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Montana group creates fund to help ranchers offset quarantine costs of brucellosis transmission

Courtesy Rhiana Peck
Walking Shadow Ecology Tours of Yellowstone
Elk sparring in the Canyon Village area of Yellowstone National Park, photo submitted by Rhiana Peck, Naturalist Guide for Walking Shadow Ecology Tours of Yellowstone

If you drive through Montana’s Paradise Valley this time of year you’ll likely see elk in their winter range. A new fund will help offset the cost ranchers who provide elk habitat could accrue if their herd contracts brucellosis.

Brian Yablonski is the CEO of the Bozeman-based think tank Property and Environment Research Center. He says the organization partnered with conservation groups including the Greater Yellowstone Coalition to develop the Paradise Valley Brucellosis Compensation Fund.

“That in the rare event a brucellosis case happens, you could help a rancher weather the storm and not have it financially cripple the ranch and keep those working ranches in the family,” he said.

The fund would help cover 50-75% of the ranchers' quarantine cost,s with a max payout of around $56,000. Yablonski estimates about 30-35 ranching operations in the region would be eligible.

“There’s some criteria but the threshold is essentially if you’re a cow-calf production rancher in the valley who has taken reasonable steps to protect their winter hay,” he said.

Paradise Valley falls within Montana’s brucellosis designated surveillance area. Since the zone, which requires testing, was created in 2010, data from the Montana Department of Livestock show 12 herds have tested positive for brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can cause miscarriages. Three of those cases were in Park County.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.