, adding that he wished the options weren’t so difficult and the solutions simpler.
Freudenthal contrasted the group’s work to the efforts of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee, which has worked to address the issue for more than a decade. He was sharp in his criticism of the federal group and its work.
Freudenthal said the state task force has done more in a short time than the GYIBC has done in the entire time it’s been operating.
Freudenthal said he agrees with the state task force’s recommendation that the governors of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming need to meet to re-address the GYIBC and its focus. The three states have several issues in common that should be discussed, he said, including wolves, grizzly bears and brucellosis.
“I think it’s time we’re going to have to act on it,” he said, while acknowledging that he does not believe the GYIBC has been effective.
“I have really mixed feelings about it,” he said, “We do need some venue like that, but that has not been a particularly effective format.”
Freudenthal said he’d prefer some results-driven process. He also expressed his doubts about whether some federal agencies really want to be partners with the state in combating this disease issue, but noted he continued to be an optimist, hoping for the best.
Although the task force submitted 28 recommendations to the governor last month when it submitted the report, Freudenthal said his focus has been on the issues involving the legislature and funding from the legislature.
So far, it appears the Wyoming Legislature will fund the items needed for the pilot test-and-removal program in the Pinedale elk herd unit, while state agencies are working on contacting livestock producers near elk feedgrounds to assist in the development of Brucellosis Management Action Plans. Habitat improvements need to be made, Freudenthal said, expressing hope that the wildlife trust fund bill will be approved by the legislature as well.
Freudenthal noted that the livestock agent registration bill died in the legislature. He said although this bill was a recommendation of the task force, “I’m not sure it needed to pass.” The goals of the legislation might be accomplished through existing mechanisms, Freudenthal said.
Freudenthal said when the legislature adjourns, he’ll pick out which of the 28 recommendations he wants the state to work on and go from there. Part of that process may involve the task force once again. Although the group suggested it stay in place and meet annually to review implementation of its recommendations, Freudenthal said he’d like to reconvene the group at least twice this year to review its recommendations with him.
“I envision keeping it alive,” Freudenthal said of the task force. “They worked hard and I give them credit for it.”
Freudenthal had high praise for the chair of the task force, Dr. Frank Galey, dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Wyoming. The job he did was “amazing, absolutely amazing,” Freudenthal said. “If every appointment I made worked out so well, I’d be a mighty fine governor.”
Freudenthal said he couldn’t answer whether eradication of brucellosis in the Yellowstone region is a realistic goal, but added, “I don’t see the answer without a vaccine.”
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