Senators want animal disease off security list
BILLINGS — U. S. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus are asking federal health officials to lift security restrictions on the bacteria that causes a disease found in wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park.
The Montana Democrats said Tuesday that the restrictions are making research into a possible vaccine for the disease brucellosis more difficult and expensive.
Brucellosis can cause pregnant livestock and wildlife to miscarry. Human infections are uncommon and can be treated.
The government lists the bacteria as a possible biological warfare agent, which the senators say is "absurd" given that brucellosis is prevalent in the wild.
Tester and Baucus made their request to officials at the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We respectfully urge you to reconsider the appropriateness of listing B. abortus as a select agent, " Tester and Baucus wrote to leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, who together maintain the select agent list. "Because of the cost of complying with regulations, the number of facilities that are able to perform large scale research on the pathogen in cattle has been greatly reduced. "
Fear of brucellosis is one of two reasons used by ranchers for opposing the transfer of bison from Yellowstone to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Ranchers are suing to prevent Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks from transferring bison. They also cite the fact that in the past bison have escaped the reservation and trampled pasture lands.