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Weekly Update from the Field February 14, 2008
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* Update from the Field
* Week of Action Begins Today!
* Experience on the Front Lines in Gardiner
* George Wuerthner Editorial: Yellowstone Bison Slaughter a Sham
* Photo of the Week
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
The slaughter of the sacred American buffalo has begun and is on the rise. Thank you to everyone who has been calling Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis and holding her accountable for these atrocious actions. We apologize for sending so many emails to you during this difficult time, but it is critical that everyone knows what is happening and what they can do. We are underway with our Week of Action (see below) and will continue to contact various decision-makers involved with the harassment and slaughter of these beautiful buffalo.
Here is today's press release about the Week of Action and the increased buffalo slaughter by Yellowstone National Park http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0708/pressreleases0708/021408.html.

As of this writing, Yellowstone National Park has captured 169 of America's last wild buffalo from the Park's northern boundary up near Gardiner. So far, Yellowstone park officials have sent 127 buffalo to slaughter. 44 buffalo were sent to slaughter facilities this morning, including the 17 calves that were going to be sent to the Corwin Springs quarantine research facility, also known as buffalo domestication prison. The agents failed to renew their permit to use the Phase I facility. So, rather than going to domestication prison, they go to slaughter. Live free or die.
Ten more buffalo have been killed in the so-called hunt this week, bringing that kill total to 112. In less than a week, Yellowstone National Park has killed more buffalo than the three month-long hunt has.

In West Yellowstone, on top of everything else, buffalo have been having a very difficult time with the snow pack. The snow is really deep, and we've been seeing some buffalo eating food they do not normally eat such as pine needles, sage and rabbit brush. These are basically starvation foods holding little, if any, nutritional value, but may help the buffalo's bellies feel full. The snow banks along the side of the highways are very difficult for the buffalo to get over, yet they are the only places where the buffalo are finding exposed grass to eat. The buffalo have been getting stuck on the highways and unable to get off the road. But, thanks to your help in getting the traffic warning equipment, we have been able to safely alert motorists to the buffalo's presence on the roads. It's been really sad to see them try to find a way off the road, but every possible exit gets blocked by snowmobiles or tourists in cars who pull over to take pictures, probably exacerbating the buffalo's trouble this winter.

Not a few times we've seen buffalo so exhausted that they are just bedding down in the middle of the road. We've been trying to break trails for them through the snowbanks, but they don't seem to want to use them because they don't have the scent of buffalo. We have been running night roves nearly every night, warning traffic. Unfortunately, a few nights ago, three buffalo calves were killed by one vehicle. The driver never even stopped. These calves were part of a family group of about 11 buffalo. After the calves were killed, seven of the buffalo ran up the highway towards the airport, and one, beautiful two-year-old bull was separated, and frantically running up and down the highway looking for his family. His terror is something we cannot even imagine, and something that will stay in my mind forever. It was heart wrenching to watch him go through this nightmare in the dark, with flashing lights and impatient motorists, and him running and running just looking for his family not knowing where to go or how to get away from all the vehicles and noise. In the end, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks game warden, Jim Smolzinsky arrived to help escort the bull to the airport road to re-join his family.

Patrols in West Yellowstone have also been seeing Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents plowing the Duck Creek bison trap, and we know that the agents intend to set up the trap on the Horse Butte Peninsula this year. The Horse Butte trap has not been used since the 2003-2004 season, after it was occupied and shut down for a week by buffalo activist Akiva Silver. The Interagency Bison Mismanagement Plan is supposed to be an adaptive plan, and since Horse Butte is now 100% cattle-free year-round, there is no excuse for the DOL to bother the buffalo on this landscape. But these agencies are not interested in adaptations that benefit the buffalo; so far the changes they have made include hunting, quarantining and vaccinating. DOL agents were seen today reconning the area on snowmobiles, looking for buffalo and getting ready for their season of harassment and death. The state's hunt ends at sunset on Friday, and as soon as Saturday, hazing, capture and slaughter could begin here along the Park's western boundary.

All of this is pointing to a very long and difficult season for our friends the buffalo. They need your voice now more than ever. Please take every possible action and tell everyone you know what is happening to America's last wild buffalo and what they can do to help. Remember, we were able to stop the slaughter of 300 buffalo last spring, and we can make a difference for them now. Thank you!

Roam Free,
* Week of Action Begins Today!
Our Week of Action begins today, starting with the national call-in day targeting Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis. Please be sure to pick up the phone and dial 307-344-2002 and tell her to stop the slaughter now! If you live out of the country, you can email her at suzanne_lewis@nps.gov. Be advised that the Park has told us they get so many emails about the buffalo that they ignore them. This is a public agency choosing to ignore the public, but willing to use your tax dollars to do the dirty work of the livestock industry.

A special alert went out this morning which includes talking points and phone numbers for calling Yellowstone. Tomorrow, we will send out another special alert and will target National Park Service Director Mary Bomar, Suzanne's boss. Her number is 202-208-4621. The Humane Society of the U.S., the Animal Welfare Institute, In Defense of Animals, and the Gallatin Wildlife Association are all helping with these call-in days and we appreciate their help more than we can say.

On Saturday, Buffalo Field Campaign will hold a rally at the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park here in West Yellowstone. We will hold a demonstration, provide information, and act out street theatre, all to draw attention to Yellowstone's role in the slaughter of an American icon.

After Saturday's rally, the national call-in days will continue again on Tuesday through Thursday, February 21.

As part of our Week of Action we also strongly encourage you to write Letters to the Editor of your local, regional and national news papers. Information on the Week of Action, including talking points for call-in days and writing letters to the editor can be viewed at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/weekofaction08.html.

It is so shameful and completely outrageous that the very agency that should be protecting this national treasure is having - once again - such a heavy hand in killing them. Yellowstone is more concerned with the economic interests of Montana's livestock industry than they are with protecting the wildlife in their care. They must be held accountable for these actions and we have to keep the pressure on them to stop the slaughter and defend America's last wild buffalo.
Thank you so very much for participating. Please spread the word to help save these herds!
* Personal Experience on the Front Lines in Gardiner
Walking through the playground of rocks, stepping around some, over some, I saw Dru in a grassy area ahead. He was lying on his stomach filming three giant bull buffalo. At the time, the three were grazing, eating mouthfuls of yellow grasses and slowly walking around the rocks and trees. I approached Dru, still lying in the winter grass, and sat down beside him. I was facing Yellowstone Park, my back towards the Church Universal Triumphant Ranch. It felt like spring, even though it was the middle of February. The sun was out and the air was chilly, but tolerable and beautiful. Dru and I sat in the grass with these bulls for close to an hour, just watching them and filming little bits and pieces of one of their last days alive.

As I sit here writing a few days later, I'm facing and squinting into the sun again. There are buffalo a little farther down the road. This is the calm part of the Gardiner day; they transported four horse trailers of buffalo to slaughter this morning as the sun rose and the mountains turned blue, then pink, then the color of earth... "Another forty-four," the park ranger told us. The buffalo I'm watching right now - like all of the buffalo of the past two weeks - will probably wander North in the next few hours. It is more than likely that they will be hazed or captured this afternoon or tomorrow. That same ranger told Dru and me that the time of day determines whether the buffalo will be captured or hazed.

If you are reading this now, you are probably already familiar with the events of the past two weeks, of the hazes, captures, and slaughters. Hazing is futile because the buffalo walk right back out of the park to find food, and we were essentially told by a park ranger that they haze in the late afternoon in hopes that the buffalo will not get near the cattle until the next day, when there is then time to capture. Capture and slaughter are cruel, wasteful, and wrong.
"We know they will at least be hazed this afternoon, Miriam," Dru said as he turned off the camera. "I feel like we should document and honor what is left of their existence."

Earlier that day Dru filmed a few little yearlings bouncing around and playing. It felt especially meaningful because we were watching individual buffalo, and not only talking about bison management and treatment as it pertains to buffalo as a whole. The world felt alive as those three bulls walked by us, dust from the earth was kicked-up, the thud of their hooves against the ground.

What is happening out here is horrible. These buffalo are not going to stop coming out of the park to find food. The hazing and capture will not cease any time soon. Watching a group of buffalo walk north, knowing they will be slaughtered, is anything but easy. So much of what we report from the field is about negative things, and what you may not get to hear about are the moments like the one described above. I suppose I feel it is important to write about sitting with the bulls because it was a break from the frustrations and difficulties of buffalo politics. It was an hour of time when Dru and I could watch the buffalo living, when we could document something other than death. It was incredible, they are so big and majestic, and they were so close. It felt right to capture and honor their existence on tape because we have so much sad footage from these past two weeks, and something about that did not sit well. We knew it was only a matter of time before they were hazed (which they were later that afternoon) but in the mean time we could enjoy their presence. We could sit with them, imagining what it would be like if wild animals were prioritized over domestic cattle, or if those cattle were enclosed by unbroken and strong fences, and the buffalo were not contained in the National Park like animals in a zoo. It was an hour of life that was beautiful, and I was reminded again why I am out here, and why I care so much about these creatures. Management policies and practices loomed over our heads as they, and a group behind them, were walking north towards the Capture Facility. I think the energy to stand with buffalo and document their persecution comes from experiences like this, from connections made by positive interactions and time spent with them. This story is not unique, and my reason for sharing it is not profound; I simply wanted to write about this particular hour because I think we need to remember the good in order to endure the bad. And I think buffalo supporters who are unable to physically stand in the field with the buffalo should hear about the incredulity of spending time with buffalo, and about revering their presence or honoring their lives.
* Yellowstone Bison Slaughter a Sham
Guest Commentary: George Wuerthner's "On the Range" 2/13/08
Appearing in New West - the Voice of the Rocky Mountains online magazine
A must-read, most excellent editorial piece by a strong friend of wildlife and wildlands.
* Photo of the Week
Wild buffalo huddle together on a frigid winter day in Yellowstone Village, private lands on the cattle-free Horse Butte peninsula. Photo by BFC Volunteer Anne Marie Casper.
* Last Words
There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it - always."
~ Gandhi

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