U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Thomas J. Roffe received the Department of the Interior's Superior Service Award for his outstanding contributions to wildlife health and natural resources management in the Greater Yellowstone Area during a recent meeting of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee.
According to the citation, Roffe's leadership of the Department of Interior's brucellosis research program since 1995 resulted in a long-needed dedicated program focused on resolving the issue of brucellosis in Greater Yellowstone Area wildlife.
About 3,500 bison and 120,000 elk in 27 separate herd units in the Greater Yellowstone Area are affected by brucellosis, a disease that causes cattle and wildlife to abort their first calves following infection. The issue has national and international significance because of major, expensive brucellosis eradication programs in the United States and many other countries. After millions of dollars of research since 1934, the United States is now on the verge of completing brucellosis eradication in cattle.
Soon, said Roffe, elk and bison of the Greater Yellowstone Area will be the only reservoir for potential re-infection of livestock in the United States. Consequently, said Roffe, states and countries that have successfully eradicated the disease may require extensive testing or forbid import of cattle from Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, which surround the Greater Yellowstone Area. Controlling and eliminating a disease in free-ranging wildlife distributed over the immense area of the Greater Yellowstone Area will not be easy, said Roffe, who is exploring the potential for eradicating brucellosis in elk and bison through a brucellosis vaccine.