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Update from the Field March 19, 2004
* Update from the Field
* Park Service Slaughters 267 Wild Buffalo Inside Yellowstone;
Domesticates Another 198 Captive Wild Buffalo
* BFC Roams to Washington, DC for the Yellowstone Buffalo
* People to Contact for the Buffalo
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Buffalo Supporters,
This week has been dire for the Yellowstone buffalo. The Park Service captured 157 wild buffalo early this week. Over the last three days, the Park Service and Department of Livestock (DOL) have shipped 113 of those buffalo to slaughter. After filling the holding pens of the Stephens Creek trap to capacity, they have stopped testing captured buffalo for brucellosis exposure before sending them to slaughter. This includes the last 50 buffalo that are on their way to slaughter today without being tested.

The numbers for this season are appalling. At Stephens Creek alone, the Park Service captured 464 wild buffalo in the past month. They have killed 267 buffalo. There are 198 buffalo being held in captivity, 113 of them are yearlings that have been vaccinated with an ineffective cattle vaccine. The Park Service is domesticating this unique herd, destroying the wild quality that makes them a national treasure. 

Our volunteers have documented numerous injuries sustained by captive buffalo. Buffalo held in unnatural confinement have gored each other repeatedly. Yesterday a buffalo died in captivity, another reminder of the cruelty involved in holding wild buffalo captive. Buffalo being processed at Stephens Creek have been subjected to gruesome sampling procedures, held in place by head clamps with noses pinched by metal rings. It is a cruel and bloody sight. And it is being carried out with your tax dollars by Park Service employees responsible for preserving this last herd of wild buffalo in America.

Our volunteers report that the last 8 buffalo that had been grazing near Stephens Creek have moved further into the park. For now, it seems that there are no buffalo left to kill in the area.
There is some good news to report from the Buffalo Summit in Washington, DC. You can read about these encouraging efforts below.

There is a calm early spring quiet on the western boundary of Yellowstone. The weather is warming and only a few buffalo roam outside the park. They have been mostly left alone by the DOL. Of course, the DOL has been busy in Gardiner hauling buffalo to slaughter. And in a few weeks we expect the start of the spring migration that will likely bring hundreds of buffalo out of the park on their way to Horse Butte to calve. This migration will also bring the buffalo to the Horse Butte trap where they can easily be captured and sent to slaughter.

In this update you will find more current news about the slaughter of the Yellowstone buffalo along with actions you can take on behalf of the buffalo. Thank you for your continued support. We still have a few busy months if you can join us as a volunteer. We also always appreciate your donations to keep us in the field. And if you haven't done so yet, please contact your Congressional Representative to ask them to support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act. Together we will stop the slaughter of the last wild buffalo in America.

For the buffalo,
Ted Fellman
BFC Media
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* Park Service Slaughters 267 Wild Buffalo Inside Yellowstone;
Domesticates Another 198 Captive Wild Buffalo
For Immediate Release: March 19, 2004
              
Gardiner, MT - The National Park Service (NPS) will send another 50 wild buffalo to slaughter today, bringing the total number of buffalo killed in the past month on the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park to 267. These last 50 buffalo were not tested for exposure to brucellosis. Last March the Park Service killed 231 wild Yellowstone buffalo without testing for exposure to brucellosis. There has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from wild buffalo to livestock.

Currently 198 buffalo are being held at the Stephens Creek trap, 113 of them are yearlings that have been vaccinated with an ineffective cattle vaccine. Peer reviewed scientific studies have concluded that RB51 offers no significant protection for brucellosis to bison. The Park Service has indicated that no more buffalo can be held in the trap until later this spring. Any additional buffalo captured this year will be shipped to slaughter without being tested for exposure to brucellosis. 

One buffalo died in the Stephens Creek trap while being held for slaughter. The Park Service is investigating the causes. "The accidental death of a captive buffalo at Stephens Creek raises some serious concerns about holding wild buffalo captive until spring," noted Ted Fellman of the Montana-based Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC). "BFC volunteers have already documented numerous injuries from goring. This death is another reminder of what happens when wild buffalo are held in unnatural confinement."

"Buffalo slaughter is becoming an almost daily routine in Yellowstone," said Dan Brister of the BFC. "With rangers luring buffalo into traps with trails of hay, handing them over to stock inspectors who ship them to slaughter, and inoculating them with cattle vaccines and ear tagging them, we should start calling it Yellowstone National Ranch."

Yellowstone is the only place in America continuously occupied by native buffalo. The park provided sanctuary to 23 individuals that survived the 19th century near extinction. The Yellowstone herd is the largest remaining population of genetically pure bison. Slaughtering bison is in direct contradiction with the Park Service's mandate to protect park resources unimpaired for future generations.

"The National Park Service's mission includes conserving wildlife, yet they have systematically harassed, captured, vaccinated, confined, slaughtered, and shot members of the Yellowstone buffalo herd over the past month," remarked BFC coordinator Ted Fellman. "Captured buffalo are subjected to gruesome testing procedures, held in place by head clamps with noses pinched by metal rings. It is a cruel and bloody sight. And it is being carried out with our tax dollars by Park Service employees responsible for preserving this last herd of wild buffalo in America. They are domesticating this unique herd, destroying the wild quality that makes them a national treasure."
According to a press release issued by the park, the current slaughter is designed to keep buffalo "away from cattle grazing adjacent to the park." The closest livestock are located on the Royal Teton Ranch (RTR), whose owners received more than 13 million tax dollars in 1998 for land and conservation easements intended to provide winter range for native buffalo. Earlier this week, a local game warden hazed two buffalo on foot from near the Royal Teton Ranch. Although Randy Wuertz works for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, he also has about 25 head of cattle on RTR land. At least 170 cows continue to graze there, while wild buffalo are slaughtered to protect them.

"It's a conflict of interest to have a local game warden hazing native buffalo to protect his own cattle grazing on land that should be designated winter range," said Mike Mease of the BFC. "They are hazing buffalo right to the trap where they are being conditioned by all the hay that is left there as bait. Wild buffalo are being managed to death."

In the past ten years the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and NPS have slaughtered 2,786 buffalo in and around Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone buffalo slaughter is slated to cost taxpayers nearly $3 million a year until 2015.

The slaughter has prompted members of Congress to introduce the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act (H.R. 3446), which will place a three-year ban on the capture and slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo, dismantle the Stephens Creek trap, and allow buffalo access to historic public lands habitat immediately adjacent to the park. It has more than 80 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo on their traditional winter habitat and advocate for their protection. Daily patrols stand with the buffalo on the ground they choose to be on and document every move made against them.
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* BFC Roams to Washington, DC for the Yellowstone Buffalo
The Buffalo Field Campaign sent a patrol to Washington, DC this week to rally support for the buffalo protection bill currently in Congress and to meet and share information with local allies and supporters.

On Tuesday, March 16, BFC sponsored a Buffalo Summit on Capitol Hill, sharing recent video footage, stories from the field, and information on the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act with staffers from 15 Congressional Offices.

Between Monday and Thursday we met with the offices of 25 U.S. Representatives to educate them about the history and current status of the Yellowstone buffalo and to urge them to support H.R. 3446, the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act. Since we've been here, six additional Representatives have co-sponsored the bill and more are expected to sign on in the coming days. This bipartisan legislation is gaining momentum quickly and currently enjoys 80 co-sponsors.

Last night we gave a public presentation at the Georgetown Patagonia Store, premiering video footage shot in the past three weeks in and around the Stephens Creek buffalo trap in Yellowstone National Park. We discussed the history and importance of the Yellowstone herd, current threats faced by the herd, debunked the brucellosis myth, and provided participants with a host of tools they can use to help protect the buffalo.

Thanks to Dr. Paul Nicoletti of the University of Florida and Dr. Andrew Dobson of Princeton University for sharing their scientific expertise at the Summit, in meetings, and through the statements they generously provided for the information packets we presented to Congressional offices. The current buffalo slaughter is not supported by sound science, and these two experts in the field made this clear.
Thanks to The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, The National Parks Conservation Association, and The Wilderness Society for helping with meetings, materials, support, and financial assistance in bringing Dr.'s Nicoletti and Dobson to Washington and helping to make our week so successful.

One thing that was made clear during our week of meetings is the power of Congressional constituents. Our most successful meetings were those in the offices of Representatives who have been hearing about the buffalo from people living in their districts. Please take a moment to see if your Representative is signed on to HR 3446 and if they are not, write them a letter urging them to support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act. You can find all the information at: http://www.wildrockies.org/buffalo/politico/3446.html.

Thanks to all of you who are taking action to protect the herd. The days of the Montana livestock industry's domination over the last wild buffalo are numbered.
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* People to Contact for the Buffalo
"The number of bison killed by Yellowstone National Park officials this winter is more than double the number of cattle living within 10 miles of the park." That was the lead sentence in a front page article of the Bozeman Chronicle yesterday.

As noted in our press release above, much of the pressure to kill buffalo on the northern boundary arises from the presence of about 170 cows grazing on the Royal Teton Ranch (RTR) north of Gardiner. The owners of the RTR, the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) received more than 13 million tax dollars in 1998 for land and conservation easements intended to provide winter range for native buffalo. 

Earlier this week, a local game warden hazed two buffalo on foot from near the Royal Teton Ranch. Although Randy Wuertz works for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, he also has about 25 head of cattle on RTR land. Conflict of interest perhaps?

Give Sam Sheppard of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks a call at (406) 994 3540 and let him know that you don't think that game wardens should be hazing buffalo on the job to protect their private interests.

Meanwhile the US Forest Service is claiming that the land transactions and conservation easements are a success because they have acquired and protected critical wildlife habitat. Never mind that wild buffalo aren't allowed access to that habitat because they are captured and sent to slaughter before even leaving Yellowstone National Park. It is clear that until the Interagency Bison Management Plan is revised, efforts to provide habitat are meaningless.
Contact Rebecca Heath, Gallatin National Forest Supervisor, to ask that the Forest Service act on the "flexibility" in bison management that was one of the goals of their $13 million deal with the CUT. Demand that the Forest Service takes action to revise the Interagency Bison Management Plan so that wild buffalo are allowed to roam free on our national forests. Rebecca can be reached at (406) 587 6701 or mailroom_r1_gallatin@fs.fed.us.

And if you want to let the Park Service know what you think of them abdicating their responsibility to conserve wildlife by killing 267 native buffalo, here's the contact information.

Suzanne Lewis
Superintendent
Yellowstone National Park
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
(307) 344-2002
yell_superintendent@nps.gov
suzanne_lewis@nps.gov
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* Last Words
Deed of Conservation Easement, Royal Teton Ranch -
Devil's Slide Area August 30, 1999
"Whereas, there exists now, and for some time in the future, a need to preserve and protect the surviving indigenous North American bison herd, elk herd, and other wildlife of Yellowstone National Park, the survival of which it appears is based on the need to allow the free and unhampered migration of these animals outside the boundary of the Park: and
Whereas, the Grantor finds itself in a unique position to aid and assist in the preservation of the Yellowstone National Park bison and other wildlife by setting aside a portion of its lands, in perpetuity, thereby providing in the natural world, a safe have for the bison; and
Whereas, the Grantor's lands provide significant winter range and crucial habitat for many indigenous species including elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorns, grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, other indigenous wildlife, and, upon completion of the Bison Management Plan, significant winter range and crucial habitat for bison;"

Section II

F. Ranching and Agricultural Activities. Grantor shall have the right to use the Easement Lands for traditional agricultural and ranching activities, including the grazing of livestock, consistent with the terms of this Easement, provided these activities do not materially jeopardize the wildlife habitat values ...

Section VII

A. The parties agree ... to develop a Royal Teton Ranch Bison Management Plan ... for the Easement Lands and other lands mutually agreed upon ... This plan would be intended to guide management actions consistent with the terms and purposes of this Easement, though it may be more protective of bison and their habitat. It should identify ways to manage the land to preserve, restore and enhance the bison that utilize the Property and their habitat.


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