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Weekly Update from the Field November 25, 2004
* We Give Thanks
* Update from the Field
* Agents Hear from Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo
* Last Words--Article by Kathleen Stachowski

* 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 capacity.

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 fight.

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 that the
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 Thanksgiving. The
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 action.

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 Butte neighborhood.

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.

Montana 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 pastured elsewhere.

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 involved.

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 for them.

Kathleen Stachowski is a Michigan City native and now lives in Lolo, Mont.

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