02.16.16

Daines, Zinke Commend Extension of Yellowstone Bison Quarantine Plan Comment Period

 U.S. CONGRESS — Montana Senator Steve Daines and Representative Ryan Zinke successfully secured a two-week extension of the comment period for the National Park Service’s (NPS) Environmental Assessment of Yellowstone National Park’s Bison Quarantine Plan. The previous deadline for the comment period was February 15, 2016.                

At Daines’ and Zinke’s urging, NPS recently announced that the comment period would be extended to February 29, 2016. In a letter sent last week to NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis, Daines and Zinke called on the agency to extend the comment period to accommodate the concerns of Montana ranchers, farmers and land-owners who will be affected by any quarantine plan, including those who live in northeastern Montana and Montana’s Hi-Line region.

“We believe additional time is needed to ensure interested and affected members of the public are aware of the proposal and able to contribute feedback,” Daines and Zinke wrote. “As you know, brucellosis is a major threat to cattle producers across Montana, which is why proper and thorough testing is vital. The NPS has worked closely with the cattle industry for years to ensure both bison and cattle remain healthy and safe. That said, the dangerous nature of the disease cannot be understated, which is why any quarantine plan must be thoroughly vetted. We strongly urge your staff to work in conjunction with residents, tribal members, ranchers, and county officials across Eastern Montana to ensure every detail of this process is clearly communicated and circulated.”

Read the full text of Daines’ and Zinke’s letter below or download it here:

Dear Director Jarvis: 

We write to request that the National Park Service (NPS) extend the comment period regarding its Environmental Assessment (EA) of Yellowstone National Park’s Bison Quarantine Plan. As it stands, public comment is set to close Monday, February 15, 2016. We believe additional time is needed to ensure interested and affected members of the public are aware of the proposal and able to contribute feedback. While the NPS hosted two public scoping meetings in 2014 regarding this quarantine plan in Gardiner and Bozeman, we are concerned that these conversations did not take place anywhere in Northeastern Montana. As a matter of effective and comprehensive consultation, failing to consult Hi-Line residents near where this bison quarantine facility will be placed illustrates that the NPS has more work to complete before moving forward.

As you know, brucellosis is a major threat to cattle producers across Montana, which is why proper and thorough testing is vital. The NPS has worked closely with the cattle industry for years to ensure both bison and cattle remain healthy and safe. That said, the dangerous nature of the disease cannot be understated, which is why any quarantine plan must be thoroughly vetted. We strongly urge your staff to work in conjunction with residents, tribal members, ranchers, and county officials across Eastern Montana to ensure every detail of this process is clearly communicated and circulated. This includes offering ample notification about the process. We recognize returning Bison to Indian country is an important part of restoring Montana’s tribal communities’ culture and should be taken seriously. We remain committed to ensuring the public involvement process is not obstructed and strongly support the extension of the current comment period. 

Thank you for your consideration to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to swiftly address this issue.

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