We Give Thanks
As the Buffalo Field Campaign heads into our eighth
Winter, there are many reasons to give thanks.
We give thanks for you, for believing and participating
in our goal to see the last wild herd of America's buffalo
roam free and unmolested; for all those touched by the
buffalo, who have entered into this vision with us from
near and far; for your giving hearts, for your inspiration,
for your love of the buffalo and all things wild; for
your determination to see us through these difficult
times; for all the thousands of volunteers who
have walked through our doors and stood in defense of
the buffalo; for all who have supported us financially,
who have kept us in the field, our volunteers fed and
equipped, and our campaign running; for all the people
who send us those much-needed words of encouragement,
lifting us up when times are hard on the buffalo; for
all who have acted on the buffalo's behalf in whatever
We give thanks for the beauty we are surrounded by each
day; the majesty of the mountains, the quiet, peaceful
falling snow, the astounding skies, the life-filled
forests and valleys; for the support of our families
and friends; for the recently donated Subaru; for Amy
for preparing the wonderful food provided by our cherished
supporters and family members; for the lives of the
buffalo that have been spared; for Glenn Hockett for
having vision and taking the initiative to make it a
reality; for "Grandma" Joanne Stoval's recovery;
for the Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo for making
their voices heard; for the warm cabin and beautiful
tipis we take shelter in; for all the hard-working volunteers
and coordinators who keep the campaign running smoothly;
for the many people who have given up their "other
lives" to live the life of the buffalo soldier;
and we also give thanks to those who have put their
own freedoms on the line to free the
wild; for the veterans of the campaign who continue
to give so very much of themselves to the buffalo and
still carry on and inspire others to continue this worthy
We give thanks for the 23 buffalo who saved themselves
and their kind by taking shelter in the remote Pelican
Valley of Yellowstone after the 19th century slaughter;
for these wise ancestors and the buffalo that now remain....
the last members of once-vast herds of incomprehensible
numbers; for the lessons the buffalo teach us about
facing adversaries with
non-violence, about taking care of each other, about
the endurance and strength to carry on; for the way
the buffalo give of themselves so that others may live;
for the buffalo's refusal to recognize or respect the
human-drawn lines in the sand; for the lessons in resistance
buffalo inspire us with, reminding us to never give
up; for the opportunity to help them; for our voices
and our ability to take action.
We give thanks for the mighty, wild buffalo and to everyone
who has turned away from apathy and brought forth their
ideas and energy to help us win this difficult battle;
and we WILL win - the buffalo WILL roam! From
all of us at the Buffalo Field Campaign - THANK YOU!
* Update from the Field
Winter is really here now. The snow is coming
down in full force, about six inches since Tuesday night,
and soon we will be out on skis and snowshoes.
More volunteers have been arriving, and we look forward
to even more in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Five buffalo that were trying to simply live their lives
and find some good winter forage on the
Horse Butte peninsula were chased back into the park
by agents from the Department of Livestock, Fish Wildlife
and Parks, US Forest Service, and the local game warden.
The Department of Livestock was again out to locate
any "rogue" buffalo that dare step foot outside
of the confines of the national park. These agents
harass native wildlife on native land, and then call
it a day and will go home to their families to celebrate
ironies here are maddening.
Yesterday, the comment period for the ill-advised plan
to quarantine, test and slaughter 200 buffalo calves
in the next two years ended. Many thanks to all
of you who got in comments opposing this mad-scientist
scheme proposed by Montana's Fish, Wildlife, and Parks,
and their federal partner in crime, the Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service. Ironically, an article
in Tuesday's Bozeman Chronically announced that a federal
spending bill already appropriated money to this quarantine
facility. The agencies have been informed that
we are quite aware of this issue, and will take necessary
On a brighter note, some very important local folks
had a little talk with federal and state agency representatives
about their unwelcome buffalo harassment activities
in the Horse Butte area. Details below.
* Agents Hear from Horse
Butte Neighbors of Buffalo (HoBNOB)
On Tuesday, an important local voice for the buffalo,
Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo (HOBNOB) held it's
monthly meeting and invited the five federal and state
agencies that represent the Interagency Bison Management
Plan (IBMP) to participate. Agency representatives
included Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Suzanne
Lewis, YNP buffalo biologist Rick Wallen, Gallitin National
Forest Supervisor Becky Heath, along with Fish, Wildlife
and Parks and Department of Livestock reps. BFC
was present, along with some local
media, and of special notice was David Watkins, from
the office of U.S. House Rep. Nick Rahall who sits on
the House Resources Committee and is a friend to the
buffalo. While the meeting took place, five bull buffalo
grazed in the host's back yard.
The objective of the meeting was to create dialogue
with the IBMP agencies and HoBNOB. This was the
first of more meetings to come. Up for discussion
were important issues such as hazing in the residential
area, the location of the Horse Butte buffalo trap,
and intimidation practices of the DOL agents. The DOL's
vet, Tom Linfield, spoke to the reason for the hazing
claiming that the agents are maintaining separation
of livestock and buffalo, they are
keeping brucellosis out of the environment, and protecting
private property. Residents, however, disagreed
and had some points to make of their own.
Residents expressed concern for the safety of their
children and pets in the face of aggressive hazing operations.
Being property owners in buffalo country, they shot
down the myth of damage to private property. They
also brought to light the fact that there are no cattle
where the buffalo roam, and that bulls who are often
hazed and killed pose no threat of transmission.
HOBNOB cited the incredible waste of taxpayer money
and complained that their neighborhood looks like a
"police state" during hazing operations.
They were strong in making the agencies realize they
know the issue and won't accept these lame excuses for
the hazing. They voiced their disdain with the
noise from helicopters, the disruption of the entire
ecosystem, and the eyesore of the buffalo trap.
They expressed the inappropriateness of the DOL contracting
with unqualified non-biologists to monitor federally
protected bald eagle nests. They stated that they
want the IBMP to be modified so management authority
is taken from the DOL and returned to FWP. HOBNOB
pointed out that the plan lacks habitat as
a solution, and that the cattle allotments on Horse
Butte have not been used in the last two years.
The called for a new Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) due to the population change in neighborhood.
They also cited trespassing concerns and how they are
intimidated by local DOL agent, Shane Grube.
When the group was asked the question "Is this
issue just concerning your backyard, or is it for the
bigger picture?", it was answered that " This
is just the tip of the iceberg. We will take this issue
clear to Washington, DC. We are in contact with politicians
and will not stop until the bison are treated fairly
in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, but it is starting
here first." There were no answers given
at this meeting, but the agencies said they would have
answers to all questions by mid-Feb. 2005. The
agents stated that the IBMP would not change, but that
it could change "operationally" in the Horse
Many thanks to Karrie Taggart and all the folks of HOBNOB
for pulling this meeting together, and getting the dialogue
going! Your voice is critical to the buffalo -
thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being strong
and speaking out!
* Last Words--Article by Kathleen Stachowski
South Bend Tribune
Bison slaughter in Yellowstone should anger all of us.
It's not unusual to read shocking, appalling items in
the newspaper, but one usually doesn't expect to find
them on the pages of the Sunday funnies! Patrick McDonnell,
creator of the "Mutts'' comic strip, recently called
attention to a decidedly unfunny situation -- the slaughter
of Yellowstone bison as they leave the park. The Tribune
carries "Mutts,'' and I fervently hope that readers
were shocked, appalled, outraged, and heartbroken at
the plight of America's last wild bison.
And why should Hoosiers care? After all, you are more
than 1,500 miles removed from Yellowstone. But Americans
everywhere -- from New York City to Michigan City, from
South Bend to Bend, Oregon -- are invested in this travesty,
because it is occurring on our
federally-managed public lands. Yellowstone, the world's
first national park, belongs to all citizens, as does
the adjacent national forest land in Montana onto which
bison migrate for winter survival.
When cold grips the high-elevation plateaus, bison migrate
out of Yellowstone onto lower national forest lands
where snow is thinner and grass is easier to find. Unfortunately
for the last wild, free-roaming herd of bison this country
will ever know, the feds and the Montana Department
of Livestock are gunning for them. The state has achieved
"brucellosis-free'' status for its cattle and intends
to keep it that way.
is called "the last best place,'' but for too many
native bison, it's simply the last place. Brucellosis,
a livestock disease, can result in milk and animal weight
reduction, and can cause a cow's first fetus to abort
-- a threat to the cattle industry's bottom line. Some
of Yellowstone's bison carry the disease, and now you
see exactly where this is going. Nonetheless, there
has never been one documented case of brucellosis transmission
from bison to cattle in the wild (the disease was first
identified in United States cattle in 1910, and in the
Yellowstone herd in 1917). Furthermore, when bison wander
out of the park onto Forest Service land, cattle are
Only during warmer months, when bison have migrated
back into the park, are cattle released onto their federal
grazing allotment -- which is, by the way, public land
belonging to you and me. To add insult to injury, we
taxpayers also heavily subsidize the cattle industry
for the use of our land, the very killing fields where
this national savagery plays out. All Americans know
about the great extermination of the 19th century, when
Manifest Destiny ran up hard against tens of millions
of bison -- 50 million or more -- and the creature,
once seemingly limitless, teetered on extinction's abyss.
By 1901, fewer than 25 bison remained in the wild, and
Yellowstone was their refuge.
But do all Americans understand that distinction? The
Yellowstone herd is the last of the free-roaming bison
we'll ever be graced with, the genetically-pure descendants
of those immense herds at which Lewis and Clark marveled,
which Native Americans respected for their strength
and the bounty they provided. The last wild herd occupying
its historical landscape, they now number about 4,000,
and are subject to the whims of cow-politics.
Today, Park Service officials, the very people charged
with protecting them, send bison to slaughter to satisfy
Montana's powerful livestock industry. Readers of "Mutts''
learned that some 500 were killed these past two winters.
The killing has already commenced this year; a bull
was dispatched on national forest land near West Yellowstone
on Oct. 19. He was not even tested for brucellosis.
The Department of Livestock cited "private property
concerns.'' The issue is much more complex than I'm
able to outline here. It involves attempts to haze animals
back into the park; holding facilities where animals
are captured and tested then slaughtered or confined
(once the holding pens are full, all bison leaving the
park are slaughtered regardless of brucellosis status);
and an attempt to pass H.R. 3446, the Yellowstone Buffalo
Preservation Act, a bi-partisan bill which was narrowly
defeated in the House of Representatives.
In a horrendous, added twist, Montana's Fish, Wildlife
and Parks Commission has voted to authorize a "sport''
hunting season for up to 25 wild bison who leave Yellowstone
starting this January. Shooting bison has been likened
to shooting parked cars. Where's the sport in that?
Buffalo Field Campaign touts itself as "the only
group working in the field every day to protect the
Yellowstone bison... BFC volunteers defend the bison
and their habitat, and document every move made against
them.'' Folks who logged onto the "Mutts"
comic strip Web site found a link to BFC; this Web site
(www.buffalofieldcampaign.org) offers a thorough education
on the issue and suggests many ways citizens can get
For those not online, contact BFC at P.O. Box 957, West
Yellowstone, MT 59758. Yellowstone -- visited and loved
by folks the world over -- and its rich array of wildlife
"belong'' to you as Hoosiers just as much as they
"belong'' to me, a Montanan. This is our national
heritage. Demand that these most American of creatures
be protected on our federal lands. As "Mutts''
poignantly reminded us, it's their country, too.
Bison don't have a voice or a vote, but you do. Speak
Kathleen Stachowski is a Michigan City native and now
lives in Lolo, Mont.