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Weekly Update from the Field March 16, 2006
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* Update from the Field
* Speed Kills - Help Protect Buffalo on the Road
* BFC Heads to D.C.! Presentation at Patagonia this Saturday!
* Last Words - Governor Brian Schweitzer

* Update from the Field
Listening to the radio in our media cabin right now, I hear our field patrols communicate as they document a DOL hazing operation; the agents have harassed the few buffalo that remained along Hebgen Lake. For over two months we were graced with upwards of forty-five beautiful buffalo there, completing the landscape with their round, dark shapes silhouetted in the snowy distance. Every day we would admire these buffalo, smiling as we saw them, yet we knew the DOL wouldn't let them stay. Not because they were hurting anything, but simply because they are buffalo. A DOL cowboy's prejudice runs deep. Yesterday, thirty-three of our friends were sent to slaughter by the DOL. So much for Governor Schweitzer's "tolerance." The talk of politicians is the cheapest of all. 

A mixed group of pregnant mamas, calves, yearlings and young bulls and cows, these are the very same buffalo that the DOL ran through the ice in January, when twelve fell through into frigid water and two drowned. Strong survivors, ten miraculously lived after being submerged for three hours. Since that awful day, the buffalo held their composure and quietly remained along the lakeshore, sustaining themselves on what little grass they could find, just trying to survive until Spring. Frustrated with their gentle presence, last week the DOL made a half-hearted attempt to haze these buffalo. Yet, they never really gave it that good ol' cowboy try. Fearing a repeat of the ice incident, they abandoned two operations without much effort and quickly deemed the buffalo "unhazable." 

On Tuesday, the DOL set up shop on private land near the Hebgen Lake buffalo. They plowed and tore up the earth, creating snowbanks that would lead to their portable, make-shift bison trap. Field patrols enjoyed some comical relief as the DOL managed to get a gigantic snow-blower stuck, scattering the buffalo they were aiming to capture. But the agents would have their way. Late that afternoon, after constructing a makeshift portable trap, they set out on snowmobiles and began to harass the wild buffalo. They surrounded them, hooting and hollering - loud and obnoxious. The frightened buffalo tried to dodge the machines, but the agents were determined. It's amazing with the DOL's carelessness and disregard of the buffalo's wild nature that no agents have been gored. The buffalo, strong wild spirits, gave the agents a very difficult time. Eleven buffalo managed to escape capture that day. But thirty-three of our friends were trapped, loaded onto livestock trailers and trucked to the Duck Creek Capture Facility where they spent the night in cold confinement. Early the next morning they were shipped to slaughter. They were never even tested for brucellosis antibodies. There are no cattle within forty miles of West Yellowstone.

View this week's footage and read yesterday's press release: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org

Today, as this is being written, ten of the lake buffalo are being hazed by agents on snowmobiles and ATVs, down highway 287 back to the Yellowstone border. Another female buffalo bedded down in the road during the DOL's haze. A FWP agent approached her and tried to get her to move. She wouldn't budge. Likely, she's one of the survivors of January's ice incident and had been surviving well enough until the DOL's recent hazing activities. After the agent concluded that she was in extremely bad shape, he shot her. Her body, instead of nourishing waking grizzly bears, has been transported to the local dump.

It's time to put a little more pressure on Governor Schweitzer (406-444-3111). In fact, he needs to hear from you on a couple of things like road crossings (see below) and tolerance. Last week he was interviewed on Yellowstone Public Radio (see "Last Words") and spoke about more tolerance for buffalo, but in the same breath he defined new "drop dead zones." Evidently, Montana needs to look up the definition of "tolerance." And, why, when Schweitzer has said there shouldn't be any capture or slaughter along Yellowstone's western boundary, were thirty-three wild buffalo killed yesterday by Montana?

Meanwhile, in Gardiner, the Park Service wranglers haze the buffalo nearly every day of the week. Thanks to the Church Universal & Triumphant, who took $13 million from U.S. taxpayers under the assumption that wild buffalo would be allowed to roam the land. Unfortunately, the land deal was never finalized and wild buffalo continue to be hazed, captured and slaughtered for merely approaching that land. Domestic cows roam free in and around the Yellowstone River while America's last wild buffalo are harassed, killed, and quarantined by the Park Service. Incidentally, Yellowstone officials slaughtered more wild buffalo in January and February than at any other time in their history. Yellowstone rangers don't deserve to wear the buffalo on their badges as they dishonor this American icon through constant harassment, confinement, and slaughter.

BFC patrols are working hard to document actions against the buffalo and to warn traffic that the buffalo's migration is in progress. We need your help to hold responsible agencies accountable and to advocate for the remaining wild buffalo's lasting protection.
With the Buffalo,
* Speed Kills - Help Protect Buffalo on the Road
Highway 191 is a north/south route that dissects three major wildlife migration corridors, paths that follow Duck Creek, Cougar Creek and the Madison River. The road cuts through Gallatin National Forest just a couple miles from Yellowstone National Park and serves as a major, high-speed thoroughfare for commercial vehicles and tourists. But wild buffalo who have been walking this land for thousands of years use the road as an easy pathway enabling them to travel from point A to point B without the challenge of deep snow. They also like the grass they find on the side of the road exposed by the snow plows. With heavy traffic speeding through, it's a dangerous recipe for disaster. During the buffalo's Spring migration, which is just beginning, BFC patrols are busy well into the night warning traffic of the presence of buffalo on the road. Most local law enforcement ignore the dangers and leave the job to us. Accidents are sometimes barely averted, but thanks to the presence of our patrols, many buffalo lives - and the lives of unwary travelers - are saved. Unfortunately, the presence of BFC isn't enough.

On Monday night, our patrols were out helping warn traffic of buffalo on highway 191. A group of eight buffalo were on the road. Unfortunately, a van that wasn't aware of our patrols or the buffalo came speeding through and three bison calves were struck. The calves were seriously injured. A Park Ranger that had been helping our patrols warn traffic that night, put an end to the baby buffalos' misery with gunshots. Needless to say, patrols came home shaken and sad, determined to help do more to raise awareness on the road. Last night, a bull bison was struck and killed by a speeding semi on 191. One of our board members spotted him on her way home and saw the semi coming. She tried to warn the truck of the buffalo's presence, but the truck ignored the signals and struck the buffalo dead.

A long-time local supporter, barb, has been hard at work contacting the powers that be to help change these road conditions, and we need the help of all buffalo friends in this effort. Her call to action is below:

For the past two weeks I have been in touch with the Montana Department of Transportation (DOT), the governor's office and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) regarding the need for warning signs and lowering of speed limit on 191 from the north end of town to the Fir Ridge Cemetery hill.

During the bison hunt the speed limit was 55mph and there were warning signs in place. When the hunt ended, the signs were taken down and the speed limit was raised to 70mph. The editor of our local newspaper, West Yellowstone News, who travels this road twice a day, called Jim Lynch, Director of MT DOT as to why this occurred; he was told by Lynch that they took down the signs and returned to state speed limit of 70mph because "the major bison migration ended in February". Major bison migration occurs NOW in March, April and May as bison travel to Horse Butte, their traditional calving grounds west of the park.

On the sign issue there was immediate response and blinking signs warning BISON ON ROAD were up within hours ... unfortunately, the state only had two signs so there is no sign at the 191/287 intersection or southbound lane just before the Madison River hill where a majority of buffalo cross. It seems like we only have million$ of dollars to haze, capture and $laughter. Joining in the effort for signs and lowering the speed limit has been Pat Flowers, FWP region 3 supervisor. The governor's office is suggesting we need to have permanent warning signs, a good idea that will take time to implement.

We need to bombard the following people with emails and let all these people know that we are concerned that not only will buffalo be killed but we have a potential catastrophe with a person being killed. I hate to think that it will have to come to that in order for change to occur. Please contact the following decision-makers and urge them to make the highways safer for wildlife and travellers.

* Jim Lynch jilynch@mt.gov -- he has the power to lower the speed limit and has not yet responded to our demands

* Hal Harper hharper@mt.gov -- the governor's chief policy aide ... the governor's office is Jim Lynch's employer and we must demand that they do something to get their employee to lower the speed limit

* Pat Flowers pflowers@mt.gov -- thank Pat for his department's efforts in getting the signs up and his efforts to lower the speed limit

for the WILD ones,
barb abramo
* BFC Heads to D.C.! Presentation at Patagonia this Saturday!
BFC's Josh Osher will be in Washington D.C. next week to talk to members of Congress about H.R. 2428, the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act. He'll also be at the Georgetown Patagonia store this Saturday, sharing video footage, discussing the plight of Yellowstone's wild buffalo, and letting folks know how to stop the senseless killing of these magnificent icons of the American west.

Free event.
WHEN: Saturday, March 18th, 2006 at 2:00 PM
WHERE: Georgetown Patagonia, 1048 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington DC

BFC will also host a table starting at 10 a.m., this Saturday, just a few hours before the presentation in conjunction with Patagonia's support for the Georgetown C&O Canal Clean-up. Chat and learn, pick up a newsletter. Buffalo Field Campaign tee shirts available for sale to support the Buffalo. Find out how you can help. Donations are also gratefully accepted.

Many huge thanks to Patagonia for being such a courageous voice for the last wild buffalo and strong supporter of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

For more information call Patagonia at 202-333-1776.

Learn more about H.R. 2428 at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/legislative/buffalopreservation.html and please contact your House and Senate members, urging their sponsorship of this critical legislation:
* Last Words
Governor Brian Schweitzer responds to a listerner's concerns about the treatment of Yellowstone's bison:
"Wyoming and Idaho have already lost their brucellosis-free status, and it wasn't even because of bison, it was because of elk. Here's our dilemma in Montana: That a small number of cattle that are in the West Yellowstone area [only true from June to October, when bison are in the Park] and in the Gardiner area. Bison move out of the Park. There's no fence there and there will not be a fence. We can't stop the bison from moving out of the Park when the snow is deep. They come out and for the last number of years the management technique has been to haze them back into the park or round them up and slaughter them. Now, it makes sense to me that we have to have a situation where cattle and bison are not co-located in the same area. If we do not have bison co-located with cattle, we have a zero chance of brucellosis transmission.... What are the steps that we need to take? There are a small number of private cattle operators in that area...we would like to raise private and public money... why don't we find a way of buying easements on those small pieces of property in those contained basins and remove the cattle? We would pay these (livestock) operators a large sum of money. Remove the possibility of any transmission. Then we allow the bison to range a little further out of the Park but we create a zone they can be within... if they get to Hebgen Lake or the dam, that's it, that's as far as they can go. We will not allow bison to go beyond that. It would be literally a "drop dead zone." The same is true, for example, if they were to move up towards the Gallatin River. There would be a drop dead zone there as well and over in the Gardiner area, maybe Yankee Jim Canyon or something like that. You know, in Northern Alberta they have the woods bison herd... about forty percent of them have brucellosis. They manage them by letting them wander over a larger area. But there is a place at which if anybody in Alberta sees one of those bison, they can shoot them on site twelve months of the year."

This is from an interview aired on Yellowstone Public Radio, March 9, 2006. To listen to the entire interview (with more bison comments from Governor Schweitzer) visit http://www.yellowstonepublicradio.org.

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