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Weekly Update from the Field January 5, 2006
* Update from the Field
* One More Week to Send Quarantine Comments
* A Beautiful Letter from a BFC Volunteer
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
2006 began on a bitter note along Yellowstone's northern boundary. On New Years Day, in Gardiner, the 17th bull bison was killed in Montana's illegitimate bison hunt. Our diligent and dedicated volunteers again documented as another one of our friends fell to the bullet.

Also unfortunately for the buffalo, Monday the 2nd was not a holiday enjoyed by every federal employee. Yellowstone National Park rangers in Gardiner once again did the bidding of Montana's livestock industry; they restricted the buffalo's migration and forced them back into the confines of Yellowstone National Park. A group of 90 buffalo were hazed by two Park Rangers on horseback, and then another group of 16 were hazed by the same two riders plus an NPS truck. It was a sad and telling scene as our volunteers documented federal employees marching wild buffalo off of their native landscape, herding them like livestock through the famous Roosevelt Arch that reads: For the benefit and enjoyment of the people. Inside park boundaries, buffalo do benefit the enjoyment of the people, yet outside of this gigantic zoo-like enclosure, they suddenly become "a nuisance animal in need of disease control." Wild buffalo are a nomadic species, moving in search of available forage. By forcing wild buffalo back into an area they chose to leave, an area lacking necessary winter forage found in lower elevations, the Park Service does a cruel disservice to the country's last wild buffalo, threatening their winter survival and disrespecting their wild nature.

In contrast to events in Gardiner, here along the Park's western boundary in West Yellowstone, we have had a relatively enjoyable beginning to the new year. While, sadly, we've had to say good-bye-for-now to some incredible people, new volunteers have begun to arrive. Trekking from places like Oregon, Connecticut and Arizona, they have come here to stand in defense of the last wild buffalo. We've also enjoyed some good snowfall and incredible days out in the field in the company of wild buffalo.

A large mixed herd of buffalo that we've been monitoring for weeks has been enjoying their nomadic nature and native habitat outside Park boundaries on the Horse Butte peninsula. They gently graze here and there, moving up and down the peninsula, leaving the landscape intact and richer for their presence. This part of Gallatin National Forest is a favorite spot for wild buffalo; when they are here they complete the landscape. For weeks we have been watching them move along the gigantic Butte, enchanting area residents and visitors, enriching the Madison River corridor. Our patrols had recently spotted them on the northernmost tip of the Butte, then watched as they amazingly crossed the ice of Hebgen Lake just north of it. Then yesterday, some message only herd by wild buffalo turned them on their heels back eastward. They started by crossing back over the ice and continued their path east, heading down the groomed snowmobile trail along the base of the massive hill. Various patrols saw the mixed group at different points along the Butte, moving quickly with intention on their buffalo mission. Josh and I were on skis doing a recon of the north Madison River bluffs at this time, heading west towards the Butte. Just up ahead we saw the beautiful dark shapes heading in our direction.

We stepped aside, off the trail, and one by one thirty-eight wild shaggy giants passed us by on their way back east, possibly heading back towards the Park, all of their own accord. We were graced with mamas (two sadly donning collars) protectively accompanying their calves and yearlings. With them were impressive young bulls just beginning to show their immense buffalo stature, and gorgeous pregnant females preparing to bring forth new buffalo-life. They would stop, look at us with their big, wet, dark eyes, and realizing we were no threat, move on in their chosen direction. As the herd passed us by, we relished in the beauty of the buffalo, how lucky we are to be in their company, and how incredibly cute the little shaggy babies are. But we were also bitterly reminded that these very buffalo calves may soon be stolen from their mothers and locked into small pastures unfit even for livestock. Domestication and scientific experimentation may become their future. If the federal and state government have their way, a looming quarantine plan (see below) will capture hundreds of bison calves and yearlings and send the majority to slaughter all in a gross effort to create a "disease-free" herd of buffalo. It is a great shame that money generated from the cruel livestock industry takes precedence over the ecologically beneficial and aesthetically pleasing presence of native wild buffalo.

Department of Livestock (DOL) agents have been busy lately, wasting time and U.S. taxpayer money to plow buffalo capture facility areas at Duck Creek and Horse Butte. At least on the Park's western boundary no hazing operations are allowed while Montana's illegitimate hunt is underway, but come February 16, agents will again be out in force to harass, capture and slaughter the country's last wild buffalo. Phase I of Montana's bison hunt ends on January 15. There's just one non-Indian permit left to fill for this phase of the hunt, and to date, no tribal members have chosen to participate. Phase II begins January 16, and will last for one month. It will be a bloody month for these gentle giants, but BFC will be watching. With your continued support we remain on the front lines and no action against the last wild buffalo will go undocumented or unchallenged.

With the Buffalo,
* One More Week to Send Quarantine Comments
There is just one more week to send your comments to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) on their plan to quarantine wild baby buffalo. In cooperation with USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), FWP wants to capture, domesticate, and experiment on wild buffalo calves and yearlings. Young buffalo will be stolen from their mothers and raised in captivity for the sake of scientific experiment. The plan calls for putting 25 buffalo on a mere 30 acre pasture for two full years. This is intense confinement for some domestic livestock, not to mention wild and free buffalo! In the end, the majority of the young bison will be slaughtered.

Comments are being accepted through Friday, January 13, 2006. Original comments are the most powerful. Many thanks to those of you who have already sent in your comments and shared them with us.

Please visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/actionalerts.html for details of the plan and the ugly realities of bison quarantine.

You may also email Josh at bfc-advocate"at"wildrockies.org for more information.
* A Beautiful Letter from a BFC Volunteer
Greetings from the desert, my beautiful buffalo people!

While I read of -45 temperatures and cutting winds, I walk outside in a T-shirt. I mention this not to incite envy, but to let you all know that I think of you often... My life and my journey has taken me far... far away from the achingly clear and calm -40 mornings and the brilliant bluebird, sun-warming-your-face afternoons of Montana. Still, I see some continuity.

Sometimes I will gaze across the endless creosote brush scrublands, and the near-monoculture growth of creosote reminds me of the noble and endless lodge pole pines. I'll watch a red-tail swooping down to catch a kangaroo rat, and I'll think of the bald eagles nesting on the shores of Hebgen Lake. I'll take in a rugged mountain view from my tent door as I go to sleep, and I remember peeling garlic on the cabin porch gazing across to Coffin Ridge, and the rest of the Mountains. But most of all, the work that I do now is largely to protect the Mojave desert tortoise (gophenus agasizzi). And when I see one of these wise ancients, strolling across the road; caring none for the works of man but only to continue living his/her life in the way they have for thousands of years ... I am reminded of the noble Buffalo. I am reminded of long mornings or afternoons sitting with some of the best damn people I've ever met, grateful to be so privileged as to be in the presence of the buffalo. Thank you for your dedication, thank you for your tireless efforts, thank you for standing with the buffalo. I hope... no, I am sure! that one day my path will take me back your way. Hopefully by then, the buffalo can choose their own path, too. 

Peace and Love,
Patrick Donnelly.
(Thank you, Patrick! We miss you! We are grateful for the work you're doing to protect the Desert Tortoise, and we patiently await your return to the land of the wild buffalo. ~ BFC)
* Last Words
"I believe it was James Thurber who, in one of his essays, took issue with the practice of projecting onto animals the most undesirable of human characteristics. However unfair it may be to animals, it is at least a convenient way of trying to understand our fallibility... what's the difference between a cow and a buffalo? Apparently when it rains and the wind blows, cattle will turn their backs to the storm. Horses will also do the same. The proud buffalo, on the other hand never turns its back and always faces the troubles head on. And how about us, are we like the cow or the buffalo?

There's so much escapism in our culture nowadays, so much evasion of personal responsibility. How rare is it for anyone to step forward in any quarter and say "Yes, yes. I'm at fault. I was wrong, and I will be held accountable." A buffalo never turns its back, but always faces trouble head on. We need more buffaloes and fewer [cows] those who simply run away whenever there's trouble. My hero is the buffalo."
~Reverend Charles Harper

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