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Update from the Field January 01, 2004
• A Vision of Hope for the Future Make the vision a reality
• MDoL once again wastes our tax-dollars - Update from the Field
• Urgent: Comments Due on Bison Vaccination EA by January 5
• BFC Wish List
• Last Words - Resolution!

A Vision of Hope for the Future
In the midst of increasing threats to the health and survival of the Yellowstone buffalo herd, there are shimmering rays of light that point to a bright future for the remaining continuously wild and free buffalo. Upon the dawning of 2004, we wish to respectfully offer a vision of the future for our sacred brothers and sisters. 

It begins as two dedicated buffalo defenders gear up for a long ski and hike. They follow the migratory path created by buffalo searching for winter range north and west of Yellowstone National Park. The journey takes them west along the Madison river into the great open known as the Madison valley.  The buffalo follow a path along the river with detours into the broad sagebrush prairie. They stop here and there to eat the accessible grass that they can't find in the high elevations of the Park. Many groups of buffalo ranging in number from thirty to fifty are spread throughout the valley on different stages of their newly defined path.

One group of forty or so buffalo checks out a new fence line, walking along it to discover a way through. The fence is over six feet tall and well anchored in the ground. Its purpose is to keep the buffalo off private land used for livestock production. The owner of the ranch is well known for striking a deal to allow buffalo to pass through his land. Various conservation groups agreed to supply a buffalo proof fence that was installed by local contractors.  The buffalo, unable to go through, patiently walk the fence line until coming to a narrow swath provided to give them access to more friendly pastures. 

Some landowners further along the path have established conservation easements providing safe refuge and winter range for buffalo and other native wildlife.
A horse and buggy head toward buffalo grazing peacefully in the sagebrush prairie. The buggy carries a family who have come from their far away home to the only place outside of a national park where pure wild buffalo roam freely. The family was exited and lured to the Madison valley when they learned of a guest ranch that offers horse and buggy tours where it is common to see herds of wild buffalo and elk, eagles soaring in the big sky, and glimpses of wolves stalking their traditional prey. The buggy stops at a distance from the buffalo and the family and their guide sit down to a picnic lunch in the early afternoon sun.  Buffalo are now embraced in the region as assets to be protected and promoted...

The buffalo continue on their way north undisturbed by the day's visitors. A bend in the river brings their path close to the highway. On the other side of the road are wide-open pastures on an old ranch. The ranch owner is delighted at the prospect of wild buffalo once again inhabiting their native range. The buffalo cross the highway through an underpass that connects to the other side while a car passes safely overhead. The underpass is modeled after similar efforts in northern Montana and Canada to provide protection for bears crossing roads.  This ingenious plan to create wildlife migration corridor underpasses across roads for bison has now been brought to the Madison valley. Local road crews were hired for the construction. Buffalo quickly began to use the safe passageways connecting their path.

After a period of grazing and resting, the buffalo continue on their journey rediscovering their traditional migratory routes. Returning to the river, the buffalo eventually come to a modest subdivision. A few buffalo find a tasty patch of grass in one of the yards and some nice deck posts to rub on. A woman who doesn't want the buffalo in her yard bangs on a kitchen pot with a spoon and tells them to leave. The buffalo give her a quick look and turn to find friendlier pastures. A man comes out to find buffalo in his yard as well. He quickly goes back inside to get his wife and kids.  The family watches with an overjoyed look that expresses why they chose to live in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, the only place where wild buffalo roam free. After a while, the buffalo regroup and continue on their journey.

Deeply imbedded ancient memories lead the buffalo westward to the Big Hole. The Big Hole is the gateway to millions of acres of wilderness along the Montana and Idaho border.  Here the buffalo find nearly limitless access to forage thus insuring their continued survival and re-establishing a keystone element of the historic western landscape. Feeling deeply moved as witnesses of a lost past regained and a future of endless possibilities, the two long time buffalo defenders return home reflecting on the long struggle that led to this magical day...

Make the vision a reality

The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act, H.R. 3446, is the first step toward realizing a future of truly wild and free buffalo herds once again roaming the western landscape. The bill calls for a three year moratorium on the hazing, capturing and killing of Yellowstone bison. It expands the boundary in which bison will be allowed undisturbed access on both the west and north sides of the Park. The bill also requires the dismantling of the Stephen's Creek Capture Facility located inside Yellowstone National Park and re-establishes the Park Service as having sole jurisdiction over bison within the Park.

The bill is currently sitting in the House Resources Committee waiting for enough co-sponsors to call for hearings. We currently have 26 co-sponsors signed on to the bill. Please check to see if your representative is a co-sponsor.

If they have not already joined in defense of the last wild buffalo, please encourage them to do so by calling or sending an e-mail. Also, letters to the editor in your local paper are a good way to encourage support for the bill and to spread the word. 

Dream Back the Bison - Sing Back the Swan!



MDoL once again wastes our tax-dollars

On Tuesday, December 30, a single bull bison was hazed back into Yellowstone National Park. He had been grazing peacefully in the Gallatin National Forest near Cougar Creek within sight of Highway 191 for the past several days. A local MDoL agent, Shane Grube, chased the buffalo through fresh snow more than two feet deep. This is the third time that MDoL agents have hazed this same buffalo from this location. Unfortunately, if the bull returns to his favorite spot, he will likely be captured or shot by the State of Montana. 

We call the bull Curly because of his unique hairdo. During the last week, he was witness to the killing of an elk calf by a pack of wolves just yards away from him near the border of the park. Curly then moved out to his spot near the highway where he listened to the constant din of passing vehicles and snowmobiles. In the vicinity, we have regularly seen a moose and her calf that we call momma and baby white socks. On all occasions that the MDoL has hazed Curly, momma and baby white socks have been disturbed as well. 

Bull bison do not have the biological capability to transmit brucellosis. The nearest cattle at this time of year are over 45 miles away near Ennis, Montana. Buffalo spend the green months storing crucial energy reserves in the form of stored fat that must last them throughout the long winter. By running buffalo through deep snow in the dead of winter, the MDoL severely compromise their ability to retain adequate energy reserves to survive the harsh climate. In addition, lead bulls like Curly are significant to the breeding population. Killing or weakening these buffalo jeopardizes the genetic integrity and future health of the herd.

"How is this going to save a single beef cow from getting brucellosis? Why does anyone think that this is a productive way to spend our hard earned tax dollars? When was the last time someone volunteered for or willingly gave money to the Montana Department of Livestock for the hazing and capturing of bison on public land?" asked Ken Cole, a BFC volunteer.

Urgent: Comments Due on Bison Vaccination EA by January 5

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has recently released an Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding its intrusive and unnecessary plans to vaccinate members of the Yellowstone herd with RB51, a livestock vaccine that has been demonstrated to be ineffective in buffalo. Under the proposed plan, yearlings and calves who leave the park will be vaccinated.
The USDA has already determined that no significant impacts will result from this intrusive government action, but you still have time to comment. A copy of the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and EA can be found on the Internet at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/es/vsdocs.html or you you can request copies of the EA and FONSI by email at: regulations@aphis.usda.gov

Because the public comment period is so short (comments must be submitted by January 5, 2004) it is imperative that buffalo supporters from around the world rally today and write letters.

Write to APHIS and ask them to choose the no action alternative.
To assist you in preparing comments we have compiled the following list of talking points:

Talking Points:
1.
The Yellowstone herd is a cultural and biological treasure, being the only herd to continuously occupy its native range in the wild. Vaccines, including RB51, are a tool designed for use in livestock, not wildlife. Rather than focusing on Yellowstone's wild bison, efforts should be directed at cattle herds. The process of subcutaneously injecting yearlings and new-born calves with the RB51 strain of brucellosis--and the attendant stress such procedures will have on the animals--will further erode the wildness of the Yellowstone herd at a tremendous cost.


2.
The EA ignores the latest science to hide the fact that the RB51 vaccine is not effective in bison. According to a recent peer-reviewed study*, "It was determined that RB51 did not confer significant protection in the vaccinated animals. In terms of abortions and infections, the RB51 bison vaccinated with three injections did not differ significantly from the non-vaccinated bison..."

The authors of the EA admit as much on page 9 when they write, "efficacy [of RB51] in bison has not been definitively determined."
*Davis, D.S. and Elzer, P.H., 2002, Brucella Vaccines in Wildlife, Veterinary Microbiology (90):533-544.

3.
The vaccination of buffalo outside the park with an ineffective vaccine will not eliminate brucellosis from the herd. Because the disease has little effect on buffalo and because wild buffalo have never transmitted brucellosis to livestock, efforts should be focused on cattle.

4.
Bison yearlings and calves are generally only present outside the western boundary of Yellowstone in the spring during calving season. The EA does not discuss the efficacy or impacts of vaccinating newly born bison within hours, days or weeks of birth. Neither does the EA address the impact of capturing newborn calves, vaccinating them, and releasing them without their mothers.

5.
The EA fails to adequately address the proposal's impact on Native Americans, who have an age-old and complex relationship with buffalo. Many Native American individuals and organizations consider the buffalo as kin, and find the repeated capturing, testing, vaccinating, and tagging of bison unacceptable. Such intrusive measures affect the sacredness of buffalo by treating them as livestock.

6.
Yellowstone buffalo are not domestic animals. Because neither APHIS nor Montana Department of Livestock personnel are trained in wildlife management, they have no place meddling with the fate of the Yellowstone herd and eroding their wildness through vaccination.
Comments may be sent through the postal service or email. If you submit them through the mail, please send four copies (an original and three copies) to:
Docket No. 03-112-1
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD
APHIS, Station 3C71
4700 River Road, Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Please state in the body of your comments that they refer to Docket No. 03-112-1.
If you email your comments, send them to <regulations@aphis.usda.gov>. Comments must be contained in the body of your message; do not send attached files. Include your name and address in your message and "Docket No. 03-112-1" in the subject line.

BFC Wish List
"Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd" by Molly Katzan
Large French Press
mini DV Video tapes

Last Words
Many make resolutions for the new year. Please consider resolving to take at least one action a month for the buffalo. Send a letter or make a phone call to the decision makers, host a video showing, talk to a friend or group about the issue - Together we will make a difference!

Please enjoy these words from one of our great supporters Paul Clark. Paul & Tina - thanks for speaking out for the buffalo!
From " River of Darkness"

"I pray to the spirit of thunder
And again to the wild restless wind
I want that the herds of our buffalo lost
Will walk in our valleys again"

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