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Weekly Update from the Field December 29, 2005
* Update from the Field
* Volunteers Needed
* Important Actions to Take for the Buffalo
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Friends of the Buffalo,
The days between Christmas and New Years have provided a welcome respite on the Yellowstone border. Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) patrols continue to rise before the sun to stand with the buffalo, and we've been basking in the quiet time spent in their presence.
On Sunday morning, my birthday, Stephany and I woke at 5:30, ate a hearty potato breakfast, and headed into the field. The previous afternoon's patrol had alerted us to the location of a group of five bulls and we made our way to them as the day dawned. A cottony blanket of mist clung to the Madison River and Hebgen Lake, cutting visibility to a dozen yards or so.

We decided to climb to the top of Horse Butte, hoping to lift ourselves above the fog. We reached the top and our breath was taken away, as much from the spectacular view as from the strenuous climb. Up on top the day was clear, and the snow-covered peaks of the Madison Range rose like craggy islands from the fog. We followed the ridge for a few miles, walking in the footsteps of a bison herd that had passed the same way a few days earlier.

The mist lifted in layers, periodically removing the mountains and placing us in a dream-like world and blurring the shapes of nearby trees, rock outcroppings, and one another. Then, just as suddenly, the mist would dissolve, the sky would become blue again, and the view would be restored. We followed in the tracks of buffalo along the ridge and finally down, off the Butte and back into the thick fog at the valley's bottom. As we neared the flats below, vague forms took shape. As we drew closer these forms crystallized into five magnificent bulls, each weighing nearly a ton and standing six feet tall at the hump.

We found a spot of bare ground under the boughs of a large Douglas Fir, and watched the buffalo as we snacked on peanut butter sandwiches. With so much recent killing it was a true gift to sit and watch, without fear, as the buffalo grazed in peace on their native ground. Now and then two of the bulls would take a break from grass munching to gently spar, locking horns and pushing one another about. As we sat under our tree watching all in the world seemed right.
It has been nearly two weeks since the last buffalo was killed and we haven't seen hunters in quite some time. But we know at least two Montanans have yet to fill their buffalo hunting tags, and they are likely to do so before the first season ends on January 15. The second season, running from January 16 to February 15, is set to result in 25 more buffalo being needlessly killed.

At mid-day the afternoon patrol came out to take our place and we hiked our way out along the base of the butte. On the way we came across a stark reminder of things to come. The site of the Horse Butte bison trap, where over the years we've witnessed the capture and shipment to slaughter of hundreds of buffalo, had been recently plowed by the Montana Department of Livestock. The trap site, located on national forest lands belonging to all Americans, was surrounded by orange-painted stakes indicating "no trespassing."

The current so-called hunt is being touted by Montana as a first step in allowing greater tolerance for buffalo in the state. Don't be fooled. Last year at this time two buffalo had been killed. Under Montana's new "tolerance" we've already seen 19 killed this year. And the plowing of the trap site attests to the fact that the Department of Livestock still calls the shots when it comes to bison in Montana. The hunt is just another means of killing buffalo. After it is over the all too familiar hazing, capturing, slaughtering, quarantining and shooting of any bison remaining in Montana will resume.

We are making the most of the relative peace of the Holidays. When not out with the buffalo our volunteers and coordinators are busy preparing for a long and difficult winter and spring.
Thanks to everyone who has been sending gear, food, supplies, and donations. The Buffalo Field Campaign is everyone, everywhere, who cares about the Yellowstone buffalo and takes action on their behalf. You make it possible for us to be here with the buffalo and to share their story with the world.

For the Buffalo,
Dan Brister
Project Director
Buffalo Field Campaign
* Volunteers Needed!
Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field every day in defense of the last wild buffalo. BFC volunteers stand with the buffalo from sunrise to sunset, documenting all actions taken against them and advocating for their lasting protection. We are the eyes and ears of the world on this issue, and we need wild buffalo champions to join us on the front lines here in Montana. We are currently running two camps; one in Gardiner and one in West Yellowstone. Take a chance to surround yourself in the majesty of Montana's wildness and help us document the atrocious actions taken against the sacred buffalo. Take action in person where the last migrating herd chooses to roam. Tell their story, raise awareness, defend their right to exist in freedom and help change the status quo. BFC provides room, board, and gear to anyone who will stand in defense of these gentle, shaggy giants.

For more information about becoming a BFC volunteer, please contact Ryan at buffaloatwildrockies.org or call him at 406-646-0070, or visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/volunteeringatcamp.html to learn more.
We look forward to your arrival!
* Important Actions to Take for the Buffalo
Please be a voice for the mighty bison! Below are three critical actions you can take that will make a huge difference for our buffalo brothers and sisters. It is up to ourselves alone to champion their freedom, their wildness, their right to exist and be buffalo! Your voice DOES count, and if we don't take action, who will? Please take a moment to rise up and advocate for the last wild buffalo! Thank you!

1. Comment on Bison Quarantine Plan
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is accepting your comments 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 all for the sake of scientific experiment. In the end, the majority of the young bison will be slaughtered.
Comments are being accepted through January 13, 2006.

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.

2. Continuously Apply Pressure to Governor Brian Schweitzer
As the saying goes, "it ain't over until it's over." Until the slaughter of America's last wild bison is over, until the only migrating herd left in the country is free to roam unmolested, until Montana respects buffalo as a native wildlife species, and until livestock interests are stripped of management authority over bison, Montana's governor must keep hearing from us all. You are being heard, but please keep the pressure on - write, call, fax, visit - until the buffalo roam their native lands once again.
Governor Brian Schweitzer
State Capitol, P.O. Box 200801
Helena, Montana 59620-0801
Phone: 406-444-3111
Fax: 406-444-5529
Web:  http://governor.mt.gov/contact/comments.asp

3. Write a Letter to the Editor

Did you know that many people aren't aware that wild bison still exist in America, much less realize the tragic truth about what is happening to them when they enter Montana's killing fields? Government agencies are suppressing wild bison migration and are party to bison slaughter all in an effort to appease livestock interests. Using scare tactics and unsound science, the government misleads the public, attempting to make people belive that the Yellowstone bison herd is "overpopulated" and "diseased." The truth is, wild bison are endangered; cattle have overrun the country, taking over the buffalo's native range, and they threaten our native wildlife with disease and starvation. You can help get the story of the last wild buffalo out into your community and beyond by writing a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper(s). The editorial page is the most widely read section of the paper and it's a great way to reach thousands - sometimes even millions - of hearts and minds. Please write a letter to the editor to help educate and empower citizens nation-wide about what's happening to the country's last wild buffalo.

Suggested national and Montana papers to write to, including contact information and writing tips, can be found at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/lte.html.
Please email a copy to bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org.

Thank you for taking action for the country's last wild buffalo! Save the herd ~ spread the word!
* Last Words
Tree of Life, for the Winter Solstice
In death we are where the fallen bison
lies, his fellows gathered--watchers, helpless helpers,
sentinel, remembering after time his bones,
as elephants do.
Grief is the teacher,
the final tree whose roots entwine our blood.
It grows at the stone of our mothers and fathers--
call them, they are within.
We did not come to life alone,
neither will we come alone to death.
Thus we are made. Only the gates narrow--
metaphor the body takes and goes its way.
~ Carol Snyder Halberstadt, BFC Supporter

Carol said that this beautiful and dark poem was inspired after watching BFC's footage of Montana's illegitimate bison hunt. Thank you, Carol, for your words and continued support!

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