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Elk Breeders Show Their Mettle in Montana Fight

by Paula Southman
reprinted with permission

Despite the best efforts of the Montana Alternative Livestock Producers (MALP) and elk breeders throughout North America, Initiative 143 passed with a 3.2% advantage on November 7. After all results were in, the vote was 51.6%, yes, and 48.4%, no.

The initiative amends Montana state law to prohibit all new alternative livestock ranches. Existing game farms will be allowed to continue operating, but they will be prohibited from transferring their licenses to any other party. They are also prohibited from allowing shooting of game farm animals for any type of fee. The proposal repeals provisions of the law concerning applications for expansion of game farms.

Adversity reveals character, and we saw many examples of that in this uneven fight. We were outgunned, but the struggle showed how elk breeders pull together to help each other. Out-of-state breeders gave money and time because they knew how they would feel if their livelihood, personal property, and way of life were threatened by radical groups and misinformed voters.

NAEBA board members and other out-of-state members showed up for meetings in Montana to debate the opposition, which included the Montana Wildlife Federation and Montanans Against the Domestication and Commercialization of Wildlife. The board and NAEBA staff assisted in the public relations campaign to educate Montana voters. Thousands of dollars raised by associations and individual members helped to fund MALP's media campaign. Thank you to everyone who gave to NAEBA and MALP in any way to fight Initiative 143.

These Montana organizations formed a coalition that backed the state's game farmers, and we thank them for their support:
Stockgrowers Assoc.
Grain Growers Assoc.
Farm Bureau Federation
Veterinary Medical Assoc.
Trappers Assoc.
Taxidermists Assoc.
Game Bird Assoc.
Bison Assoc.
Western Environmental Trade Assoc.
Wool Growers
Ag. Business Assoc.
Outfitters and Guides Assoc.
Montanans for Multiple Use
Cattlewomen's Assoc.
Chamber of Commerce
Contractors Assoc.
Pork Producers Council
Farmers Union
Chairman of the Governor's Vision 2005 Task Force on Agriculture

The board is working on compiling a package of information to help groups that find themselves confronting a situation like that faced by MALP. It will include warnings about signals of impending problems and will outline possible solutions, suggestions, and allies. Gerri Backes, a member of MALP who has learned a lot in the frontlines of the battle, would be glad to share her expertise.

Elk breeders everywhere are thinking of their colleagues in Montana and hoping that the future will not be as bleak as it might appear today.



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