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Weekly Update from the Field April 7, 2005
* Update from the Field
* Please Oppose the Quarantine of Baby Buffalo!
* Urge Montana's Governor to Stop the Slaughter!
* Amazing Poem from a Buffalo Warrior
* Letters to the Editor
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
The beauty of sunrise at Horse Butte is difficult to convey. Vibrant hues of violet and red paint cloud-whisps on the eastern sky. The snow-covered peaks to the west are lit in warm pink, as if from within. Roman and I stood on the Butte yesterday at dawn, shifting our gaze from the painted sky to the mists rising above the Madison Valley. Groups of buffalo dotted the Butte's south-facing slopes. Mixed herds of pregnant females and their young grazed fresh green grass, groups of yearlings and calves kicked up their legs in play, and small herds of bulls moved slowly along the hillside. In all we counted more than 200 buffalo in the day's first light.

We enjoyed the beauty of the buffalo and the breaking day, even as we braced ourselves for what would come. Unfortunately the livestock industry runs Montana and buffalo are tolerated nowhere in the state. Shortly after 8am two snowmobiles sped swiftly along the road at the base of the Butte, far below. They were driven by agents of the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), scouting the area for buffalo. The DOL has no tolerance for buffalo in Montana, even on the Butte, National Forest land owned by all Americans.

We positioned ourselves to document the hazing operation, out of view of the agents. At ten o'clock three horse-mounted agents arrived along with four on snowmobile. They headed out along the lower road and cut up the Butte, behind the great herds of buffalo. I filmed as the operation began, the agents shouting, "Haw! Haw! Git up! Git up!" disrupting the grazing buffalo and starting them down the hill. Soon the scattered herds were congregated in a large group at the base of the hill. The agents went after this group with a vengeance, revving their engines and barking at the herd. Suddenly the herd broke, and like water from a broken dam, buffalo poured off the Butte. Braced against a rock I filmed them as they sprinted along the bluffs of the Madison River, away from their birthing grounds.

When the last buffalo had passed from eyesight Roman and I took to our feet and headed down the hill. Weaving our way between sagebrush we sprinted down the steep slopes, reaching the bottom just as the operation disappeared to the east. We were relieved to find 35 buffalo on the eastern flanks of the Butte, inside a bald-eagle sanctuary off-limits to the agents. The rest of the herd wasn't so lucky. They were run relentlessly for more than five miles to Yellowstone National Park, on the other side of Highway 191. Because the Butte is their birthing ground, where they need to be at this time of year, the buffalo turned around and headed back almost immediately. 

Why the DOL insists on chasing them so relentlessly is a great mystery. There are never, at any time of year, cattle on any of the public lands on Horse Butte. By repeatedly pushing the buffalo across the highway, the agents are interrupting the natural migration and endangering the public and the buffalo in the process. Instead of crossing the highway twice, the buffalo are forced to cross dozens of times. Already this year seven have been hit by trucks as a result.

While Roman and I documented the haze, our fellow volunteers, on patrol at Duck Creek, watched livestock agents handling and harassing 24 buffalo in the Duck Creek trap. Captured on Tuesday, the buffalo were being tested for antibodies to brucellosis. As I type the update this morning eight buffalo, stuffed in a livestock trailer, are on their way to the slaughterhouse. Three buffalo calves will be shipped to a quarantine facility where they will be held for up to four years, victims of a science experiment that will erode the wildness that makes them unique.

Spring is our busiest time. With more than ten volunteers in the field during all daylight hours and our media coordinators working 12 hour days to share the plight of the buffalo with the world, we are extremely busy. The Buffalo Field Campaign is a volunteer-driven organization and we rely on contributions from people like you to keep our volunteers well-fed, housed, and equipped to document every action taken against the buffalo and to build a movement to protect the buffalo forever.

If you care about the buffalo and want to ensure our continued presence in the field, please make a donation today. Five and ten dollar donations are our bread and butter, so if you can, please send a tax-deductible donation. We are a grassroots group and every penny goes directly to the front-lines defense of the buffalo. If you can't afford to make a financial contribution, you can help in other ways. Below you will find information on writing public comments in opposition to the quarantine facility and letters you can write to Montana's governor, urging him to provide habitat for buffalo in Montana. Together we are making great strides for the buffalo, please take action today!  
 
Read about this week's actions in the papers.

Click here for recent press coverage:
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0405/news0405/news0405.html     
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* Comment Against Quarantining Baby Buffalo!
The DOL now has six buffalo calves for their quarantine "feasibility study." Calves are under a year old, and they are very dependent upon their mothers. All buffalo are very closely connected to one another, and these young calves are now alone, without moms, elders, or other family members. They will be held in captivity for upwards of five years, being injected with diseases and vaccines over and over. Any buffalo that don't "pass" the scientists' tests will be sent to slaughter - at least half.

The government is now accepting public comments on their "Bison Quarantine Feasibility Study" and they need to hear from you. Please read over the quarantine information on our web site and speak from your heart as to why quarantining buffalo is a very bad idea. Comments are needed by April 15, 2005.

LINK: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/legislative/bisonquarantine.html
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*Urge Montana's Governor to Stop the Slaughter!
When Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer took office, he assured us that it would be a "new Montana." We think that new Montana should include wild, free-roaming buffalo. Think about it: Montana could be the only state in the nation to boast a herd of the country's last wild buffalo. Instead of fretting what the DOL will do to the buffalo next, we could be celebrating the current spring migration, the coming of the next buffalo generation. The presence of wild buffalo would help with the recovery of native grasslands and prairies. They would help repair much of the damage that has bee done by cattle over the centuries. Buffalo belong here. People would come from far and wide to be in their presence. There would be an awakening within the earth, to have upon it the beating and drumming of the buffalo's hoof-beats. The hearts, minds, and spirits of the Indian people would rejoice at the return of the buffalo. Wild buffalo can be a reality and Governor Schweitzer can help make it happen.

Governor Schweitzer must hear from you. He needs to feel the pressure from Montanans and the rest of the nation, insisting that he do everything in his power to stop the slaughter of America's last wild buffalo. Encourage him to hold true to his words that buffalo will enjoy more tolerance in Montana. In his campaign statements, Schweitzer said that management of buffalo and the protection of Montana's brucellosis-free status should be determined by "science, not hyperbole," and that the DOL is "ill-equipped" to manage wild buffalo for the State of Montana." So - what is he waiting for? Montana shouldn't be the state known for the senseless murder of the last wild buffalo - the time for change is now.

TAKE ACTION! Governor Schweitzer has demonstrated that he is willing to listen, but we've got to make sure he hears what we're saying. Give Schweitzer more than your two-cents, give him five! If you are the carrier of any buffalo nickels, please send them to Schweitzer and tell him to stop the buffalo slaughter now, hold true to his own words that buffalo will enjoy more tolerance in Montana, and urge him to put these nickels towards the purchase of habitat for wild buffalo in Montana!

Send your five-cents to:
Governor Brian Schweitzer
State Capitol
Helena, MT 59620-0801
Phone: 1-406-444-3111
Fax: 1-406-444 5529
E-mail: Governor@state.mt.us
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* Beautiful Poem from a Buffalo Warrior
We were blessed this week with the return of the Sanchez family: Japhy, Justine, and Roman. These beautiful buffalo warriors have been part of the BFC family since 2000 and they will be with us in person until June. Roman is a talented poet. The following poem, "Why I am Here," was inspired by his return to the BFC.

Read it here:
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/artthoughts/sanchez2.html
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* Letters to the Editor
Easter Sunday
Easter took a new meaning for me this year. At sunset on highway 191 just north of the Madison River 20 buffalo meandered in and out of the road for three hours. At dusk drivers could still see the buffalo on the highway but for two hours after sunset buffalo are too dark to be seen. I stood on the side of the highway wearing an orange vest and holding a buffalo crossing sign, slowing all vehicles that would pay heed to the warning. 

It is rewarding to warn travelers of a waiting danger. The sad thing is the risks of public safety could be significantly reduced if the actions of the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) were kept in check. Every week the DOL comes to town and chaotically runs all the buffalo from their calving grounds on Horse Butte, five miles outside the park, back to the border of Yellowstone National Park, on the other side of 191. Within hours the buffalo head straight back to Horse Butte crossing 191 yet again. 

There is not a single cow within 40 miles of Horse Butte and there will not be until June 15 at the earliest. Montana's brucellosis free status is not jeopardized by the presence of buffalo on our public land when there are no cows in the area. If we could just let the buffalo go have their babies and then go back they would cross 191 only twice. Instead the DOL endangers the lives of motorists and buffalo every day. The Horse Butte grazing allotments have not been used in three years. Where is the logic? Your tax dollars are putting your life at risk. 

Five buffalo have already been hit this spring alone. The Buffalo Field Campaign has been trying to get more buffalo or wildlife crossing signs in areas where wildlife actually cross. This process is also filled with bureaucratic red tape. Canada has had tremendous success with wildlife bridges in migration corridors. Please let us all work together to make 191 a safer place for our community and all of our guests and then maybe next Easter I can spend it with my family.

Mike Mease
Campaign Coordinator
Buffalo Field Campaign

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* Last Words
"The persecution of the buffalo should be considered a crime against humanity because such persecution and mindless government policy is forcing some Americans, against their will, to accept the plight to cause the extinction of the Yellowstone buffalo, destroying a valuable cultural feature of Native Americans which will eventually destroy them, and not least -- it is dulling the minds of the authorities that make and carry out policy that poses a danger to both buffalo and other wildlife and also to human life. It is making it easier to eliminate humans if they happen to get in the way."
~ Marilyn Dinger

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