Update from the Field
There is an article in today's paper describing how
Wyoming's governor Dave Freudenthal refuses to close
the state's game farms and elk feeding program despite
the fact that such unnatural concentration of elk leads
to a significantly higher incidence of brucellosis and
other diseases in those elk. Brucellosis, it seems,
isn't the dreaded disease Montana officials would have
us believe it to be. Freudenthal's complacency with
brucellosis-infected elk flies in the face of neighboring
Montana's complete lack of tolerance for bison--an intolerance
on which brucellosis is blamed. Wyoming, who lost its
brucellosis free status a few years ago due to transmissions
from feed ground elk to domestic cattle, isn't suffering
the grave economic consequences that Montana State Vet
Tom Linfield likes to conjure when justifying the need
to slaughter buffalo for committing the crime of stepping
on Montana soil. Neither is Idaho, who also lost its
prized status because of elk.
If Wyoming were seriously concerned with regaining it's
brucellosis-free designation, if brucellosis were the
grave threat we are led to believe, wouldn't Freudenthal
take steps to address the largest reservoir of the disease
in the state? It is widely known that brucellosis is
a disease of stress and confinement, one that thrives
where wildlife is unnaturally concentrated, confined,
and stressed. Wyoming's refusal to address the root
of the problem and close the feedgrounds reveals the
fact that brucellosis is not such a grave concern.
So do the recent actions of Yellowstone National Park
officials. Since January, Yellowstone Superintendent
Suzanne Lewis has authorized the slaughter of nearly
900 bison. The overwhelming majority of these bison
were not tested for brucellosis, the supposed reason
for their slaughter. Another 300 bison were confined
for nearly a month at the start of birthing season and
artificially fed. If Yellowstone were trying to increase
the rate of brucellosis infection among these bison,
it could hardly have dreamed up better conditions for
it. By confining them for weeks on end at the time of
year when they give birth--and are therefore most infectious--Park
officials created ideal conditions for brucellosis to
thrive and spread and took from the buffalo some of
the wildness that makes them so special.
Yellowstone distributed a press release on Monday touting
the release of approximately 300 bison from the Stephens
Creek trap near Gardiner. Patting itself on the back
because it didn't slaughter every last buffalo within
its grasp, the Park Service missed the point. It is
not alright to treat America's only continuously wild
bison herd like so many domestic cattle. During their
month of hell in the trap two bison aborted their calves,
two other female bison died from causes the Park Service
has yet to make clear, and a yearling and a newborn
were euthanized. By playing God with the wild creatures
they are entrusted with protecting, Yellowstone officials
have revealed that they're more beholden to Montana's
livestock industry than they are to the American people.
While we are hopeful that things will quiet down on
the north side of Yellowstone as bison move deeper into
the park, we know they are about to heat up on the west
side. On the very day the 300 bison were released from
the trap, a group of seventy emerged from the park on
the Madison River. 300 to 500 more are not far behind
them. Last night after our nightly meeting we were thrilled
by the presence, in our front yard, of 30 buffalo. They
bedded down and spent the night, before waking this
morning and heading back in the direction of the park.
Unfortunately the DOL caught wind of their appearance
and proceeded to chase them back to the park, carelessly
enforcing Montana's zero tolerance. As we are every
day, BFC was there to document the operation. We caught
on video an agent aggressively hazing a young bison
into a high-tension wire fence. Sadly, such scenes have
become nearly commonplace.
The Buffalo Field Campaign is doing everything in our
power to make things better for the Yellowstone bison.
We will remain here with them, as we've been every day
for the past 9 years, witnessing firsthand every action
taken against them, sharing their story with the world,
and working with people to create greater tolerance
for these amazing creatures. We are everyone, everywhere,
who cares enough about the wild bison to take action
on their behalf. The buffalo deserve a better fate than
their current mistreatment. Please join us as we work
to build a better world for our relatives the buffalo.
* Right Now, I Will Bear My Heart
Looking back at my past three seasons working with the
Buffalo Field Campaign, I realized how much those who
advocate for the wild resort to learning the language
of the bureaucrats and the economists to save what they
love. If the forest is to be left uncut or the river
left undammed, the alternative must save money or have
some sort of benefit for humans. Then, and only then,
do the trees remain standing and the salmon swim upstream
Likewise, when people who fight for the buffalos' inherent
right to migrate towards greener grass try to convince
politicians and lobby groups, we are forced to communicate
with facts and statistics, bar graphs and spreadsheets.
We are forced to play the game.
There are many reasons why the buffalo pose an almost
non-existent threat to cattle in the areas west of the
park border and why they should have access to land
that elk and deer graze. They've all been brought up
before. I've seen friends talk until they are blue in
the face to those that persecute the buffalo and those
who have the power to save them. Maybe they don't listen,
or maybe it's still more profitable and politically
easy to kill buffalo.
So, right now, I will not continue to play their game
of numbers. Right now, I will bear my heart.
The buffalo that migrate out of Yellowstone National
Park deserve access to whatever lands they choose. Yes,
deserve. They are sentient beings, having thoughts and
feelings and dreams, having a language and friends and
a community. They were born with the same rights to
freedom and life that we were.
The buffalo mothers and their newborn calves are entitled
to rest and love, without being chased by wannabe cowboys
trying to protect cattle that aren't even here. I don't
care if the Cattlemen's Association is afraid of brucellosis.
Tell them to get rid of elk feed grounds. But leave
the elk alone too, or you might find me out there as
well with a video camera.
I don't care if a rancher has to pay more to transport
cattle in and out of the state. He's probably getting
a steal on his public property grazing allotment because
it's difficult to turn a profit ranching cattle in the
West. There's a clue: cattle don't belong in the West.
I don't care if the National Park Service is feeling
pressure from the cattle industry to "manage"
its wildlife. To NPS: you are in charge of a wonderful
and beautiful place. Do what you set out to do when
you applied for your job. And I don't care if this letter
ruffles a few feathers. Good. Time is running out to
save those last best and WILD places.
Right now, I will bear my heart, because, right now
dozens of buffalo are being hazed from the north shore
of the former Madison River by people who should not
be in charge of wildlife (if anyone should be). Dozens
of unique manifestations of the Earth are being forced
to waste energy just to placate a few humans with their
petty worries about numbers and how many they have in
a bank account. Dozens of beautiful shaggy animals who
have a right to exist beyond any value that humanity
can give them are being chased by cowboys who can't
even do their "job" without helicopters, ATVs,
snowmobiles and horses. And this is being done to protect
some politician's approval rating in the polls.
So right now I have a favor.
The next time you feel something, feel it. Don't apologize.
Don't rationalize. Feel it. And then DO something about
it. Talk about it. And if your only reason for wanting
more trees or salmon or seals or buffalo than there
were last year is because they are beautiful, then say
it. If your only reason for wanting less smokestacks
and nuclear power plants and oil spills is because they
are wrong, then THAT'S your rationalization. Go with
Okay, just one more favor: Come out to West Yellowstone
if you are able and care for the buffalo. You will never
feel more alive than when you are doing what you know
is right. You know that, you've felt it before. Think
back. It may have been a long time since you've said,
"no" when they've said "yes." But
What could 50 committed volunteers do over a weekend?
What could 100 do over a week? What if everyone who
ever felt that things weren't going the way they thought
they should be came down here and MADE A DIFFERENCE?
So call, email or write. We're here and we're waiting
for you. Let's get organized. Maybe this will be the
last year that the cowboys are in control. Maybe this
is the year of the buffalo.
~ Dru Dixon
BFC Office Coordinator
* Drumming A Sacred Circle For Life II - Saturday
in Livingston, MT
Join us in an Earth Day celebration this Saturday, April
22, from 12:00-4:30 pm as we gather in solidarity for
our wild brethren at the Park High School in Livingston,
Montana. We will share stories, inspire one another,
exchange information, and celebrate Mother Earth with
a focus on two of the Yellowstone region's most potent,
charismatic, spiritually intense and ecologically critical
gifts: wild buffalo and grizzly bears. For them, for
the sacred heartbeat and hoof-beat, we will drum drum
drum for life!
Guest speakers will include Buffalo Field Campaign,
Natural Resources Defense Council, and Lakota Elder
Gilbert Walking Bull from Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Bring drums, rattles, friends, children and positive
energy! Help us celebrate the Earth and All our Relations
in a heart-rhythm drum circle. Adults $5 donation; Youth
12 and up $2 donation. For more information call Monica
RavenHeart at 406-224-0262.
* Beautiful Handcrafted Mother's Day Cards Available
Mother's Day, May 14th, is just right around the corner.
Celebrate the nurturing women in your life and help
protect wild buffalo mothers by giving the gift of a
beautiful handcrafted Mother's Day card. All proceeds
go to the front lines work of the Buffalo Field Campaign,
the only group working in the field, every day, in defense
of America's last wild buffalo.
To place your Mother's Day card order visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/artthoughts/mothersday.html
* Summer Positions Open at BFC
As Yellowstone fills up with millions of visitors from
around the world who come each summer to admire the
splendor of the mighty buffalo and all the natural wonders
of our first national park, BFC is here to let them
know what the buffalo have suffered at the hands of
those mandated to protect them. Believe it or not, there
are people who actually believe the Park Service is
protecting the country's last wild buffalo! Therefore,
it is imperative that Park visitors understand the truth
of what the Park Service has been doing to the Yellowstone
buffalo to appease the desires of Montana's livestock
Buffalo Field Campaign has positions open for summer
tablers in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
from June 10 through September 5, 2006. We are looking
for 3-4 dedicated people who are well-versed on the
buffalo issue and enjoy talking to others about it.
You can help tell the buffalo's story and inspire action
from the millions who flock to the Parks to admire them.
If you've been wanting to experience the beauty of the
Yellowstone ecosystem and speak out for the buffalo,
we want to hear from you! Applicants should be hardworking,
outgoing, friendly folks who are comfortable camping
for up to five days at a time (in the parks - what a
dream!). A minimum commitment of one month is required
(and appreciated). BFC will provide a small stipend
as well as room and board.
Interested? Contact Dru at buffaloatwildrockies.org
or call 406-646-0070.
* Last Words
"If people were going to be angry with us, then
they would have been angry with us this year when we
sent 1,000 of them to slaughter."
~ Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer on April 13, 2006
as he explained his new ideas for bison management to
West Yellowstone area ranchers.
Read an article from 4/14/06 at http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2006/04/13/news/state/35-governor.txt.