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Weekly Update from the Field March 2, 2006
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* Update from the Field
* Contact Governor Schweitzer About Migration Road Signs
* You Choose! Your Decisions Affect the Fate of the Wild Buffalo
* BFC One of a Kind Art Auction - Bidding Starts Today!
* Work in Yellowstone this Summer -- BFC has Openings starting June 1
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
After so many intense weeks of wild buffalo slaughter, with nearly 1,000 lost to us forever, there is an eerie quality to the government's recent inaction. This week there have been no management-initiated captures or slaughter. Things have been relatively quiet for both wild buffalo and BFC volunteers. But, like a calm before a storm, it carries an uneasy feeling.

Yellowstone National Park wranglers in Gardiner have been harassing wild buffalo on a consistent basis, hazing them off of land that for ten millennia has been part of the wild buffalo landscape. One private landowner - the Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) - owns less than 150 cattle that graze freely in a valley critical for wildlife forage and movement. This church claims to be "one" with all Life, claims to be part of the Great Mystery, yet the slaughter of wild buffalo seems to sit well with them. In fact, they demand it. Their frequent calls to the Park Service, urging them to "deal" with America's last wild buffalo that are on "their" land have caused great and shameful slaughter. What if god is a Buffalo? Surely, one form the Creator takes is that of buffalo. Yet, in contrast to their chanted "truths," CUT allows their cattle to wander, defiling the Yellowstone River, mocking the wild buffalo and giving the Park Service "reason" for their slaughter and imprisonment. Just across the street from where CUT cattle graze, 100 wild buffalo calves whose mothers and relatives have been slaughtered, are caged and tagged, forced into an existence of humiliating domestication.

Following their natural instinct to migrate, the nomadic buffalo are constantly punished for doing what Nature created them to do. One, two, three strikes and a buffalo is "out'; deemed "unhazable" and can be shot or captured and sent to slaughter. Even the Park Service, an agency sworn to protect wild species, disrespects the wild nature of buffalo. Expecting them to adhere to man-made demands falls into the category of domestication. "Unhazeable" is indeed admirable, but unfortunately it can mean death as the current tally of 849 slaughtered buffalo are testament to. This is what it looks like when you give ignorance power.

In West Yellowstone warmer temperatures have brought wet snow, rain, and a slushy landscape. Should a cold snap come again, freezing could spell serious trouble for our gentle, grazing friends, like it did during the winter of 1996-1997. The buffalo depend on their awesome strength to move snow with their massive heads, enabled by the pronounced hump muscles atop their shoulders. Cratering, as it's called, is difficult enough and would become impossible through solid ice, making a mass exodus to snow-less grasses imminent. But, for now, a taste of Spring is in the air. Seasonal migrations along the Park's western boundary are heavily increasing. An awesome event to celebrate, but the dangers of the highway and looming "management" make it bittersweet at best.

BFC field patrols are very busy warning motorists of the presence of wild buffalo along highways 191 and 287, routes that dissect and interfere with critical wildlife migration. BFC patrols are basically doing the job of the local law enforcement who choose to ignore the buffalo's massive presence. Warning traffic can be a dangerous job for our patrols, but it must be done. It was extremely poor planning to place a major, commercially used, high-speed thoroughfare through the heart of a passage critical to our wild relatives. BFC is here for the safety of the wild buffalo and the safety of motorists. Buffalo are huge and have little respect for vehicles; they also have the awesome ability to make quite an effective roadblock. Knowing the dangers of highways to wildlife, one can't help but admire the buffalo's ability to do this. Yet some do so at their peril.

Last Spring, after losing more than 20 wild buffalo to auto collisions, BFC submitted a request to the Governor and Department of Transportation, asking for warning signs and a reduced speed limit. It only made sense - even if you look at it from the totally human aspect of personal safety. We thought we were heard; at the start of Montana's hunt (long before mass-migration began), the state set up two electronic road signs in the West Yellowstone area, on the north and south ends of 191, north of Duck Creek and south of the Madison River. These huge signs helped to warn motorists that a wildlife migration was in progress. The speed limit was also lowered from 70 mph to 55 mph. The signs and reduced speed certainly helped raise awareness of the presence of wildlife and calmed speed on the road. Especially the semis; highway 191 is largely used by tourists to Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin National Forest, locals and giant semis. Semis need to have fair warning, so these signs were especially helpful to them. But, just as the heavy migration is about to begin, the signs were inexplicably removed this week and the speed limit is back up.

We have to wonder: were the migration signs placed as a feel-good gesture by the State to make their hunt seem less insulting? By what "logic" do they justify removing these signs and raising the speed at the exact moment the mass-migration is beginning? It's a no-brainer: the buffalo are migrating and traffic must be warned. Further, it's a critical corridor for many wild animals and the speed should be reduced and traffic warned. When the DOL resumes their massive hazing operations, buffalo road crossings will increase at an unnecessary rate (buffalo that crossed safely will be pushed back towards the Park and forced to cross roads again and again) and traffic nightmares will be common.

BFC patrols will continue to do what we can to help the buffalo cross safely, and help motorists avoid collisions with them. It is the responsibility of the State to do this, and much more needs to be done. For the buffalo, the highway is a walkway, a dangerous path of least resistance that landed in the midst of their ancient route. Should a serious accident occur, the state might be held accountable since they removed all warning of the presence of buffalo. For the buffalo, it's yet one more challenge of living in an ever-expanding human-dominated world and it is man's responsibility to learn to coexist, which requires patience and admiration for life's awesome events.
With the Buffalo,
~Stephany
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* Contact Governor Schweitzer About Migration Road Signs
Please contact Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and ask him why the migration warning signs were removed and why the speed limit was increased. Millions visit Yellowstone via this corridor each year, and someone you know might be in danger. Tell him that the timing of this action is detrimental to the lives of tourists, locals and commercial vehicles. Even if they want to ignore the buffalo, they should take care not to ignore the people who use that stretch of highway. Urge Schweitzer's office to work with the Department of Transportation and make the highways - specifically highway. 191 - permanently safer. Urge him to immediately replace the warning signs and reduce the speed limit once again.
Govern Brian Schweitzer
406-444-3111
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* You Choose! Your Decisions Affect the Fate of the Wild Buffalo
The cattle industry is one of the most powerful in America, a country that prides itself on economics and is willing to do anything to maintain the Empire's economic stability. The greedy search for the all-mighty dollar manifests itself in the destruction of our Mother Earth. The 19th Century buffalo slaughter was in part undertaken to clear the land for fattening cattle. How and where we choose to spend our dollars can make or break this chain of destruction. The Buffalo Field Campaign strongly advocates a Boycott of beef products, because buffalo are refused access to their native habitat, harassed and slaughtered so the cattle industry may thrive. In truth, the cattle industry locks up our public lands, destroys watersheds, wages war on wildlife, ruins sensitive landscapes, and sells a dangerous product.

BFC board member Scott Frazier asks that we consider the wild buffalo, honor the sacred and choose responsibly. He eloquently asks that we respect the lives of the sacred buffalo by refraining from choosing Montana beef.
In his own words: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/artthoughts/ehnamani.html
For more information about BFC's Boycott of the Beef/Cattle industry visit:
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/boycott.html
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* BFC One of a Kind Art Auction - Bidding Starts Today!
This one of a kind gourd bowl was created by me, Melanie Kelley. When I started it I fully intended to create a piece that was simply to show off my talents. It was never my intention to try to sell it. I needed a show-stopper in my booth. I needed a piece to enter into the many contests that occur in the art shows that I do. The kind of piece that folks would simply marvel at but never purchase. It did it's job very well and I won several awards with it. Now, it is time to put it to better use.... to help save our beloved Yellowstone buffalo.

Auction begins today, March 2, 5 PM EST.
To view a picture, read more about the piece, and learn how to place a bid:
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/bisonmerchandise/bisonart022306.html
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* Work in Yellowstone this Summer -- BFC has Openings starting June 1
Every summer, BFC volunteers spend days in Yellowstone, sharing buffalo stories, news, and information with thousands of park visitors. Many of these visitors have no idea of the fate befalling the buffalo every winter and spring.
Join us in one of the continents most beautiful spots and help stop the slaughter of the Yellowstone buffalo. Summer volunteers receive room, board, and a small stipend. For more information, write to: buffaloatwildrockies.org
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* Last Words
The snow, once white, is yet again red with blood. I am here to speak for the thousand who have passed over to the spirit world and also those yet in danger. I have come to demand the stop of the genocide against my relatives of the Tatanka Oyate, Buffalo Nation.
Gerald Millard, Lakota, March 1997

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