* 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
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
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
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.
* 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
or call (406) 646-0070
* Bison Hunt Comments Due 8/15
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: 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.
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.
For more information on the proposed hunt and talking
points for your comments, please check our web site
* Last Words
"I still think the Department of Livestock is ill-equipped
[to manage Yellowstone buffalo]."
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer