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Weekly Update from the Field December 12, 2003
• Take Action--Agencies Plan Intrusive Vaccination Program
for Yellowstone's Wild Buffalo. 
• Update From the Field
• BFC Hosts Denver School Group
• DOL and Local Law Enforcement Criminalize Good Citizenship of the West.
• Last Words

* Public Comments Needed to Stop Intrusive Vaccination Plans
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has recently released an Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding its intrusive and unnecessary plans to vaccinate members of the Yellowstone herd with RB51, a livestock vaccine that has been demonstrated to be ineffective in buffalo. Under the proposed plan, yearlings and calves who leave the park will be vaccinated.
The USDA has already determined that no significant impacts will result from this intrusive government action, but you still have time to comment.

A copy of the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and EA can be found on the Internet at:
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/es/vsdocs.html or you can contact the USDA and ask to be on the mailing list for "Docket no. 03-112-1". You can request copies of the EA and FONSI by email at: regulations@aphis.usda.gov

Because the public comment period is so short (comments must be submitted by January 5, 2004) it is imperative that buffalo supporters from around the world rally today and write letters.

Write to APHIS and ask them to choose the no action alternative.
To assist you in preparing comments we have compiled the following list of talking points:
Talking Points:
1. The Yellowstone herd is a cultural and biological treasure, being the only herd to continuously occupy its native range in the wild. Vaccines, including RB51, are a tool designed for use in livestock, not wildlife. Rather than focusing on Yellowstone's wild bison, efforts should be directed at cattle herds. The process of subcutaneously injecting yearlings and new-born calves with the RB51 strain of brucellosis--and the attendant stress such procedures will have on the animals--will further erode the wildness of the Yellowstone herd at a tremendous cost.

2. The EA ignores the latest science to hide the fact that the RB51 vaccine is not effective in bison. According to a recent peer-reviewed study*, "It was determined that RB51 did not confer significant protection in the vaccinated animals. In terms of abortions and infections, the RB51 bison vaccinated with three injections did not differ significantly from the non-vaccinated bison..."

The authors of the EA admit as much on page 9 when they write, "efficacy [of RB51] in bison has not been definitively determined."
*Davis, D.S. and Elzer, P.H., 2002, Brucella Vaccines in Wildlife, Veterinary Microbiology (90):533-544.

3. The vaccination of buffalo outside the park with an ineffective vaccine will not eliminate brucellosis from the herd. Because the disease has little effect on buffalo and because wild buffalo have never transmitted brucellosis to livestock, efforts should be focused on cattle.

4. Bison yearlings and calves are generally only present outside the western boundary of Yellowstone in the spring during calving season. The EA does not discuss the efficacy or impacts of vaccinating newly born bison within hours, days or weeks of birth. Neither does the EA address the impact of capturing newborn calves, vaccinating them, and releasing them without their mothers.

5. The EA fails to adequately address the proposal's impact on Native Americans, who have an age-old and complex relationship with buffalo. Many Native American individuals and organizations consider the buffalo as kin, and find the repeated capturing, testing, vaccinating, and tagging of bison unacceptable. Such intrusive measures affect the sacredness of buffalo by treating them as livestock.

6. Yellowstone buffalo are not domestic animals. Because neither APHIS nor Montana Department of Livestock personnel are trained in wildlife management, they have no place meddling with the fate of the Yellowstone herd and eroding their wildness through vaccination.
Comments may be sent through the postal service or email. If you submit them through the mail, please send four copies (an original and three copies) to:
Docket No. 03-112-1
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD
APHIS, Station 3C71
4700 River Road, Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
Please state in the body of your comments that they refer to Docket No. 03-112-1.
If you email your comments, send them to <regulations@aphis.usda.gov>. Comments must be contained in the body of your message; do not send attached files. Include your name and address in your message and "Docket No. 03-112-1" in the subject line.

* Update From the Field
Since the killing of the bull buffalo by DOL agent Shane Grube on November 24, most of our buffalo friends have been staying within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. BFC patrols on Fir Ridge have counted as many as 32 buffalo in the meadows adjacent to the Park boundary and the Duck Creek capture facility. We have also continued to see and hear evidence of wolves in the area. Several mornings ago, our Fir Ridge patrol noticed several sets of buffalo tracks leading into Dale Koelzer's property where the trap sits. The tracks entered through the gate and went about ten feet down the fence line to where the buffalo had been shot only two weeks ago. Blood still stains the snow on the spot where he fell. The buffalo, seemed to pay homage to their fallen brother, then turned around and went back into the Park.

While the smell and awareness of the fate of this buffalo bull may keep the others at bay for a while, it will only be a matter of time before many of them will wander west in search of easier forage. Just today, the DOL has began plowing Forest Service Road 610 that leads to where the Horse Butte capture facility will soon be erected. Both the DOL and the Park Service are gearing up for a big year of killing buffalo as the animals search for food outside of the Park's borders.
As of today, we are running a bare-bones operation here at camp. Twelve or so volunteers have been tirelessly going out to defend the buffalo every day while also keeping up with all of the other tasks we need to do to sustain ourselves from day to day. If you have been thinking of coming to join us, now is a great time to do it. For more information on volunteering with BFC, please call 406-646-0070 or e-mail Amy buffaloatwildrockies.org.
For the buffalo,
Josh Osher

BFC Hosts Denver School Group

The BFC recently had the privilege to introduce twelve students and five teachers from Denver's PSI school to the Yellowstone buffalo. The students, ranging in ages from eleven to eighteen, came to Montana for an educational field trip. For all of these kids, coming to the wilderness of Montana was a first that they will remember for years to come. Their teacher had heard about the buffalo issue and decided it would be a great learning experience for the kids and adults. In August, the BFC road show visited PS1 in Denver where we gave them an introduction to the buffalo issue and were their guests on a field trip through downtown Denver.

The students arrived Monday evening. They checked out the Montana stars and tried to prepare themselves for their three days at the Buffalo Field Campaign. The kids woke up early Tuesday morning and got ready for patrol. BFC volunteers accompanied PS1 on Fir Ridge patrol. We hiked along the park boundary looking for buffalo and viewed the Duck Creek capture facility. Upon returning to camp they watched some video footage of hazing operations and bison in the capture facility. The morning patrol and the video filled them all with questions and concerns. 

The PS1 crew and BFC volunteers traveled to Gardiner, MT on Wednesday morning. There we met with our friends, Dave and George. On our drive into the Park, two wolves crossed the road in front of us. Bighorn sheep were rutting high up on the ridge and herds of buffalo and elk were plentiful on our drive out to the Lamar Valley. We ended our amazing day in the Park with a soak in the Boiling River.

Thursday was the students' last day in Montana. They had prepared questions for Park and Forest Service officials after going on patrol and viewing the video footage. They met with officials from both agencies and experienced some of the frustration that we all feel when asking, "Why is this happening?" The kids had some great questions and more than once the left the rangers speechless. That evening we all gathered around a campfire to share stories and eat s'mores.

PS1's visit was a positive experience for everyone involved. It was wonderful to empower these kids to do something about the things they feel are unjust. They left with a new understanding of how their actions, even in far away Denver, can have a positive impact. PS1's visit marks the second year in a row that BFC has hosted public school kids at camp. Last February, the Sojourner school from Boulder, Colorado, arrived just in time to witness the capture of 10 bull buffalo by the DOL and a school from Seattle, Washington, were witness to DOL hazing operations on Horse Butte last April. We hope to have many more students visit the BFC both for their benefit and for the future of the buffalo. For more information or to set up a trip for your school, please contact Amy here at camp by phone (406) 646-0070 or e-mail buffaloatwildrockies.org
DOL and Local Law Enforcement Criminalize Good Citizenship of the West.

On Thursday, December 4, 2003, a BFC volunteer and a woman on a research study mission from Austria were arrested and charged with criminal trespass. The two are accused of closing a cattle gate that borders National Forest lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. The gate belongs to Dale Koelzer, who leases land to the DOL for operation of the Duck Creek Capture Facility. 

Upon arriving to the area, DOL officer Shane Grube noticed that the gate had been closed. He called in the cavalry to investigate this "crime," bringing in law enforcement agents from Gallatin County, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. The agents allegedly matched footprints found near the fence with the Austrian woman and the BFC volunteer. Both were subsequently arrested by Gallatin County Sheriff, Rob Burns, and taken to the West Yellowstone police station. In a statement made to the police, the Austrian woman said that she did in fact close the gate, but that the BFC volunteer was not there at the time and was unaware of her action. She told Burns that it is customary and expected of people in Austria to close open livestock gates. There were horses in the adjacent pasture at the time. Burns still insisted that both still be charged with criminal trespass. A preliminary hearing has been set in the Gallatin County Justice Court for Friday, December 12. We will keep you updated as to how these "criminals" fare in the Montana "justice" system.
* Last Words
"Yellowstone is not a ranch. It was never intended by Congress to be a ranch."
--Mike Finley, former Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park

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