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Weekly Update from the Field August 2, 2007
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* Update from the Field
* Letter from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
* ACTION:  Contact Governor Brian Schweitzer
* Buffalo in the News
* Last Words

* 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 device.

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.

Roam Free,
~Stephany
------------------------------
* Letter & News Article from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
July 19, 2007
Dear Friends:
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 complex issue.

I appreciate hearing from you. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Sincerely,
BRIAN SCHWEITZER
Governor

Federal official: Brucellosis buffer zone feasible
http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2007/07/02/news/20brucellosis.txt
------------------------------
* 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!  Thank you!

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
State Capitol
Helena, MT  59620-0801
406-444-3111
BrianSchweitzer@mt.gov
------------------------------
* Buffalo in the News
8/2/07 - CUT land deal no bargain for wild bison
New West - Unfiltered

http://www.newwest.net/index.php/citjo/article/cut_land_deal_no_bargain_
for_wild_bison/C33/L33/

8/2/07 - Letter to the Editor:  Protect wild bison, bury brucellosis myth
Billings Gazette (MT)

http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2007/08/02/opinion/letters/30-brucellosis.txt

7/30/07 - Were bison one of globalization's first victims?
Times Record News (TX)

http://www.timesrecordnews.com/trn/nw_sci_tech/article/0,1891,TRN_5706_5652810,00.html

7/28/07 - Tentative bison deal struck in Montana
Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/27/AR2007072702648.html

7/27/07 - Letter to the Editor: Build a better fence
West Yellowstone News (MT)

http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/articles/2007/07/27/opinions/letter1.txt

7/27/07 - Letter to the Editor - An unacceptable way to "manage" bison
West Yellowstone News (MT)

http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/articles/2007/07/27/opinions/letter2.txt

7/22/07 - Letter to the Editor:  Brucellosis problem just needs a good fence
Billings Gazette (MT)

http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2007/07/22/opinion/letters/75-brucellosis.txt

7/20/07 - Panel rejects brucellosis plan
Casper Star Tribune (WY)

http://www.casperstartribune.net/articles/2007/07/20/news/regional
/6b90ac5e492135648725731d0081979d.prt

7/20/07 - Brucellosis buffer zone shot down
Bozeman Daily Chronicle (MT)

http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2007/07/20/news/20bisonland.txt

7/19/07 - New York congressman advocates Schweitzer plan in U.S. House
Newsday (NY)

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny--congress-brucello0719jul19,0,7485089.story?coll=ny-region-apnewyork

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)


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