Montana Resumes Plans for Bison Hunt--Public Comments
Last winter, the actions of the Buffalo Field Campaign
community were instrumental in derailing Montana's ill-advised
plans to "hunt" bison when they migrate out
of Yellowstone National Park.
BFC's campaign to cancel the 2005 hunt generated hundreds
of letters, phone calls, and emails to Montana's newly
elected governor, resulted in hundreds of buffalo-friendly
people applying for hunting permits with the intention
of using them to keep buffalo alive; and insured that
the hunt would be covered on all the major national
news networks. Montana's newly elected Governor Brian
Schweitzer, aware of the black eye that a hunt would
bring to Montana, acted quickly to cancel the hunt.
Unfortunately, the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife
and Parks (FWP) has decided to push forward with a hunt
during the 2005-2006 winter. We must be even more resolute
this year if we are to stop the hunt a second time.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Commission
set tentative regulations for Montana's first buffalo
hunt in nearly 15 years at their meeting in early July
2005. The Commission voted to establish a two-part buffalo
season beginning November 15, 2005 and continuing until
February 15, 2006. 25 either sex permits would be issued
for the first two-month period with an additional 25
permits for the last month. Eight of the permits in
each hunting period will be given to Montana's native
tribes as mandated by state law. According to FWP, the
Environmental Assessment (EA) conducted last year is
sufficient for the new hunting rules and therefore,
no additional analysis will be conducted this year.
Instead the agency will issue a revised decision notice
that is not subject to public comment. Although comments
will be taken by FWP on the tentative season and regulations,
the decision to implement the hunt is apparently not
subject to public review.
This latest incarnation of a buffalo hunt in Montana
is still nothing more than an affirmation that Montana
will not tolerate wild buffalo in the state. As the
policy is currently laid out, wild buffalo entering
Montana will remain under the authority of the Montana
Department of Livestock (DOL). The DOL's only "concession"
to the buffalo is to refrain from hazing, capturing
and killing them for the three months that hunters will
shoot any buffalo that wanders out of Yellowstone National
Park. Unless more than 25 buffalo are out of the Park
in either period or if any buffalo wanders past the
allotted area, the DOL may decide to haze or capture
the buffalo leading to a temporary suspension of the
hunt. In either case, any wild buffalo that enters Montana
between November 15 and February 15 will be killed for
following their migratory instincts.
Beginning February 16 the DOL will implement a massive
capture, test and slaughter program with the goal of
transporting 100 buffalo calves that test negative for
brucellosis antibodies to the quarantine facility near
Gardiner, Montana. The DOL, together with the National
Park Service, will likely capture well over 500 buffalo
throughout the winter and spring to reach their goal
of 100 calves for quarantine.
The agencies (including the same FWP game wardens that
will administer the hunt) will continue to terrorize
one of the most sensitive ecosystems in the United States
with daily hazing operations that include low-flying
helicopters, snowmobiles, ATV's, trucks and horses.
Many buffalo will be needlessly killed or injured until
the landscape is completely empty of buffalo. Those
that do survive the spring will have next year's hunt
to look forward to before the hammer of the livestock
industry once again falls without impunity in the following
The buffalo hunt is still completely unacceptable for
all of the same reasons it was last year. In fact, this
year's proposal will lead to more buffalo being killed
in the fall than under current operations. In essence,
the addition of a buffalo hunt will completely eliminate
any and all wild buffalo that enter Montana. The FWP
Commission's decision is nothing more than a political
whitewash that will not succeed in hiding the ugliness
and blatant injustice of the current policies.
Three significant criteria
highlight problems with the proposed hunt.
First, wild buffalo in Montana should
be under the sole management authority of FWP. The Dept.
of Livestock has no rightful business managing wildlife,
particularly the last wild buffalo herd in the United
Second, buffalo must be given access
to sufficient habitat in Montana where they can establish
resident herds. In other words, "No Habitat, No
Third, Native American tribes throughout
the region must be included and involved in the decision
making process for the management of wild buffalo that
migrate outside of Yellowstone National Park. A long-term
comprehensive management plan should be developed that
includes all of the interested parties, especially traditional
Native Americans who maintain a relationship with the
buffalo that transcends modern wildlife management theories
Take Action for the Buffalo!
* Let the FWP Commission know that a buffalo hunt in
Montana is simply not acceptable under the current conditions.
Help the Commissioners see that this "hunt"
can only lead to a black eye for Montana.
Send your comments by Aug. 15 to:
Attn. Bison Hunt Regulations, Montana Fish, Wildlife
1400 S. 19th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59718,
or via Email to: email@example.com.
* Call or write Montana's Governor, Brian Schweitzer.
Let Governor Schweitzer know that a buffalo hunt is
a big mistake for Montana. Encourage Gov. Schweitzer
to develop a long-term comprehensive management plan
for the buffalo that includes traditional Native American
voices and wisdom. Contact Governor Schweitzer by mail:
Office of the Governor, PO Box 200801, State Capitol,
Helena MT 59620-0801; phone: 406-444-3111; or fax 406-444-5529
* Apply for a permit to hunt a buffalo and don't use
it! According to FWP, permits will likely be offered
to the public through a lottery by the end of September.
With more permits being offered than before, your chances
of getting a permit to save a buffalo are significant.
Look for more information about applying for a buffalo
permit in future updates and on our website.Talking
* Before a hunt is considered, wild buffalo must be
given the respect of being considered a recovered resident
native wildlife species in Montana, where they are currently
"managed" aggressively by the Department of
Livestock as a "nuisance animal in need of disease
* Tribal consultation should be sought and treaty rights
upheld before any hunt is considered.
* Shooting buffalo is like shooting a parked car. They
do not give "fair chase" like deer or elk.
Don't forget the last time Montana thought it was a
good idea to "hunt" Yellowstone buffalo, the
public outcry caused a huge black eye for Montana.
* The plan does not consider the real possibility of
a future for wild Montana buffalo in which they are
not killed in the gateway communities.
* FWP claims that hunters will be doing a service to
the local communities by removing "problem"
buffalo that are causing damage to private property
and threatening human safety. Almost no property damage
is caused by buffalo migrating into Montana with the
exception of damage caused when DOL agents haze buffalo
through people's fences on private property.
* The preferred alternative sets the dangerous precedent
of putting the Department of Livestock in charge of
the hunting of a Montana big game species.
It is important that you write an original letter, rather
than cut and paste our talking points.
* Last Words: Revisiting the 1990 Hunt
"I missed and I got his arm. Then I went for it
again and I got him down around his shoulder and then
he staggered and walked a little ways and then I shot
him in the neck and that killed him off."
A participant in Montana's 1990 bison hunt describing
the experience of maiming and killing a bull.