“Conserving” Wild Bison?
The conflict between private landowners and the bison and elk living in Yellowstone National Park exists in large part because the Yellowstone herds are infected with brucellosis. Brucellosis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes spontaneous abortions in cattle and related species. This epidemic disease has been virtually eliminated except in the national parks, which are now North America’s brucellosis reservoir.
The feds know how to address this problem, but they can’t take any action because of the real threat of lawsuits. Using the federal court system and federal statutes, pressure groups tie federal agencies like National Park Service and National Forest Service in knots with relative ease.
The resulting straight jacket of litigation-induced inaction has given us fire-prone, money-losing federal forests, and, federal land wildlife programs that often make no sense such as the hands-off approach to brucellosis control in the name of preserving “wildness.”
Decades of experience with wildlife and forestry management show that state agencies generally produce better results than federal agencies. Because state agencies are not handicapped by these punitive legal constraints, they are more responsive to local citizens who are affected by their decisions. And because states will go at eliminating brucellosis in wild bison and elk in different ways—and will have private landowners’ help—there is built-in experimentation, which results in widespread adoption of innovations that have worked elsewhere.