Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
Thanks to everyone who forwarded us copies of the letter
and news article you received from Montana Governor
Brian Schweitzer regarding his buffer zone idea for
Montana lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park.
Apparently, Schweitzer sent this form letter and article
out to everyone who has contacted him via email regarding
the last wild buffalo. For those of you who may
not have seen the letter, a copy is pasted below.
BFC has been advocating for a buffer zone for many years.
We presented a buffer zone idea in our first meeting
with Governor Schweitzer in January 2005; a win-win
approach that would benefit wild buffalo while addressing
concerns to protect Montana's coveted brucellosis-free
status. Brucellosis-susceptible cattle (cow/calf
pairs) would no longer be allowed to graze - with compensation
to local ranchers - in buffalo winter range and spring
calving grounds immediately adjacent to Yellowstone
National Park lands within Montana. The idea is
to give wild buffalo some room to roam in Montana and
also - should the rare event of a wildlife to cattle
brucellosis transmission occur - ensure that that the
whole state would not lose their brucellosis-free status.
Ranchers' brucellosis status outside the buffer zone
would not be affected if a transmission were to occur
in the zone. Ranchers who continue grazing brucellosis-susceptible
cattle within the buffer zone would be required to undergo
strict testing of their cattle every time they enter
or leave the buffer zone.
Two weeks ago, U.S. House Representative Maurice Hinchey
- a strong advocate for wild bison and co-sponsor of
the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act - offered an
amendment to a House agriculture spending bill that
supports the buffer zone concept. But, U.S. Representative
for Montana, Denny Rehberg shot the idea down, and the
amendment was defeated in committee. Rehberg,
adored by Montana's cattle industry, is a steadfast
advocate of the nefarious Interagency Bison Management
Plan. Rep. Rehberg suggested that if there were
any buffer zone, it should begin miles within Yellowstone
National Park. He maintains that the brucellosis
issue is a "park problem," ignoring the fact
that brucellosis was introduced to North America with
the advent of cattle. Kudos and many thanks to
Rep. Hinchey for making this noble effort. Hinchey
is a long-time champion of wild buffalo and he'll keep
trying to create positive change for them.
Unfortunately, Schweitzer's version of a buffer zone
doesn't allocate habitat for wild buffalo. In
fact, according to the article included with his letter,
Schweitzer stated that "bison management would
not change with the creation of a buffer zone.
The animals would still be hunted in the winter and
hazed back into Yellowstone National Park in the spring."
This from a governor who campaigned on the promise to
provide more tolerance for wild buffalo in Montana.
To date, no year-round habitat has been provided for
wild buffalo in Montana. Instead of bison habitat,
Montana's governor sponsors a bison hunt that has created
conflict with local residents and people who want to
see wild bison on public lands.
The creation of a buffer zone is a great first step,
one BFC strongly advocates, but it must provide year-round
habitat for wild buffalo in Montana. Schweitzer's
communication with bison advocates who are outraged
about the way Montana mistreats America's last wild
buffalo is very much appreciated, but we are not being
fooled by this plan. As it stands, bison gain
nothing from Schweitzer's buffer zone. A
buffer zone can work, but it should not be just to protect
cattle interests, it must allocate year-round habitat
for wild buffalo.
Hot on the heels of this news, comes yet another break-through
announcement that "something" is being done
to make room for wild buffalo in Montana. State
and federal agencies, conservation groups and the Church
Universal & Triumphant (CUT) are negotiating a "deal"
to purchase CUT's grazing rights with $1.5 million from
taxpayers and an undefined amount from non-government
organizations. The "tentative deal"
would allow only a few of the wild buffalo that range
in the Gardiner Basin to access certain CUT and public
lands immediately adjacent to Yellowstone's northern
boundary. From 25 to 100 buffalo would get a "government
pass" to walk these lands only after they've been
captured, tested, tagged or implanted with a telemetry
You'll recall that in 1998, $13 million U.S. taxpayer
dollars were paid to CUT so that wild buffalo and other
migrating wildlife could access critical winter range
along the Yellowstone River, yet nearly every year since
that money was spent, hundreds of wild buffalo have
been hazed, captured and over 2,000 slaughtered
for merely approaching the Park boundary. CUT failed
to come through on their end of the bargain after receiving
these millions, and now CUT wants more millions so that
a handful of buffalo have to run the government's gauntlet
to be on land that is their birth right.
There's a lot of lip-service being offered without any
real habitat solutions for wild buffalo in Montana.
The cattle industry perceives anything that benefits
native wildlife as a "threat" to their industry.
They fear the return of the wild and expect the government
to prevent anything from interfering with their perceived
"right" to use and misuse the land as benefits
their cattle business and nothing else. Pertaining
to wild buffalo, the cattle industry would like nothing
more than a big fence put up around Yellowstone.
Yellowstone is not a ranch, and wild buffalo are not
livestock, nor are they "park" animals.
They are a nomadic, native species, indigenous to nearly
all of North America and they - not cattle - are the
rightful roamers of this land. Yet this one industry
decides their fate time and again. Wild
buffalo are being held politically captive within Yellowstone's
boundaries, prevented from accessing public lands outside
of Yellowstone, and harassed and slaughtered for following
their instincts. Wild buffalo continue to be punished
for a "crime" they have never committed, and
these token land deals are just another slap in the
face to the wild integrity of the mighty bison.
America must do more than celebrate the image of this
powerful icon; America must learn to share the land
and make room once again for native wild buffalo.
Keep the pressure on Governor Schweitzer and other decision-makers.
There is a call-to-action for Schweitzer below.
Stay in touch with your members of Congress as well.
These land deals - while currently without substance
- do hold a glimpse of promise. They are small,
meaningless steps at the moment, but not altogether
insignificant. There was a time when ideas like
these would never have seen the light of day.
The consideration of and attention given to these land
deals is a direct result of our collective vigilance
and voice for America's last wild buffalo and their
right to roam their native lands. Your letters,
calls and emails to decision-makers are making waves,
and we are on the verge of great change.
* Letter & News Article from Montana Governor
July 19, 2007
Thank you for your email message about bison management.
Given your interest in recent decisions about the Yellowstone
National Park bison herd, I want to share the attached
article from the Bozeman Chronicle that addresses this
I appreciate hearing from you. Thank you again for taking
the time to contact me.
Federal official: Brucellosis buffer zone feasible
* ACTION: Contact Governor Brian Schweitzer
Many of you already contacted Governor Schweitzer after
receiving his letter. Thank you! He must
keep hearing from us. Please contact Governor
Schweitzer and let him know the buffer zone idea is
a good start, but that it must provide year-round habitat
for wild buffalo in Montana. Let him know you
sincerely appreciate being kept abreast of what he is
doing, but that he must do more for wild buffalo and
keep his campaign promise to provide "more tolerance"
for buffalo. Remind him that these are AMERICA'S
last wild buffalo, a national treasure, not a pest for
Montana to obliterate. Speak from your hearts
and minds and may the mighty buffalo be with you as
you champion their right to be wild and free!
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
Helena, MT 59620-0801
* Buffalo in the News
8/2/07 - CUT land deal no bargain for wild bison
New West - Unfiltered
8/2/07 - Letter to the Editor: Protect
wild bison, bury brucellosis myth
Billings Gazette (MT)
7/30/07 - Were bison one of globalization's
Times Record News (TX)
7/28/07 - Tentative bison deal struck in Montana
7/27/07 - Letter to the Editor: Build a better
West Yellowstone News (MT)
7/27/07 - Letter to the Editor - An unacceptable
way to "manage" bison
West Yellowstone News (MT)
7/22/07 - Letter to the Editor: Brucellosis
problem just needs a good fence
Billings Gazette (MT)
7/20/07 - Panel rejects brucellosis plan
Casper Star Tribune (WY)
7/20/07 - Brucellosis buffer zone shot down
Bozeman Daily Chronicle (MT)
7/19/07 - New York congressman advocates Schweitzer
plan in U.S. House
REMINDER to write on for the buffalo!
Please consider sending a letter to the editor of your
favorite paper and help tell the story of America's
last wild buffalo. Buffalo-friendly LTEs that
are published win you a "Let Buffalo Roam"
t-shirt! When your letter is published, please
email or mail us a copy along with your t-shirt size
and mailing address. For suggested papers to write
to, tips and contact information, please visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/lte.html
or contact Stephany at bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org.
* Last Words
"The bison is an American icon that is worthy of
our efforts to protect it. It is absolutely critical
that we find a way to ensure Montana maintains its brucellosis-free
status while at the same time work to protect the bison
in Yellowstone, which symbolize the greatness and beauty
of the park."
~ U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)