"The mulligan is over," says Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. "The next shot's for real."
Schweitzer refers to Montana's brucellosis situation. With one herd testing positive, Montana stands to lose its brucellosis-free status if another case arises. And Schweitzer told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that the possibility is there for that to happen. "It's coming and we need to be prepared for it," he said.
That's why he's working with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on a plan to create a brucellosis buffer zone around Yellowstone Park, the largest remaining reservoir of the disease in the nation, with all cattle entering and leaving the "hot zone" tested for the disease.
Ranchers in the area, however, aren't so sure. Many area ranchers routinely move cattle in and out of the possible buffer zone and don't have facilities at every place to work and test cattle. Alan Redfield, who ranches in Paradise Valley, said cattlemen shouldn't be penalized. "I didn't start the problem," he told the newspaper. "I just happen to be living where I do." Redfield says cattle aren't the problem. "The bison and elk are the problem."
Should the state and federal government pursue the idea, it will take six months to set up a new administrative district, said APHIS spokesperson Theresa Howes, and the state would have to submit a detailed application. The process is complicated by the fact that if a special zone were established in Montana, she said, the possibility of similar zones in foreign countries like Mexico would have to be addressed.