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Weekly Update from the Field June 26, 2003
* Update from the Field
* An Example of Why We Need to Be Here
* Brucellosis and the Cattle Barons
* Last Words
Buffalo Supporters,
I hope this email find you well during these beautiful summer months. The campaign has had a productive two weeks. Our new newsletters are hot off the press and full of information. I send a BIG thanks to Jim, Su, Dan, Mike, and so many others,... thanks so much for your dedication and all the hard work you do for the buffalo.

If you'd like to receive a newsletter and are not already signed up to do so, just reply to this message with your mailing address and we'll be sure to send you one right away. In the meantime, you can download the newsletter as a pdf file by pasting this address into your web browser: <http://www.wildrockies.org/buffalo/BFC_pdfs/BFC-News-2003.pdf>

Today an out of town Department of Livestock agent arrived and meet with the local DOL agent. One buffalo has headed back out of the park. He is the Cougar Creek Bull who was out of the park most of the winter and spring. He was hazed last week by the DOL and now is right where he was before. He has made up his mind where he would like to spend the summer and ironically he has chosen the very neighborhood where the local DOL agent lives.

One of our coordinators wrote this poem about the charismatic bull this winter:
An Ode to the Cougar Creek Bull

The solitary bull needs an ode,
In case you missed him just off the road.
He dutifully grazed near Cougar Creek,
All winter long, if you stopped to peek.
Captured once as you can tell by his mark,
His only crime was to leave the Park.
And yet there he remained throughout the year,
Defiantly grazing with no sign of fear.
An example of the wise bull's persistence,
An inspirational symbol of buffalo resistance.
A permanent fixture for all to see,
A reminder of buffalo, wild and free.

--Yote Risa

Summer tabling in Yellowstone National Park continues to be a huge success. We are still reaching many at Mammoth Hot Springs and now we are set up to table in Grand Teton National Park. We will be tabling four to five days a week at Moose Village.

The band Left Over Salmon played in Bozeman last night. They let us set up an information table about the buffalo and thanked us all for the work we are doing. We are grateful to have their support and the opportunity to get the word out even farther. Left Over Salmon will be playing in Missoula, MT tonight and we will also be there spreading the word and gaining more support for the buffalo.

We give thanks to all of you for keeping the buffalo in your heart.
For all that is wild and free,
Megan Fishback

*  An Example of Why We Need to Be Here
Those of you who have been following the bison slaughter know that Yellowstone National Park faces grave dangers. According to the following story, the current presidential administration does not agree.

From today's edition of Grist Magazine  

The Bush administration has asked the United Nations to remove
Yellowstone National Park from a list of endangered World Heritage
sites. "Yellowstone is no longer in danger," wrote the Interior
Department's Paul Hoffman in a letter to the World Heritage
Committee. There's just one snag: The park staff disagree with
Hoffman, saying Yellowstone still faces the kinds of problems --
threats to water quality, bison, and trout populations, among others
-- that put it on the endangered list in the first place, back in
1995. But in its recent report to the U.N. committee, the Bush
administration diluted or deleted those problems, in a move critics
say is emblematic of White House efforts to water down, sugarcoat, or
deny environmental problems across the board. "Tinkering with
scientific information, either striking it from reports or altering
it, is becoming a pattern of behavior," said former National Park
Service Director Roger Kennedy.

straight to the source: Los Angeles Times, Elizabeth Shogren, 26 Jun 2003

*Brucellosis and the Cattle Barons
The Montana livestock industry has been spinning the myth of brucellosis to justify the slaughter of the more than 3500 Yellowstone bison they've killed since 1986. Brucellosis is
a bacterial disease that was originally brought to North America by European livestock. The DOL insists it must slaughter bison leaving the park to prevent its transmission to cattle. But no transmission from wild bison to livestock has ever been documented.

Brucellosis is not the grave threat Montana's livestock industry makes it out to be. In Grand Teton National Park, where bison and livestock have coexisted for more than fifty years--and where a greater percentage of the bison herd is infected--brucellosis has never appeared in cattle. North of the park, in 1980, more than 900 bison migrated across Yellowstone's north boundary and mingled with cattle near Gardiner. Fearing brucellosis transmission, the state tested 810 cattle from eighteen herds that had shared the range with bison and found no trace of the disease.

In a 1992 study, the United States Congress' General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that Yellowstone's bison pose no threat of transmitting brucellosis to livestock. In its 1998 study, Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the National Academy of Sciences concluded, "The current risk of transmission from YNP bison to cattle is low."

John Mack, a National Park Service wildlife biologist, concurs: "There is no evidence of wild, free-roaming bison transmitting brucellosis to cattle. The state is saying this is a grave threat, and here you had all these bison mingle with livestock and nothing happened. Dr. Paul Nicolletti is widely respected for his work on brucellosis. In response to a question about the likelihood of transmission from Yellowstone bison to cattle he responded, "The threat doesn't seem to be there."

Brucellosis is a disease of the reproductive system. In order for buffalo to infect cattle, the cattle would have to eat or lick the placenta or birthing fluids of an infected buffalo. Bulls, non-pregnant cows, and calves-which don't shed such reproductive tissue--pose no risk of infecting cattle.

A Wyoming Game and Fish official, interviewed in the December 1997 issue of National Parks Magazine, remarked that the issue boiled down to competition over grazing rights: "If the public gets used to the idea that bison, like elk and deer, should be free to roam on federal lands, then it may lead to a reduction in the amount of public lands forage allotted to livestock. That's what the ranchers really fear."

John Varley, Yellowtone's Director of Resources also believes the slaughter is driven by economics. In an article published in the May 1997 issue of Audubon he calls the bison slaughter, "a struggle between the park and agribusiness, "a struggle which the park," he says, is "losing badly."

Montana's livestock industry perpetuates the brucellosis myth to eliminate competition from bison, native grazers that have evolved to the West's arid conditions over thousands of years. Livestock producers have another myth to perpetuate. They would have us believe that the West was made to raise livestock. The facts, however, belie this assertion.

Montana contributes less than one quarter of one percent to total U.S. beef production. Private lands in Maryland produce as much beef as Montana's BLM and Forest Service lands combined. It takes 73 times the land-base to raise a cow in Montana as it does in Iowa. Montana is not alone. Smaller eastern states, with more abundant rainfall, support more cows than their western counterparts. A cow can live for a year on two acres in the East while the same cow would require a hundred in the West. Florida, not exactly famous for its cattle industry, produces more beef cattle than the cowboy state of Wyoming.

Subsidized grazing permits give ranchers control of hundreds of millions of acres of federal land for the artificially low fee of $1.35 a month for each cow and calf. In the West this amounts to a little more than ten percent of the $11.10 average charged on comparable private lands. Nearly 80 percent of the land under Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service management is grazed. Half of our designated wilderness areas are stocked with cattle. Overall, some 307 million public acres in the 16 western states are leased to cattle operators at a fraction of their market value. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Maryland's School of Public Affairs, the BLM's grazing program costs $200 million to administer while generating just $20 million in revenue. In other words, taxpayers are paying ten times as much to support the grazing program through taxes as ranchers are through grazing fees.

The livestock industry is holding Yellowstone hostage. The bison slaughter is taking place at the taxpayer's expense to benefit a handful of ranchers, and is forever altering the wild character and integrity of our public lands and wildlife. 

Write you senators and representative today and urge them to stop the slaughter of the Yellowstone bison, America's only continuously wild herd.

To find out who your representative and senators are visit the following web sites: http://www.house.gov/writerep/

For tips on writing to members of Congress, see these web sites:

* Last Words
Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is
a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you.
...... a poem by Nancy Wood, Taos Pueblo, 1971

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