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Weekly Update from the Field July 14. 2005
* Montana Resumes Plans for Bison Hunt--Public Comments Due 8/15
* Last Words: Revisiting the 1990 Hunt

* Montana Resumes Plans for Bison Hunt--Public Comments Due 8/15
Background:
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.

Current Status:
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 spring.

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 States.

Second, buffalo must be given access to sufficient habitat in Montana where they can establish resident herds. In other words, "No Habitat, No Hunt!"

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 and practices.

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 & Parks,
1400 S. 19th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59718,
or via Email to: fwpwld@mt.gov.

* 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 Points

* 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 control."

* 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.
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* 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.

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