Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has blocked the shipment of hundreds of Yellowstone bison to slaughter, injecting a little sanity into a long-running controversy and largely irrational management strategy.

The fear, of course, is that wandering bison will transmit brucellosis to livestock.

Accordingly, thousands of Yellowstone bison have been shot or otherwise slaughtered through the years after straying into Montana.

Of course, elk are far more numerous and widespread than bison, but the same rules don't apply to them.

Elk have lots of political friends, including businesses that derive big dollars from hunting them. A similar slaughter of elk on brucellosis grounds would no doubt be met with a mighty wailing from hunters and outfitters.

In addition, there is virtually no chance that brucellosis cropping up in Wyoming cattle in recent years came from buffalo. Far more likely that it originated with elk.

Schweitzer says he wants to send a message to federal officials that a new approach is needed to managing bison.

It's about time.

Contact Business Editor Tom Mast at tom.mast@trib.com, or call

307-266-0574.

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