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
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,
Buffalo Field Campaign
* Letters to the Editor Needed on Buffalo Nickel
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.
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
* Tell the DOL to Vaccinate CATTLE and Leave
the Buffalo Alone!
Comments needed by July
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:
Written comments may be sent to:
Montana Department of Livestock
PO Box 202001
Helena, MT 59620-2001
Fax to: 406-444-4316
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org