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Weekly Update from the Field July 22, 2004
* Update from the Field
* Letters to the Editor: Buffalo Nickel
* Tell the DOL to Vaccinate CATTLE and Leave the Buffalo Alone!
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
With plenty of lush grass growing in Yellowstone's expansive valleys, the buffalo are enjoying summer deep within the park. Wanting to see them under conditions more natural than those we're used to in the winter and spring--when the Park Service and the Montana Department of Livestock routinely harass, capture, and slaughter them--we took a break from our work last weekend and drove to the Hayden Valley. The Valley is home to myriad wild species that make the West so special. Great herds of elk and buffalo, packs of coyotes and wolves, diverse species of birds, and miles of gently rolling meadows all surrounded by majestic mountains make this one of my favorite places in the world.

Parking the car at a pull-off we left the hustle and bustle of Yellowstone's roads behind and hiked through the sagebrush to a hillside above the west bank of the Yellowstone River. Across the river, on the opposite bank, grazed a herd of 35 buffalo, comprised mostly of females and their young. We watched as a delicate-looking calf broke from the herd and trotted briskly down the hill to take a drink from the river. In no time at all the calf was joined by its mother. As they stood in the shallow water, cooling off on a hot Yellowstone afternoon, they were soon joined by other members of their herd.

We sat and watched, enchanted by the beauty of the scene. Having spent seven winters with the buffalo, and having witnessed the horrors of those winters, I couldn't help but feel sorrow as I watched the peacefully grazing buffalo. For sure as the sun would set that evening, summer will make way for winter, and the buffalo will follow their time-worn trails down from the Yellowstone Plateau, out of the park, and into Montana.

While most Montana residents are honored by their presence and welcome wild buffalo, the political establishment--controlled by the all-powerful livestock industry--stubbornly insists on keeping Montana free of buffalo. Notwithstanding the fact that no cattle are present on lands adjacent to the park at the times of year when buffalo are in the state, and that wild buffalo have never transmitted brucellosis to cattle, the Montana Department of Livestock wastes millions of dollars each winter to chase buffalo--either back to the park or into capture facilities where they are inhumanely loaded onto trucks and shipped to slaughterhouses.

Buffalo, instead of being celebrated in Montana, are slaughtered. I thought about this as I watched the herd in Yellowstone last weekend. Millions of tourists visit the park every year to see them, and many have no idea what fate awaits the buffalo in Montana.

This is why we're here. Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers spend every day in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, sharing the buffalo's plight with interested visitors. If you plan on visiting Yellowstone, be sure to contact us and find out where our table will be set up. We recently printed our annual newsletter and mailed it to thousands of supporters across the country, so you should be getting yours soon.

The slaughter will only stop when enough people know the truth and demand from their leaders that the last wild buffalo be protected. Below you will find specific information on ways you can help educate the public on the plight of the buffalo and influence management decisions affecting the herd.

Please read on and take action for the buffalo!
For the Wild,
Dan Brister
Buffalo Field Campaign
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* Letters to the Editor Needed on Buffalo Nickel Proposal!
Stop the Lie! Senator Enzi Calls for Buffalo Nickel!

Once upon a time, less than 200 years ago, 30-60 million buffalo thundered across America, grazing, migrating, offering themselves to human and non-human predators, tilling and fertilizing the soil and grasses, enriching, nourishing and sustaining life all over the continent. But greedy men with guns in their hands, dollar signs in their eyes and hate in their hearts changed all that very quickly, and by the end of the 19th century, only 23 buffalo remained in this country. These 23 buffalo escaped a similar fate because they had the wit and strength to hide themselves in Yellowstone's Pelican Valley. Although today there are nearly 500,000 buffalo in America, the vast majority are heavily managed, live on ranches, are sold for meat, and carry cattle genes. Less than 1% (.008) of the buffalo remaining in America are truly wild. These mere 4,000 buffalo, living within the confines of Yellowstone National Park, are the descendents of the once-great herds, genetically unique, and truly wild. These buffalo still know how to migrate, yet they pay a high price for doing so. The slaughter, financed with your federal tax dollars, continues. Thanks to the same greed and hatred that nearly wiped out these magnificent creatures, the last wild buffalo risk harassment and slaughter whenever they approach and cross the human line-in-the-sand from Yellowstone to Montana. Yet, some members of Congress would call this a "success story" and they want to commemorate it with a nickel.
In order to commemorate this so-called success story, Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) has introduced a bill that would extend a law requiring the Treasury Department to mint coins marking the 200-year anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, and the Lewis & Clark expedition. Because this country was then teaming with buffalo, the bill would also require that a buffalo image be placed on the back of one of the new coin designs. In Enzi's own words, "The bison is the symbol of the West, along with the bald eagle, the bison is also a symbol of the United States." Enzi also said that putting the bison on the back of a nickel would be an ideal way to commemorate the animal's return from near extinction in the United States at the end of the 19th century to a current population of more than 500,000.
Yet Enzi is one of many members of Congress who feel the current slaughter of America's last wild herd is justified, even though there has never been a documented case of a wild buffalo transmitting brucellosis to cattle. Ever.
What success story is Enzi attempting to celebrate?
Not until wild buffalo are welcome in Montana and other states, not until the National Park Service stops aiding the Montana Department of Livestock by participating in buffalo slaughter, so long as 4,000 buffalo (compared to 30 million) is considered "too many", so long as cattle rule the land, so long as the majority of buffalo are confined on ranches, so long as the slaughter continues, so long as buffalo, like Native Peoples, are kept on reservations, there is not much to celebrate or commemorate. What this proposed nickel commemorates is a great lie.
TAKE ACTION! Please write a letter to the editor of your local paper, as well as to each of the papers listed below. Americans must hear the TRUTH, and not get caught up in the lie of the buffalo nickel. The U.S. Government glosses over everything, and wants us to believe that all is as it should be. It is not. Buffalo continue to be slaughtered out of greed and ignorance. Your voice will help put a stop to this, but only if you use it. Put pen to paper, and write on for the buffalo! Newspaper contact information, tips for writing letters, and more information is available on our website at: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/lte.html.
Thank you for putting sentiment into action - for making a difference.
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* Tell the DOL to Vaccinate CATTLE and Leave the Buffalo Alone!
Comments needed by July 23!
Scoping comments on the Montana Department of Livestock's plans to erode the wildness of America's last wild buffalo through a vaccination program are due tomorrow. If you haven't already done so, please take a few minutes to write and send a letter opposing vaccination today. For detailed tips, please see last week's update or follow this link to our web site:
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/update0304/070804.html
Written comments may be sent to:
Karen Cooper,
Information Officer
Montana Department of Livestock
PO Box 202001
Helena, MT 59620-2001
Fax to: 406-444-4316
Email to:
livcomments@state.mt.us

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