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Recommendation: A brucellosis program for wildlife in the GYA should be approached in an adaptive management framework.
It might prove impossible for various reasons to eliminate brucellosis from bison and elk in the GYA, so the best that could be achieved would be risk control. Bison might continue to require artificial control (such as shooting bison that leave the park), either at current or redrawn lines. Nevertheless, a cooperative arrangement to pursue systematically a pragmatic program is the best route to the highest result that can be achieved.
Recommendation: Clear short-term strategies to arrive at long-term goals must be defined and agreed upon by the federal and state entities that are involved in GYA management.
Current research and funding cannot be relied upon to sustain any long-term program effectively. As is evident from the science reviewed for this report, studies have been characterized by stop-and-go funding and elusive goals. Sample sizes have been inadequate and studies have been of insufficient duration.
Recommendation: Research priorities with sufficient funding need to be determined cooperatively and with the support of the secretaries of the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
If public opinion and political directions are aligned to a common goal, and if long-term commitments can be made by the federal departments and agencies involved, it is likely that brucellosis can be eliminated from YNP without loss of large numbers of bison or loss of genetic diversity. To be successful, society and government must support, over the long term, studies that define the ecology of the GYA, develop new vaccine technologies and delivery mechanisms for bison and elk, and produce diagnostic reagents with greater sensitivity and specificity.
Other factors will affect efforts to control or eradicate brucellosis in the GYA. They are as varied as weather, environmental change, and funding for research and management in our parks. As an added variable, future shifts in public opinion could determine the fate of any eradication effort—opinion not only on how we view bison and elk, but on the acceptability of having brucellosis in the park.