Update from the Field
My patrol partner and I pulled up to the perch on our
morning Duck Creek patrol to find that the six bulls
that had been lazily grazing in and out of the park
all week had found their way right in front of the trap.
Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents were arriving
and these bulls were practically dancing in the capture
facility. I secretly smiled. A livestock agent drove
his large truck up to the bulls and hazed them close
to the fence-line where this private property ends and
public lands begin. The truck then turned to head back
to the house while the bulls turned to haze the truck.
They followed the livestock agent, danced in front of
this publicly funded trap sitting on private land, and
turned to book it past the fence and well into the park.
It was as if they were saying, "We are not afraid!
We are Wild and Free. We will teach our family to be
wild and free!" I admired these bulls as I thought
to myself how many days I have sat at that fence line
on Fir Ridge. How many times I have wanted to cross
onto that private property and destroy that trap. But
fear of arrest, fear of hurting the campaign, fear of
endangering my son's security have kept me on the other
side of that fence. Not the Fir Ridge bulls. They will
stand in the face of their oppressors and dance!
The next day on patrol, my partner and I were privy
to the other half…the mamas and babies.
We came upon four females and their four new calves
on the high bluffs above the Madison River. There they
grazed, nursed, played and relaxed. When the mothers
began to wallow, rolling in the dirt to clean themselves
and scratch at their shedding hair, the calves got so
excited. They ran 'round and 'round their mothers, kicking
up their hind legs and attempting to wallow as well.
It was so cute to see their little legs popping up and
down off the ground as they tried to mimic their mothers.
We laughed and smiled and felt contented. Yet, I thought
to myself, the quarantine is going to prevent this exchange,
this joy and play, from happening. The quarantine is
not a place where the young will learn from the old.
After their long romp, the four newborns collapsed in
an exhausted heap in the sun. That's how they were resting
when five agents on horseback found them.
The haze continued that day as the helicopter was brought
out. The Fir Ridge bulls were chased miles into the
park by the buzzing chopper. Two of the mama and baby
pairs were "successfully" hazed across Highway
191, where we have lost 20 buffalo and one grizzly this
year to vehicles. One of the pairs was lost down in
the flats of the Madison River, where I hope they have
found refuge. The last of these tender pairs were separated.
I saw the mother cross the highway without her calf.
The sheriffs had already allowed traffic to continue
to flow after shutting it down for the haze. That mother
turned and ran into and across the highway to find her
baby. That mother came so close to being hit by two
oncoming vehicles that I gasped and grabbed my partner's
hand. That mother showed no fear in going to find her
lost calf. Again I found myself admiring the strength
and courage of the last wild buffalo.
* GYIBC in Jackson Hole - A Chorus of Nonsense
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Dan and I traveled
to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the tri-annual meeting
of the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee
(GYIBC). Amidst presentations by the various agency
researchers and scientists, the GYIBC discussed the
document - known as the Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) - that will re-authorize the Committee. The process
of revising the MOU has taken over two years and countless
hours and federal tax-payer dollars. As it stands now,
the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture
have agreed to the revised MOU language which will be
sent to the Governors of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
The revised MOU contains a few provisions that should
raise alarm among not only the conservation community
but the states as well. The new language stresses elimination
of brucellosis over risk management and requires the
development of elimination plans for each affected elk
and bison herd by the agencies with management authority.
This agreement signals the further erosion of a conservation
ethic within the Department of Interior under the Bush
However, agreement from the states is far from a sure
thing. Wyoming just recently began a new brucellosis
plan for elk that is far from an elimination effort.
Unfortunately, Wyoming will begin a test and slaughter
pilot program on one of its 22 state elk feedgrounds
next winter under extreme pressure from the livestock
industry. Montana is in the process of beginning a management
plan for elk in the Madison valley that will focus on
risk management, not elimination of brucellosis. Neither
state is likely to embrace a mandate to eliminate brucellosis
when the only tools available are an ineffective vaccine
and test and slaughter. It is critical to understand
that in order to eliminate (or eradicate) brucellosis,
every single animal that may potentially carry the European
livestock bacteria would have to be killed. Every buffalo,
every elk, every single critter. Eradication is entirely
unacceptable and unrealistic.
Meetings with the three state Governors are likely to
occur this summer with an answer to the Federal agencies
expected by the next GYIBC meeting in Idaho Falls in
late August. BFC will be keeping a watchful eye on the
continuation of this process throughout the summer and
TAKE ACTION! Please take the time to express your concerns
with the development of brucellosis elimination plans
for wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Area to the
Governors of both Montana and Wyoming. The truth of
the matter is that brucellosis elimination will devastate
the affected wildlife populations and is still likely
to fail to eradicate the disease throughout the ecosystem.
It makes far more sense to manage cattle better, and
to develop a livestock vaccine that works for and is
used on livestock.
Contact Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer
Governor's Office, State Capitol, Helena, MT 59620-0801,
(ph) 406-444-3111, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Wyoming's Governor, Dave Fruedenthal
can be reached at:
Governor's Office, State Capitol, 200 West 24th Street,
Cheyenne, WY 82002-0010; 307:777:7434 (phone); 307:632:3909
(fax); 307:777:7860 (TTY); or by email at email@example.com.
For the Buffalo,
* H.R. 2428 - Contact Your House Representative!
The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act now has a bill
number: H.R. 2428. This critical and bipartisan legislation,
sponsored by Rep. Hinchey and Rep. Bass, will place
a three year time-out on the current Interagency Bison
If this bill becomes law, it will:
1. Dismantle the Stephen's Creek bison
trap located within Yellowstone National Park's borders
2. Allow buffalo unmolested access
to Gallatin National Forest lands immediately adjacent
to Yellowstone's north and west boundaries. These are
the same lands where buffalo currently migrate with
3. Give the National Park Service sole
jurisdiction over buffalo inside the Park. (Currently,
the DOL has authority to haze along the western boundary
- with horse and helicopter - far into the park, even
within areas closed to protect wildlife)
4. Direct the Park and Forest Services
to acquire additional habitat for buffalo in Montana
TAKE ACTION! Please take
a moment to contact your House Representative and urge
him/her to sign on to H.R. 2428, the Yellowstone Buffalo
Preservation Act. Last year, thanks to your phone calls
and letters, we gained over 100 cosponsors for this
legislation. This year we can do even better!
Contact your Representative: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/politicians.html.
NOTE: If you are represented by either Bass or Hinchey,
please drop them a line to say
THANK YOU for taking the initiative (again) in protecting
the country's last wild buffalo.
To learn more about the bill visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/legislative/buffalopreservation.html.
* BFC Honors Marriage of Yarrow and Yote
On Sunday, May 29, long-time BFC family members Yarrow
and Yote will gather with friends and family on the
banks of the Madison River in celebration of their love
and commitment. Past volunteers and coordinators have
begun arriving for what we know will be a festive celebration
and ceremony honoring Yarrow, Yote, the buffalo they
have dedicated so much of their lives to protecting,
and all the wild creatures that make this ecosystem
Please join us in spirit on Sunday afternoon as we join
in the circle of this beautiful couple's love for one
other and the Earth on which we live.
* Last Words
"Like the two sides of the buffalo/Indian-head
nickel, we are synonymous; two sides of a single coin.
We, and the buffalo, share a common history that we
dare not forget. We may be generations and miles removed
from the buffalo, but according to the wisdom of thousands
of years of existence in the natural world and interdependence
with the buffalo, we hold a belief; a prophecy of an
Surely, as a leader, you must at least understand the
challenge of being responsible for not only the people,
here and now, but also for future generations. "In
every deliberation, we must consider the impact upon
the 7th generation" was the challenge of our traditional
If the sacredness of the buffalo is so difficult a concept
to understand, then consider this: science recognizes
the buffalo as a keystone species of the ecosystem and
like us, who serve as "miners' canaries" for
humanity, the buffalo too serve as such for the natural
world that sustains us all.
If this land could support 60 million plus buffalo that
were almost completely exterminated, save for those
very few that sought refuge in Yellowstone, then we
have yet to comprehend, to experience the full impact
of their absence."
~ Rosalie Little Thunder, Lakota elder and co-founder
of Buffalo Field Campaign
From a letter to President Bill Clinton