Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
BFC's ninth season in the field with the last wild buffalo
comes to a close. The recent days have been bittersweet
with the parting of ways. Volunteers set out for their
summer adventures and the buffalo return to the summer
grasses of Yellowstone. The absence weighs heavy, yet
the parting is undertaken knowing the buffalo and their
defenders will be together again. Those who remain at
Camp will be with the buffalo inside Yellowstone, talking
to millions of park visitors about what has happened
here. It has been an intense year, to say the least.
And positive change is on the horizon. Your persistent,
strong voice and support of BFC and love for the buffalo
is the reason.
As if to set the example that things must get worse
before they get better, this season was the most deadly
for the wild buffalo since 1996-1997. Montana's first
bison hunt in 15 years manifested itself in the deaths
of 40 wild buffalo, all huge "trophy" bulls
and one female. Through the hunt, one thing the buffalo
taught us is how they mourn the loss of their fallen
relatives. Of course they do. Outside of the hunt, more
than 900 wild buffalo lost their lives, unnecessarily
and unjustly, to state and federal "management"
actions. The most notable, shameful killer this year
was Yellowstone National Park. Of course, the Montana
Department of Livestock (DOL) deepened the color of
their buffalo-blood-stained hands, yet parceled out
much of the dirty-work to Yellowstone and hunters. The
DOL's cruelty was acutely demonstrated this year when
they caused 12 buffalo to fall through the ice of Hebgen
Lake, drowning two. Those images still burn hotly in
our minds, and also, thankfully, in the minds of millions
across the country. (You, beloved supporter, enabled
us to be here to tell these stories.) Wild buffalo calves,
nearly 100 of them, were stolen from their mothers and
family (who were sent to slaughter). These calves are
being held in a prison, just a few miles from Yellowstone
National Park, for a government experiment. They wear
yellow ear-tags, eat hay, are handled and tested, and
eventually more than half will be slaughtered.
It's hard to see the good news in light of the buffalo's
extreme suffering this year, but truthfully, we have
made some incredible progress...
This year we witnessed the magic of wild buffalo attempting
to re-inhabit the Madison Valley, a vast and grassy
land on which their ancestors thrived. Had they been
left alone it would have been a prime example of natural
buffalo restoration without intrusive government "aid."
Four groups of buffalo migrated west, past our cabin,
and though the DOL hazed, captured, slaughtered, and
shot them for doing so, their trek showed us how - if
we humans aim to aid buffalo restoration efforts - we
must step aside and let the wild buffalo take the lead.
Due to constant pressure from wild buffalo advocates,
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is currently working
to buy out the grazing leases from a handful of private
ranchers along Yellowstone's northern and western boundaries,
to allow more habitat for wild buffalo. For the first
time in recent history, wild buffalo were allowed to
exist in peace on the Horse Butte Peninsula for most
of the winter. For the second year in a row, the Horse
Butte bison trap was not constructed. Setting himself
apart from Montana Governors of the past, Governor Schweitzer
ordered the DOL to release one group of captured buffalo
that the agency intended to send to slaughter. BFC and
local residents were instrumental in the placement of
buffalo warning signs and lowered speed limits (from
70mph to 55mph) along two stretches of highway (191
& 287) that run through the buffalo's habitat. A
core group of volunteers also became certified to help
warn motorists of the presence of buffalo on the road
and local residents are taking a stronger, more vocal
stand for the wild buffalo and opposing government actions
This year the buffalo's story received extensive media
coverage, with front page coverage in the New York Times,
the Earth First! Journal, High Country News, and other
widely-read publications. Some Montana papers, notably
the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, called the government on
their inconsistencies regarding brucellosis and their
singling out of wild bison. Native American support
is also building. Scott Fraizer, a BFC board member,
initiated a Boycott of Montana beef; Rosalie Little
Thunder, one of BFC's co-founders, returned to the Yellowstone
region to visit her relatives and rekindle fires of
action. Injustice to the buffalo even sparked the Nez
Perce Nation to exercise their 1855 treaty rights, letting
Montana know that the buffalo are not theirs to torture.
The Buffalo Nations are rising!
We certainly still have a long way to go. Just this
morning, the DOL, riding ATVs, hazed a lone bull (posing
no risk of brucellosis transmission!) out of Montana,
back into Yellowstone. The country's last wild buffalo
continue to be harassed and killed for simply being
wild and free. These buffalo are our friends, our family,
our teachers. They have lived here longer than any of
us and they have the natural right to walk the land
they choose - freely - just as their ancestors did.
They deserve our honor, love, respect, and protection.
Those in control may still maintain "power,"
but the mindset is changing and the excuses of brucellosis
are running thin. The time of the DOL cowboy is running
out; the return of the wild buffalo is coming.
We are so grateful to you for being with us every step
of the way. You make it possible for us to watch over
the buffalo. It is because of you that volunteers are
able to be here, to give their all, standing with the
buffalo, telling their story, documenting and challenging
their persecution and advocating for their lasting protection.
Thank you. With the deepest, heartfelt gratitude &
tons of BuffaLove...
P.S. Thank you to everyone who wrote MT Fish, Wildlife
& Parks' Pat Flowers about Montana's upcoming bison
hunt. The email address sent out is correct; his mailbox
was just full. Until further notice, please continue
to send your comments regarding next year's hunt to
* Our Sweet Willow Lives! ~ Thank You for Your
Friends, family & loved ones,
We extend our deepest thanks for your love and support.
The path we are traveling is long and hard but as always
if you keep your eyes and heart open - there is always
beauty to be seen. Our greatest blessing at this time
is life - our sweet Willow lives. She is strong and
her vitality shines brightly. Each breath she takes
in today is by herself. Miracles manifest daily in small
ways. Your love, prayers and support have created a
sacred healing cradle which allows us to focus on the
hour by hour challenges. The strength of community and
love are being affirmed. You are all so precious and
we give thanks for such blessings. The key is - Willow
is here with us and on her healing path, breath by breath.
We will keep you updated and please - live, laugh and
love those around you as our sweet Willow always has
With deepest gratitude,
Su Gregerson & Jim Coefield
P.S. Please keep the great surgeons, specialists,
nurses, LifeFlight crew and staff at St. Patrick's trauma
center (reknowned as one of the best in the Northwest)
in your prayers also - these folks are amazing and...
true healers. Willow is but one of so many folks who
are injured and they have shined like bright rays of
sunshine & through our tears of initially, sadness
and now joy - rainbows form in our vision thanks to
A benefit fund to help the family with the medical bills
& other costs has been set up. You can mail checks
to: Benefit for Willow Coefield, Missoula Federal Credit
Union, 2001 Brooks St., Missoula, MT 59801. OR you can
wire money -- the Missoula Federal Credit Union's routing
number is: 292977899 and Willow's benefit account number
is 236030. If you have further questions on how to make
a contribution, please call the Missoula Federal Credit
Union at: (406) 523-3300.
You can also send mail to Jim Coefield PO Box 4784,
Missoula, MT 59806.
In addition, a benefit for the family is planned for
Saturday June 17 from Noon to 5PM at Kiwanis Park in
Missoula, Montana. This benefit is a family friendly,
no alcohol event with local Music, Food, Poetry, Stories,
and a Silent Auction. Donated Goods and Services are
needed for the Auction. To help with the benefit, contact:
Linda Tracy Turtle Majik Productions (406) 396-3584
* Tatanka 2006 ~ Benefit Concert this Saturday!
Join BFC for a rockin' benefit for the wild Buffalo
& Buffalo Field Campaign in Boise, Idaho with Built
to Spill, Travis Ward & Junkyard Bandstand, and
Bales of Hey this Saturday, June 3rd at the Big Easy
Concert House. Tickets are on sale now for just $15!
We'll see you there!
For more information and to order tickets please visit
Many thanks to Built to Spill and Ken Cole for making
this event possible!
* Summer Outreach Opportunities with BFC
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 Stephanie Munce at buffaloatwildrockies.org
or call 406-646-0070.
* This Summer, Don't Forget About the Buffalo
It's a beautiful Thursday morning here in West Yellowstone.
I look out across Hebgen Lake at the snowcapped mountains,
shining brilliantly white. I'm typing on a computer
in our ramshackle log cabin that we call an office.
The insides are covered with pictures of buffalo and
our library is full of books about them. Yes, it's cluttered
(partly my fault), but it's home. The same is true for
our main cabin, which is usually packed to the gills
with volunteers that have come to do their part in opposing
the buffalo slaughter. I say volunteers but really they
are my dearest friends; some of the most beautiful people
I've met in my 26 years of life.
I hear a radio transmission from one of our patrols
out in the field: a bull buffalo is being hazed by three
DOL agents on ATVs down Duck Creek Road. It saddens
me because this buffalo poses no threat to the sanctity
of the mighty cow, which seems to be revered above all
except money (and if we really want to face it, power
But, after watching two buffalo drown and 10 others
pulled out of the freezing water of Hebgen Lake by the
same people that caused them to break through the ice;
after watching 4 bull buffalo freedom fighters that
reached the Madison valley shot down and murdered; after
watching newborn buffalo calves running along with their
mothers and herd, chased by a helicopter for miles;
after almost a thousand buffalo (1,000!!!) were captured
and sent to slaughterhouses by an agency that purports
to serve the ecosystem of Yellowstone (the National
Park Service); after all of that, one buffalo being
hazed seems a little tame.
And that scares me.
Because it means that I'm becoming desensitized to the
horrors that this culture of control and destruction
is inflicting on the Earth and her children. And that's
how it's done.
It's okay if the polluters and destroyers (EXXON, Weyerhauser,
etc.) wreck most of our ecosystems over a long period
of time, leaving only bits and pieces to "conservation,"
just as long as it doesn't happen overnight. "There's
nothing to get upset about," they tell us. This
is Progress. Similarly, as long as the Department of
Livestock and the National Park Service don't kill all
the buffalo and the killing that does happen is kept
behind the locked doors of a slaughterhouse, well, that's
just the way things are. "Don't get upset, these
things don't concern you."
But the fact is that a couple hundred years ago, North
America was teeming with 30 to 60 million buffalo and
now, in 2006, a herd of their descendents can't even
peacefully live on this tiny patch of public land.
We can change this. If you are reading this you are
part of the extended buffalo family. We are all in this
together and we are all needed in the struggle for buffalo
freedom and freedom for all living things.
So this summer, don't forget about the buffalo. Talk
to everyone that you meet about this issue. Brainstorm
ways to bring about liberation for yourself and the
buffalo. This fall look for the West Coast and East
Coast (and maybe Midwest) Road shows. Maybe start your
own road show. Maybe start your own campaign. Hope and
dream of the open prairie full of native grasses and
native grass eaters that this land still remembers.
And humanity is a part of this dream. We just have to
figure out our place again.
~ Dru Dixon, BFC
* Last Words
8:45 am, great blue heron, less than 1/4 mile from the
9:06 am, immature bald eagle, flying east over open
9:15 am, great blue heron flying, eight white pelicans
floating, near Duck Blind
9:25 am, osprey, flying over land, then over open water
10:10 am, immature bald eagle, flying over open water
10:21 am, two sandhill cranes, flying over open water
10:34 am, two great blue herons, flying over open water
11:02 am, bald eagle, perched along bluffs, west of
11:30 am, immature bald eagle, flying over land then
11:45 am, great blue heron, flying over open water
12:00 pm, perched bald eagle takes off, heading west,
drops a gorgeous feather (we didn't touch it!)
~ From Charlie and Stephany's wildlife report, Tuesday,
patrolling the North Bluffs of the Madison River. This
is just a brief snapshot of the incredible variety of
wildlife that we see on a daily basis, in the land of
the last wild buffalo. Field patrols complete wildlife
reports for each shift, using the information to demonstrate
the ecological integrity - and sensitivity - of Yellowstone's
borderlands. When the buffalo are harassed, hundreds
of other wild species - many federally protected - suffer
with them. On the quiet days, we are in Paradise.