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Helles Thankful for Support During Grazing Lawsuit

BILLINGS, MT--Yesterday the courtroom in Butte, Montana was full of ranchers, conservation groups and others who came to support the Helle and Rebish/Konen families as they continue their legal battle for the right to graze sheep in the Beaverhead-Deer lodge National Forest.   Last year, the Gallatin Wildlife Association filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish (USFS) and Wildlife Service (USFWS)  to prohibit domestic sheep grazing on two allotments in the Gravelly Mountains of southwest Montana.  Our network's Lane Nordlund spoke with John Helle after the hearing who talked about the support they've received to help continue fighting the lawsuit.  Helle said, "We are thankful for the support. The Southwestern Stockmans Association created a legal defense fund from donations and contributions from Madison and Beaverhead livestock protective committees. The Erb Family and Bank of Commerce made a substantial donation.  Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association, American Sheep Industry, Montana and National Public Lands Council, Western Resources Legal Center all contributed as Amici and supported the Defense."   "I'm grateful for all the people who attended the hearing and showed us support. I'm optimistic of the outcome, Judge Morris is a respectable man and I'm confident in his ability to fairly decide the case."  Helle  mentioned that main area of question for the judge to rule on concerns how the U.S. Forest conducted their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and how a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was published between USFS and USFWS.   Helle encourages landowners and producers to work closely with the agencies that conduct the studies, making sure every "I" is dotted and every "T" is crossed. When an error does occur, anti-ag groups can use that against producers and the U.S. Government.    © Northern Ag Network 2016

Livestock Leaders Address Cattle Market Volatility and Opportunities

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2016) – Leaders of the cattle, chicken, pork and turkey industries testified during a U.S. Senate Ag Committee hearing: A Review of the U.S. Livestock and Poultry Sectors: Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges”. Panelists representing the U.S. beef cattle industry included: Mr. Joe Goggins, Vice President Vermilion Ranch Co., Public Auction Yards, Billings Livestock Commission Co., Western Livestock Auction and Northern Livestock Video Auction, testified on behalf of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association; Mr. Tracy Brunner, President, National Cattlemen's Beef Association.  Other panelists included: Mr. Ronald Truex, Chairman, United Egg Producers; Dr. Howard Hill, Past President, National Pork Producers Council; and Mr. John Zimmerman, Producer, National Turkey Federation/Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. Both Goggins and Brunner addressed the many opportunities in the U.S. beef cattle industry and they shared their similar concerns about the recent cattle market volatility and its long term impact on producers and rural economies. Here’s the opening statement from Joe Goggins: Opening statement from Tracy Brunner: Kansas Republican Pat Roberts is the Senate Ag Committee Chairman and shared his similar concern with those who testified and expressed his appreciation for them testifying. North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp is a member of the Senate Ag Committee and asked both Joe Goggins and Tracy Brunner for how they would fix the current cattle market volatility.  Brunner stressed to the committee members “We’re not asking the Senate to intervene in our contracts; we’re asking the Senate to play their role in expanding market access and ensuring we are not regulated out of business.”  Goggins reiterated a concluding point from his testimony, “We look forward to working with everyone in the livestock industry to examine the fundamentals and functions of the cattle market in order to bring back competition, transparency, and true price discovery.     Source: Russell Nemetz-Northern Ag Network

Silent but Angry

  Op-Ed by Maggie Nutter, President Marias River Livestock Association   Most people will get up this morning drink their coffee and head out the door. They will walk to their car and the thought of being mauled by a Grizzly bear will never enter their head.  Mom’s will feed and dress their children and send them off to school or bus stop.  They will not consider sending bear spray with them, but these people don’t live in the midst of the great success of grizzly bear recovery. It is easy to say many people live with Grizzly bears in their environment and few actually get killed.  That may be true but what is not considered in that statement is how the lives of these people changed when they have grizzlies in their farm yard, colony or town.   Janet Hawks says it so well, “I love the yarn about because of all that Fish Wildlife and Parks has done Choteau and the surrounding area walks hand and hand with the bear. We all know that is not true, but people know they will get no help from FWP so they don’t even call them anymore.  I am sick to my stomach and my heart for those put in this situation.  Unfortunately they are told they will just have to deal with it. Delisting will not solve the issue.” And there we come to the silent but angry truth.  NOT increased tolerance as the some staff of the FWP spouts but the quiet that comes with not being heard.  The frustration of not knowing if you will be able to keep your family, property and livestock safe. What are we truly asking for when we demand Grizzly bears be removed from the Endangered Species List?   Even if delisted grizzly bears will not just go away, so what do we want?  We want safety for our family and friends.  We want to know they can go to do their ranch/farm work and not get eaten by a Grizzly bear.   We want our kids to walk to school or go to play at a friends’ house and not have to worry about them meeting a Grizzly bear on the way to or from. While we support Grizzly bear delisting, what is truly needed is strong management NOW to prevent human/bear or livestock/ bear conflicts, we also realize bears are here now.  In the last 10 years Grizzly bears have continued to increase in population and spread farther from the core recovery area.  There are now more bears in areas where people have never had to be concerned about running into one.  They are along the Marias, Tiber/Lake Elwell, in the Sweetgrass Hills and thick as fleas in Valier up on the Rocky Mountain Front. We do not want to read about some child being injured or killed but it is a real concern.  In the last 4 years I have attended multiple community meeting where the citizens call on the FWP to be more proactive.  At a community meeting in Valier, MT on May 19, Gary Bertellotti, FWP Director for Region 4, was asked what they have changed in the last 3 year in response to peoples request for quicker response  to calls and proactive management.  Over 280 people waited to hear the answer, neither Bertellotti nor Mike Madel, FWP Bear Specialist, could name one thing they had changed or improved.  The attitude is that no change is needed. Change must come.  Now is not the time to sit silent, it is the time to demand that FWP use all the management tools and methods stated in their own management plan.  It is time to demand accountability and that FWP make human safety a priority.  Photo credits:   Grizzly Bear   from  Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith .   (CC BY-SA 2.0