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Total Yellowstone
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Yellowstone Bison Slaughter
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Update from the Field January 29, 2004
* Update from the Field
* BFC Wish List
* The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act - Has YOUR Rep signed on?
* Last Words

Update from the Field
Yesterday morning we woke at 5am, gathered in the cabin for a warm breakfast, and headed into the field to find the buffalo. Earlier in the week we'd watched a herd of 18 follow the Madison River out of the park, cross highway 191, and graze on the ecologically-rich flats below the Madison Bluffs. All week our patrols had been blessed with the sight of the beautiful herd of buffalo mothers, young bulls and cows, and yearling calves.

As we headed out in the dawn to find the buffalo our hearts raced. Tuesday afternoon's patrols had watched wave after wave of Department of Livestock (DOL) agents pour into town, and we knew they'd be out to harass the buffalo in the morning.

Our Duck Creek patrol kept us apprised of the situation at the DOL's local headquarters as agents from the DOL, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, The National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Montana Highway Patrol, and the Gallatin County Sheriff's Department began to gather.

Stephany and I were skiing along the Madison bluffs when the transmission came across our two-way radio: "Twelve snowmobiles are leaving Duck Creek and heading toward the Madison." We found a good spot between the herd and the highway, set up the camera, and waited for the operation to begin. Whether they intended to chase the buffalo back to the park or capture and slaughter them we didn't know.

But both options were bad. The stretch of Madison between the park and Horse Butte is prime buffalo habitat. Never, at any time of the year, do cattle graze there. Why the DOL insists on keeping the area free of buffalo has long been a mystery. The agency claims its actions protect Montana's livestock from brucellosis, but there has never been a documented transmission of this European livestock disease from wild buffalo to cattle. Further, the fact that there are never cattle anywhere near that stretch of river belies the fact that Montana's prejudice against buffalo is irrational and needs to be abandoned.

A patrol further out the bluffs radioed to let us know the operation had begun, and in the same instant a young bald eagle, frightened by the noise from the twelve snowmobiles, took to the air. A moment later a pair of trumpeter swans took sudden flight to avoid the chaos. As we captured these disruptions on video we were joined by two Park Rangers, a Forest Service officer, and a DOL agent who ordered us to "stay behind us at all times!" We asked the park rangers why they were taking part in an operation to harm the buffalo they were supposed to protect, and told them they don't deserve to wear buffalo on their badges.

Then the buffalo came into view, trudging through the deep and heavy snow, tongues hanging, harangued by an armada of snowmobiles. I stared through the camera lens and watched the buffalo run, frantically searching for a way away from the hounding machines. They'd get ahead of the snowmobiles and circle back only to be cut off at each attempt. The herd split into two groups of nine and the agents were relentless, pushing them toward the highway. We skied along the bluffs documenting the operation, then dropped down to the highway and filmed the crossing. We were relieved when they stayed by the river rather than heading north toward the trap. This meant the agents planned to haze them back to the park and that the buffalo would live at least another week.

The operation ended with local DOL agent Shane Grube pushing the 18 buffalo across the park boundary, and the rest of the agents gathered on the bluffs to share stories from the haze. We heard them refer to us as "eco-terrorists" and thought it ironic that a group of men who had spent the last two hours disrupting one of the most pristine ecosystems in the lower 48 states should refer to us in those terms.

As if to illustrate the point the agents mounted their machines again and sped off to Cougar Creek, where all twelve snowmobiles went to work hazing a lone bull across the boundary and back to the park.

Unfortunately such scenes will become commonplace in the coming weeks, and they won't end with such results. We are gearing up for a heavy slaughter. With buffalo on the move on the west and north sides of the park, we are in the process of setting up a second camp in Gardiner and our need for volunteers and supplies is about to double. Please support us in any way that you can. Join us in the field as a volunteer, send a monetary donation, or send us some of the items listed on the wish list pasted below. We need your support now more than ever.
With the Buffalo,
Dan Brister
Thank you for supporting the BFC!

* BFC Wish List
-- Volunteers in the Field to Defend the Buffalo
-- Waterproof Gators
-- Wool Pants (available right now through Cabellas)
-- Warm Waterproof Gloves
-- Polypropylene Long-john Bottoms
-- Ski Boots with Three-Pin Bindings
-- Snow Shoes
-- Warm Winter Boots
-- Cross Country Skis
Thank you for your support. If you have any questions about a gear donation, please contact Amy at (406) 646-0070 or buffaloatwildrockies.org.
Donations may be sent to:
BFC, PO Box 957,
West Yellowstone, MT 59758.
(406) 646-0070
* The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act - Has YOUR Rep signed on?
Thanks to U.S. Representatives Hinchey and Bass we are one step closer to realizing a future of truly wild and free buffalo herds, once again roaming the western landscape unmolested. The first bill of its kind, H.R. 3446, calls for a three-year moratorium on the hazing, capturing and killing of Yellowstone's buffalo; expanding the areas to the north and west of Yellowstone in which buffalo will be allowed undisturbed access; dismantling the in-Park Stephen's Creek Capture Facility; taking away management authority from the Montana Department of Livestock and giving it back to the Park Service.
Please write your representative and urge them to support the Act.
For more information on the bill and for a list of the 53 current co-sponsors.
* Last Words
The fear of wilderness, the fear of indigenous people, and the fear of not having control are all the same fear.

--Linda Hogan

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