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Weekly Update from the Field November 21, 2003
* Joke question
* Update from the Field:
The Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group WITH the Buffalo 365 days a year!
* Buffalo news from the US House of Representatives -
The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act
* Help Denver school PS 1 come to the BFC!
* Wish List addendum
* Joke answer ~grin~

Joke: What did the mom buffalo say when she left her calf? (answer at bottom)

Update From the Field
Fresh snow covers the ground and the chilly air reminds us all that winter will soon be upon us. Four bison graze peacefully in Yellowstone National Park near the western boundary. Trumpeter swans, geese, and numerous varieties of ducks crowd in the unfrozen portions of Duck Creek. Elk and deer scamper about the landscape with wary eyes and ears. The sun breaks through the clouds warming all including the two BFC volunteers watching this tranquil scene. 

Then, on the northern horizon, appears a large and very strange bird. We've all seen this bird before with its razor sharp wings and tail. It makes a thunderous sound as it approaches creating a dreadful wind. The BFC volunteers identify this odd and scary bird quickly as the MDOL helicopter. The chopper follows the park boundary southward scaring the four buffalo further into Yellowstone. The birds all take off in a panic and the deer and elk are nowhere to be found. The chopper continues to fly into the park for several miles chasing all in its range until it vanishes over the horizon. Only the horrible sound gives away its position. Minutes later, the chopper reappears heading west and flying low over the National Forest adjacent to Yellowstone. Then this terrible bird leaves as quickly as it arrived. The animals begin to recover from the intrusion but the memory is fresh and they will not forget soon enough.

The Montana Department of Livestock will likely continue to bring out their helicopter throughout the winter and spring months harassing not only bison, but everything in its path. The Greater Yellowstone Area is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the county. It is home to a wide variety of sensitive, threatened and endangered species including grizzly bears, gray wolves, bald eagles, and trumpeter swans, in addition to elk, moose, bison, antelope, big horn sheep and all variety of migratory birds. All of these animals and the land they depend on are deeply affected by the presence of low-flying helicopters. In addition, local residents complain that the helicopter scares both them and their pets in this otherwise peaceful setting. 
Earlier this month, the United States Senate, at the urging of Montana Senator Conrad Burns, approved the Department of Agriculture appropriations bill including a special $750,000 appropriation for the Montana Department of Livestock "for work on the Interagency Bison Management Plan". This extra funding will allow the MDOL to use their helicopter more often and provide funds to operate the Horse Butte Capture Facility this coming winter and spring. Both are a bad omen for the fate of bison and other native wildlife this season.

In defense of wildlife threatened by MDOL's helicopter, Buffalo Field Campaign, Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers, and the Ecology Center, Inc. filed a lawsuit several years ago challenging the use of helicopters to haze bison on the western boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Last year, Federal District Court Judge Charles Lovell came out of retirement to rule against our case without even reviewing video evidence that showed MDOL and the Forest Service in clear violation of the Endangered Species Act and NEPA. In September of this year, we filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Hopefully, fact and reason will prevail with a change of venue and the helicopters will cease to invade this sensitive and diverse environment.

Please consider joining us to help protect this majestic herd. If you can't make it in person - send your prayers and thoughts - they are truly appreciated!

With the Buffalo,
H.R. 3446 - The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act
Summary Info regarding the Yellowstone Buffalo Protection Act
On November 5, 2003, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH) introduced the H.R. 3446, titled the "Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act". The bill is designed to protect Yellowstone bison from unnecessary management practices including hazing (chasing bison with helicopters, snowmobiles, horses and ATV's), capturing, and killing. Under the bill, bison would be allowed to range in Montana up to the edge of zone 3 of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). This area constitutes a relatively small portion of lands on the west and north sides of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) where bison currently migrate in winter and spring with fatal consequences. The bill further establishes that the National Park Service (NPS) has sole jurisdiction over bison inside YNP. Under the IBMP, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) has authority to haze bison inside YNP near the western boundary. MDOL agents commonly haze bison near the border using horses and helicopters as many as seven miles into the park. The bill calls for the dismantling of the Stephen's Creek capture facility located inside YNP near Gardiner, Montana where NPS captured 231 bison last March. Only about 30 of the 231 bison killed had actually left YNP. The bill also directs the Park Service and Forest Service to acquire additional habitat for bison in Montana using such methods as conservation easements and acquisition.

H.R. 3446 is essentially based on three precepts. First, bison have the right range on federal public lands both inside and outside of YNP. Bison are a native wildlife species in Montana and the West. They are an American icon and the symbol of United States Department of the Interior. They deserve to be treated with respect and managed as native wildlife. Second, the current management scheme under the IBMP is flawed and unnecessarily expends federal taxpayer dollars. The continuation of this plan will result in perpetual hazing, capturing and slaughtering of Yellowstone bison at tremendous and rising cost to taxpayers. The bison management budget for FY2004 will likely exceed 3.5 million all coming from federal funds. The IBMP's arbitrary 3000-population cap for bison endangers the survival of the herd and limits the genetic variability of this unique herd. Third, there are a number of common sense solutions that could be employed that will effectively address the concerns of Montana's livestock industry while allowing wild bison to freely range outside of YNP. The IBMP is not based on simple common sense solutions but rather expensive wildlife vaccination programs and massive population reductions, neither of which has proven effective.
Opponents of the bill, led by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), contend that free-ranging Yellowstone bison pose a significant threat to Montana's livestock industry. They claim that bison infected with the disease brucellosis will infect domestic cattle thus threatening the state's brucellosis free status. They believe that the only way to deal with the threat of brucellosis infected bison is to keep them within the borders of YNP using whatever means necessary. 

We believe, however, that the threat of brucellosis transmission to domestic cattle from wild Yellowstone bison is vastly overstated. First, studies indicate that less than 10 percent of the Yellowstone bison are presently infected with brucellosis. Of these animals, only pregnant female bison have the biological capability to transmit the disease. Transmission can only occur if livestock ingest a significant quantity of infected birthing material. There has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from wild bison to domestic cattle. Second, domestic livestock grazing in the Greater Yellowstone Area are vaccinated for brucellosis. The vaccine is between 65 and 75 percent effective. Vaccinated cattle and brucellosis infected bison have commingled in Grand Teton National Park for over 45 years without a single documented case of brucellosis transmission. Third, wild bison and domestic cattle do not inhabit the same range at the same time. Bison migrate from YNP to lower elevations in Montana in the winter and spring months. They return to YNP in the late spring when forage is accessible in the Park. Domestic cattle do not graze these areas during this period because the climate is too harsh to support them. During the three to four months that cattle are present near the park boundary, only a few bull bison that pose not brucellosis threat may be in the area. Further, many other wildlife species including elk, deer, moose, wolf, coyote, bear and numerous others have also been exposed to brucellosis and may carry the disease. If Montana is so deeply concerned about brucellosis, why are bison the only species targeted by the state livestock industry.

The truth is that the Montana livestock industry is using brucellosis as a front for the real reasons they wish to exclude wild bison from Montana. What it all boils down to is access to grass. Livestock producers, particularly those grazing on public land, are concerned that the addition of a large ungulate species would lessen the amount of grass available for their cattle. They also claim that wild bison will damage fences and injure their animals. In seven years of observation near the western boundary of YNP, we have not seen damage to fences caused by bison except when they are being run through them by MDOL agents. What we have observed, however, is that bison walk around fence lines or simply jump fences. It may be hard to imagine a 2000-pound bison jumping a fence, but we can assure you that it is possible and does happen, even from a stand still. Further, livestock producers already have to deal with fence damage done by elk and deer. There is no indication from our observations that bison will significantly add to this unavoidable aspect of ranching operations in native wildlife habitat. For the first few years that bison are allowed to migrate into Montana, a compensation program could also be established for fence or property damage due to bison. 

Other concerns that have been raised about wild bison ranging in Montana include the presence of bison on roads and private property. Both of these issues can be adequately addressed by employing sound wildlife management practices. There are currently several projects underway in Canada and northern Montana to create wildlife overpass/underpass migration corridors. This technique could be employed in affected areas near Yellowstone. Private property owners who wish to exclude bison from their land can install larger bison proof fences. Both of these practices will cost taxpayers significantly less in the long run than continuing the current policy of keeping bison out of the state. 

In summary, we believe that H.R. 3446 sends a message to the Montana livestock industry that their current management practices are not solution oriented and are out of touch with the vast majority of Americans. The bill advocates common sense alternatives that protect Yellowstone bison as a native wildlife species and would cost taxpayers significantly less than the current program of hazing, capturing and killing bison at Yellowstone's border. 
H.R. 3446 also represents a great opportunity for bison advocates to do something proactive for the buffalo. Please take a few minutes to call and write you Representatives and Senators in the Untied States Congress. Tell them that they have a duty to protect our buffalo from the current cruel and unnecessary practices that have resulted in the slaughter of thousands of Yellowstone bison. Ask them to please co-sponsor H.R. 3446 and support future bison protection legislation.

Please also share the story of Yellowstone's last wild bison with a friend and encourage them to call and write Congress as well. Always remember that your voice can make a difference and that all of our voices in chorus will create change for ourselves and Yellowstone buffalo.
Help Denver school PS 1 come to the BFC!
We are excited to have 20 students from public school 1 in Denver visit us here in West Yellowstone…but they need your help to arrive safely. They will be travelling on Sunday, November 30 from Denver and would like to spend the night at a mid-way point in Wyoming…anywhere between Rock Springs and Jackson. If you have any contacts with a church, community center, or private resident where these kids may stay the night, please contact us at 406.646.0070 so that we can plan their stay. Any help would be greatly appreciated and would afford these students a trip of a lifetime…to help protect the last wild bison!

Thank-you for your support!
With the Buffalo,
Justine and Amy
BFC Coordinators
Wish List addendum
metal spatulas
oven mits/potholders
unopened first aid supplies
We are also still in dire need of a freezer

Thanks so much to everyone that has helped us get ready for this winter season with donations!!!
AND in the hollyday spirit - don't forget there are some beautifull as well as goofy gifts that you can get at
the Buffalo Bazaar
Joke Answer:
Bi Son

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