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Weekly Update from the Field February 7, 2008
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* Update from the Field
* Week of Action Feb. 14-21, 2008
* Thank You Patagonia, ORC, Michael Franti, Removal Act, and Tibetan Trader!
* Photo of the Week
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
Buffalo blood continues to spill along the west and north boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. As of this writing, 102 of America's last wild bison have been killed in the so-called hunt. While the Nez Perce began their hunt a little over a week ago, all the kills this week have been by state hunters, with two killed in Gardiner and the rest here in West Yellowstone. It has been hard on volunteers, spending sacred time with these gentle creatures and being awestruck by their majesty and presence on the landscape, only to watch them fall to the bullet one after another. We can only hope that the hunters we have spoken with will realize the obligation they have to the future of wild buffalo and that they will become strong advocates for year-round buffalo habitat in Montana. It is hard to imagine that we've already lost 102 American bison to the hunt, and the hazing/capture/slaughter season is just around the corner. All of this buffalo death is explicitly to benefit the economic interests of Montana's livestock industry.

Gardiner patrols based along Yellowstone's northern boundary have seen a lot of buffalo mismanagement activity this week. On Monday, 36 wild buffalo were hazed by Montana Department of Livestock and Yellowstone park rangers off of Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) land, back to the Arch in Yellowstone National Park. On Wednesday 49 buffalo were hazed by the same agents from the Stephens Creek bison trap area - inside Yellowstone National Park - and back to the same location. But today was the kicker in Gardiner. This morning a group of 10 buffalo were hazed by the same cowboys off of CUT land to a place in the park called Powerline Flats, and these buffalo are currently being hazed deeper into the Park as I write. Then, again this morning, BFC patrols monitored a haze that really underscores the absurdity of calling Montana's buffalo hunt "fair chase." There was a group of 12 buffalo that had crossed east, over the Yellowstone River, and were found grazing within a cattle pasture owned by a local outfitter who has a mere 25-head of cows on his land. The DOL sounded dramatic when they told us that "the only thing standing between the buffalo and these cows were the agents on the ground."

Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and Yellowstone National Park rangers claim they attempted to haze this group of buffalo back across the river, but the buffalo didn't want to go that way. The agents decided to push them instead to Highway 89 which runs north/south through the town of Gardiner and into Yellowstone National Park. The ridiculous thing was, the agents didn't try to move the buffalo along the highway and back into the Park, which would have been the easier and safer route for the buffalo. Instead, they pushed them east and right up towards the hunt zone. Incredible! The Department of Livestock claims that the buffalo moved in that direction "of their own accord" yet since when do these bison harassers ever let the buffalo chose their own direction? So, the agents - DOL and National Park Service - moved the buffalo up into the Travertine area of Gallatin National Forest, where the hunt is currently taking place. And they want to call it a 'fair chase' hunt.

After Gardiner patrols called to tell us this news, Arlo and I were on the phones quickly, calling various agencies and trying to find out what was going on. Why were the Park Service and Department of Livestock hazing buffalo into the hunt zone, and why wasn't the hunt being shut down during this operation? Why didn't the agents make an effort to move them along the highway and back into the Park instead? Why was the NPS even involved in pushing wild bison off of private land into a hunt zone? The agencies had excuse after excuse and no good explanation.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at first confirmed that, yes, the agents were going to push buffalo into the hunt zone. When we asked if this was legal, they said "it's not illegal." Not illegal for livestock agents and Yellowstone Park employees to push members of America's last wild bison population into the hunt zone where they can be shot? How in the world can they call this hunt "fair chase" when the DOL and NPS are both interrupting and enabling it by forcing buffalo into an area to be killed? There's nothing fair about the way wild buffalo are treated in Montana. When we asked why they didn't shut the hunt down for this hazing operation, they said that they didn't because they don't have a game warden on the ground and therefore didn't know if there were any hunters in the area. Glad to know our wildlife is being protected! We told them there were, indeed, hunters around, that we had seen them the day before. Ironically, Gardiner has had less of a "successful" bison harvest than they usually do because, until today, no thanks to the DOL and NPS, there just hadn't been many buffalo moving into that area. Amazing, to have an ongoing hunt and no wildlife agency out to monitor the situation. Anything can happen. It seems BFC is doing aspects of their job for them, as we are out there every day monitoring the buffalo and the situations they face. NOTE: Just before this Update was complete, we got a call from FWP saying that they had met and agreed that this haze was not in the spirit of the hunt, and they have subsequently placed an emergency closure in a portion of this hunt zone. Though these buffalo, if they remain in the hunt zone, are still in danger due to the DOL's actions, this closure was the right move for FWP to make. No state hunters may kill bison west of Eagle Creek until Saturday morning and first shooting light. The closure does not apply to the Nez Perce, who are hunting under treaty right. You can read FWP's press release about the emergency closure here: http://fwp.mt.gov/news/article_6469.aspx

When we spoke with Yellowstone National Park officials and asked them what was going on, they basically told us "we're just out supporting this operation." How shameful for our National Park Service employees to assist Montana livestock agents in harassing wild bison by pushing them into a hunt zone. Then again, the Park Service doesn't blink an eye at capturing, killing and quarantining the last wild herd in the U.S. As Suzanne Lewis put it to us last year, her biggest nightmare is a brucellosis transmission from wild bison to cattle. The death of these sacred buffalo under her watch should be the nightmare, and the fact that it isn't let's us all know that something is very, very wrong.

Both FWP and the NPS said they had no decision-making in this hazing operation, yet the DOL claims that it was an "Interagency decision." Who's telling the truth? It's time to give these agencies a call and let them know you are not falling for these cattle industry-induced, taxpayer-funded government shenanigans http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/politicians.html.

Then there were the conversations with the Department of Livestock. Arlo and I spoke with both the Montana State Vet Marty Zalusky and the new Public Information Officer Steve Merritt, neither of whom knew any details as to what their agents were conducting on the ground. Later, after the hazing operation ended, they called Arlo and ran through the list of excuses that make them get away scott free every single time: They said the haze stopped 300 yards away from the hunt zone, so that's why there was no need to call off the hunt. But the buffalo kept walking towards the hunt zone, so in effect, yes, they did haze them into it. And that's when they gave us the line about the buffalo deciding to move to the hunt zone on their own, and that's why they didn't try to push them back towards the Park. The DOL also tried to use a little scare tactic with us, telling us that one of the options they considered today was capturing the buffalo instead. Are we supposed to be thankful, then, that they hazed them into the hunt zone instead?

All in all it was an afternoon of frustrated government mismanagement. If it weren't so tragic and real it could almost be funny. This operation has unnecessarily placed a family group of wild bison in danger, all for the sake of a handful of invasive cattle and the thoughtless actions of livestock agents. How in the world can any of these agencies hope to save face for the actions they take against wild bison. Their actions will go down in history; we are making sure of that. They hunt them, they haze them, they capture, test, slaughter, quarantine, vaccinate.... we must put an end to these negative actions; we must realize our positive vision of wild buffalo on the landscape and help them reclaim their North American home.

The Montana bison hunt ends a week from tomorrow, on February 15, and on the 16th the Department of Livestock and cooperating agencies will begin to be out in force to chase what wild buffalo remain in Montana back into Yellowstone's harsh winter country. Next week, with your help, we will put the pressure on. See below for details.

Thank you for being with us in solidarity for the wild buffalo.

Roam Free!
* Week of Action! Feb 14 - 21, 2008
The time has come for us to gather our forces and make every effort to put a stop to the harassment and slaughter of America's last wild bison population before it begins this season. With the help of the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute, Gallatin Wildlife Association, and others, Buffalo Field Campaign will host a Week of Action February 14 through February 21, 2008.

A series of National Call-in Days, a Letter to the Editor campaign, and a Rally near the West Yellowstone entrance to Yellowstone National Park will all take place during this Week of Action.
We will target the main decision-makers involved with the Interagency Bison misManagement Plan and we will flood the media with letters to the editor to help get this story out into the public eye. One of our main goals here it to shed light on Yellowstone National Park's role in the killing of the American bison, the last wild population in the U.S. We need *everyone* to participate so please get ready to take some action for the last wild buffalo!

Be on the look out for a series of special alerts from us in the coming week and a half. There is a good amount of information posted on our web site about the Week of Action, so take a look and get your dialing and writing fingers ready! http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/weekofaction08.html#callinday

If you can make it to West Yellowstone, Montana for the rally, we will gather at the West entrance to Yellowstone National Park at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 16. Please spread the word and help us save these special herds!
* Thank You Patagonia, ORC, Michael Franti, Removal Act, and Tibetan Trader!
Fundraising and spreading the word of the buffalo are not the things we usually write about but they are both such crucial aspects of our work. In the last week of January Patagonia invited Buffalo Field Campaign to participate in the Outdoor Retailer's Convention (ORC) in Salt Lake City, so Stu and I went down and helped spread the word to save the herd. We talked with hundreds of outdoor gear companies that had never heard of Buffalo Field Campaign. Patagonia has always been a huge BFC supporter and this was just one more example of how they help in every way possible. Lisa Pike got us into the show and helped us find our way around and be very productive. We can never express enough thanks to all of our family at Patagonia and their never-ending contributions to the buffalo.

Michael Franti and Spearhead also played two shows while we were in Utah and he and his great management crew (Anita and Jill) made sure the buffalo were mentioned both nights. Sundance film festival was also going on and our friends Janel, Steve, and Alex of the Removal Act were up their spreading the word about the buffalo, thank you!

I met last week with Jennifer from the Tibetan Trader in Bozeman and she was enthused about helping spread the word in Bozeman and in helping BFC identify and apply for a grant in support of our work. Every little bit makes a big difference with the BFC, so thanks to everyone who has ever made or is thinking of making a donation. We will continue to be here advocating for change until the buffalo are treated with the respect, honor and reverence that they truly deserve.

With the Buffalo,
Mike Mease
* Photo of the Week
Snow! Snow! And a lot more SNOW! Here are some shots around our living quarters of the BFC volunteers and structures who have been bombarded by snow! We have been very busy keeping up with the snow that continues to fall nearly every day. Thanks to all who have been steadily shovelling and plowing all around our home. Photos by Stephany.
* Last Words
"Playing God, as Yellowstone biologists have done since some of the last grizzly bears and bison were given a home in the park, has been fraught with problems. Tourists used to file into grandstands to watch rangers feed garbage to grizzly bears; this produced a generation of welfare-dependent big animals, who didn't smell all that good either. Weaning them of dump scraps was an epic fight. There are far too many elk in the park, but until wolves were brought back, there was no predator. In hard winters, thousands of elk died of starvation; I saw them pawing the doors of houses in Gardiner and staggering around Main Street looking for handouts. Nonnative trout are crowding out the homegrown cutthroat in Yellowstone Lake. And what about humans, long a part of the Yellowstone ecosystem? The Indians set fires and chased bison off cliffs. Now, snowmobiles make convenient paths in the snow for the bison to exit the park, at which point they are shot dead by the long arm of the cattle industry."
~ Timothy Egan, Lasso the Wind, p. 177

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