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Weekly Update from the Field August 1, 2005
* Update From the Field--BFC hosts Bison Summit with Governor Schweitzer
* BFC Roadshows to Visit West and East Coasts
* Bison Hunt Comments Due August 15
* Last Words

* Update From the Field
Summer provides a bit of respite for the Yellowstone buffalo.  Safe for a few months from the incessant hazing, capture, and slaughter operations that plague their Montana winters and springs, buffalo in the summertime are, by and large, free to be buffalo.  For the Buffalo Field Campaign, working to protect the buffalo and their habitat is a year round job and this summer is no exception.  Last week provides a good example of our "off season" work.

Last Monday, July 25, BFC hosted a "Bison Summit" with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.  The purpose of the meeting was to ask the Governor to show greater tolerance for free-roaming bison in Montana and to allow members of the Yellowstone herd use of lands in the state where they are currently subjected to hazing, capture and slaughter.

With the generous help of the Patagonia outdoor clothing company we assembled a first-rate panel of bison and brucellosis scientists, Native Americans, and members of the local community.  For more than two hours we met with the Governor in West Yellowstone, presenting him with a different perspective than the one he regularly hears from the stockgrower-influenced Department of Livestock.  We demonstrated through sound science some of the misconceptions that fuel the present slaughter and made a strong case for allowing Yellowstone buffalo to migrate unimpeded to their spring and winter habitat in Montana.

BFC board member Scott Frazier opened the meeting with a beautiful prayer for the buffalo and, after thanking the Governor for travelling to West Yellowstone to meet with us, presented him with a gift of sweetgrass.

Dr. Paul Nicoletti, D.M.V, a world-renowned brucellosis expert from the University of Florida, made a compelling case against the current bison management regime and offered a positive vision of a more common-sense approach.    Dr. Nicoletti told Governor Schweitzer that the current bison management plan "is not based on the best available scientific evidence; has resulted in the unnecessary killing of large numbers of bison; is not based on an accurate assessment of the risk of bacterial transmission from bison to cattle; relies on inappropriate tools and techniques designed for use in livestock; and ignores the more serious threat of brucellosis transmission from feedground elk to cattle."  He went on to add that "current management strategies result in the unnecessary killing of large numbers of bison, are not appropriate for use in a wild, free-ranging species, and are not publicly acceptable."

Dr. Mary Meagher, who studied the Yellowstone bison for more than 30 years as Yellowstone's lead bison biologist, discussed the history and importance of the Yellowstone bison herd. 

Drawing on her decades of field study, Dr. Meagher discussed bison movement patterns and the way human activities have altered those patterns.  She concluded her presentation with the sober assessment that the future of the Yellowstone National Park bison herd--the only population that wasn't exterminated in the 19th century--is currently at serious risk.

BFC allies, board members, coordinators, and volunteers then made a strong case for more sensible bison management, stressing ideas that will resolve, diminish, and ultimately solve the bison management controversy.  Keeping the emphasis on risk management, we showed the governor and his aides why brucellosis isn't the threat that the livestock industry makes it out to be and offered concrete suggestions for more common sense (and cost-effective) approaches to simultaneously keeping bison in Montana and Montana brucellosis-free.

Flo Gardipee, BFC board member and a doctoral student currently conducting research on the genetics of the Yellowstone herd, discussed the Yellowstone herd's genetic singularity and the importance of protecting the Yellowstone bison.  DJ Schubert from the Humane Society of the United States illustrated how infinitesimally small the risk of brucellosis transmission from wild bison to livestock really is (so low, in fact, that such a transmission has never occurred).

Beth Sullivan, manager of the Dillon, MT Patagonia Outlet spoke about the importance of wild bison and other native wildlife to the regional economy, reminding Governor Schweitzer that tourism, not cattle ranching, is the economic heart of the region surrounding Yellowstone National Park. 

Local resident Carrie Taggert of Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo (HOBNOB) discussed the pleasure she and other local residents derive from the presence of buffalo as well as the shock and horror they experience when their neighborhoods are disrupted without warning by Montana Department of Livestock agents flying helicopters and riding snowmobiles and ATV's as they chase, harass, and capture buffalo. 

Montana resident Stephany Seay reminded Governor Schweitzer of promises he made while campaigning for governor ("buffalo will enjoy greater tolerance" and "The DOL is ill-equipped to manage bison.") and urged him to follow through on his words  so she can vote for him again.  "I take the buffalo with me into the voting booth," she said.

A young Native American man named Mike from the Fort Peck Reservation spoke passionately about his peoples' connection to the buffalo and how the current slaughter was killing not only the buffalo but the people whose lives are intertwined with the lives of the buffalo. Scott Frazier closed the meeting by urging Governor Schweitzer to heed some of the suggestions offered during the meeting and by giving thanks to the Governor for taking so much time to listen to the concerns of those of us to whom the buffalo are important.

While it remains to be seen whether Governor Schweitzer will act on any of the suggestions he was presented with, we know that he was deeply affected.  At numerous times during the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, the governor asked insightful questions, revealing that he has given a great deal of thought to this complex issue.  We now have an open dialogue with Governor Schweitzer and are hopeful that he will take steps to offer the Yellowstone bison protection in the great state of Montana.

Last week's Bison Summit with the Governor wouldn't have been possible without the generous strategic and financial support of Patagonia.  Thank you.  Thanks also to Beth and Holly for travelling from Dillan, to D.J. for coming from Texas, to Dr. Nicoletti for journeying from Florida, and to all who joined us in person for the meeting or in spirit from across the country.  The Buffalo Field Campaign is everyone everywhere who cares about the buffalo and our work would not be possible without each and every one of you who supports our crucial work.
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* BFC Roadshows to Visit West and East Coasts
In addition to getting ready for the meeting with the governor, we've been busy preparing for our annual West and East Coast roadshows. From mid-August until mid-September we will be travelling up the West Coast, visiting farmer's markets and giving presentations in communities from Los Angeles to Eugene.  We've got great events scheduled, including benefits in the Bay Area with Native American musician and activist John Trudell and activist and speaker Julia Butterfly Hill.

We will spend October in the East, travelling from North Carolina to Maine, visiting colleges and community centers with our message of buffalo protection.  We're in the planning stage now so if you'd like to sponsor an event in your community, please contact us.

For more information, click on the link below, email bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org or call (406) 646-0070
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/roadshows2005.html
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* Bison Hunt 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.

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.

For more information on the proposed hunt and talking points for your comments, please check our web site at:
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/legislative/bisonhuntingbill.html
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* Last Words
"I still think the Department of Livestock is ill-equipped [to manage Yellowstone buffalo]."
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer


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