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Weekly Update from the Field April 3, 2008
Subscribe to our email list and receive our weekly Update from the Field
* Update from the Field
* Agencies & Bison Plan Criticized in GAO Report
* April 15: Releasing of the Buffalo Spirits Ceremony ~ Arvol Looking Horse
* Montana's New License Plate: Let the Buffalo Roam!
* Help Keep BFC Healthy & Happy: Food & Coffee Donations Needed
* Mother's Day: Handcrafted Cards for the Buffalo's Cause
* Summer Volunteer Educators Needed
* NEW! Buffalo Field Campaign Blog!
* Photo of the Week
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
While the western boundary is relatively peaceful, there continues to be a large and steady migration of buffalo leaving the park near Gardiner, Montana. For at least the past two months there have been daily hazes and captures of buffalo with 1,080 of them being shipped to slaughterhouses from inside Yellowstone National Park. As of this morning, Yellowstone and Montana Department of Livestock officials are responsible for the deaths of at least 1,187 wild American buffalo this season, and the Park has so far sent 80 wild bison calves to quarantine domestication prison.

On Sunday night about fifty-five buffalo walked out of the park and right past the Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) cattle, ending up eleven miles north of the park border. This is just what the agencies and CUT wanted to eventually happen. The plan is to allow a corridor from the park through CUT property to US Forest Service land further north. The buffalo are doing the adaptive management on their own without waiting for agency approval and its attendant intrusive testing, vaginal transmitters for pregnant females, and limited numbers. 

It's pretty telling that the buffalo, given a chance to "co-mingle" with cattle, walked right on past the CUT cows. The buffalo are keeping themselves separate from cattle all by themselves; they don't need this nefarious government plan to force them to do what they do naturally anyway.   

The present heavy-handed management of these noble animals is unjustified and needs to stop. The ongoing hazing, capture, testing, and confinement of these wild animals is stressful and stress has been known to bring brucellosis out of remission. It is time to use common sense and cattle-based risk management, by utilizing fencing and vaccination for cattle, ensuring they do not come into contact with wild bison from February to June, when when transmission could theoretically happen. With buffalo calving soon to begin, the National Park Service needs to avoid a repeat of two Springs ago, when wild bison mothers gave birth (including some still births) inside the trap. With Wyoming's elk feed grounds spreading brucellosis among elk we don't need the same thing happening in Yellowstone National Park among bison in the trap.
Once again, these kinds of government actions that exacerbate the potential for spreading livestock diseases in wildlife populations beg the question: is this really about brucellosis? We maintain that the war against buffalo is about the grass and who gets to eat it.

There is a whirlwind of activity happening, so please read on. Discover what the Government Accountability Office investigation report has to say about the Plan, join BFC and Arvol Looking Horse for a prayer ceremony for the buffalo, learn how you can get your "Let Buffalo Roam" license plates, consider joining us in Yellowstone this summer to table for the buffalo, and help spark discussions by participating in BFC's new blog. And as always, thank you for your love and support. We would not be here without you.

Roam Free!
~ Buffalo Field Campaign
* Agencies & Bison Plan Criticized in GAO Report
Finally, the report is out! Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked by Congress to investigate the Interagency Bison misManagement Plan. After more than a year of interviewing the five involved agencies, as well as livestock interests, conservation groups, Native American interests, private landowners, and others, yesterday, the report was finally released. While it's not everything we hoped for, the GAO has sharply criticized the agencies, finding that they and their plan "need improvement." In their concluding recommendations, the GAO suggests that the agencies "... refine, revise, or replace the plan..."

In an April 2 press release, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) criticized the bison plan as "plagued by deficiencies" and "severely limited" in its ability to protect Yellowstone's wild bison population.

The GAO report notes on who is footing the bill; the bison plan is paid for by American taxpayers with appropriations from the U.S. Congress reaching a high of $3,304,817 in 2006 (FY).
Among the key findings, the GAO report found that "... the agencies lack accountability among themselves and to the public, and it is difficult for the public to obtain information without attending the meetings or contacting each individual agency."

According to the GAO report, the agencies' decision-making more "often resembles trial and error than adaptive management and also lacks accountability and transparency."

The bison plan itself is lacking a "sound basis" for making decisions according to the GAO report. There is every indication that the agencies are proceeding blindly with slaughtering bison without acquiring knowledge about what they are doing. For example, the GAO reports:
"In the absence of a systematic monitoring program, the agencies have lost opportunities to collect data that could help resolve important uncertainties. The plan states that all captured bison are to be tested for exposure to brucellosis, but fewer than half of those captured since 2001 have been tested. For example, in early winter 2006, the agencies lost an opportunity to collect scientific data on about 900 bison. Park Service officials captured these bison as they attempted to leave through the park's northern boundary. The bison were consigned to slaughter without being tested at the capture facility because the Park Service determined that they would not be used for research and could not be held in the capture pens until the spring for release back into the park."

In plain language, the agencies failed to follow their promise to test bison destined for slaughter - and resolve an uncertainty in their testing which, to date, does not determine infection or the health of bison. Eight years into a fifteen year plan, the GAO report found that the agencies are stuck in step one, with no timeline on how to get out of this step: the most deadly and intrusive one for migrating bison that has led to the slaughter of over 3,200 bison since 2000. With no way to measure success or failure, the agencies proceed blindly with the bison plan.

The GAO report notes that the stated goals of the plan are two-fold: 1) to maintain a wild, free-ranging population of bison, and 2) address the risk of brucellosis transmission from wild bison to cattle. However, while it was pointed out by BFC that harassing and slaughtering wild bison that migrate to lower elevation habitat is *not* protecting a "free-ranging" herd, there was no mention of this in the report. Further, the risk of brucellosis is addressed in the plan, in part, by forcing the separation of wild bison and cattle, but as you read in the Update above, the bison will keep themselves from cattle on their own. Further, while agencies have been harassing and killing wild bison, last May just northeast of Yellowstone, out of the bison's current migratory path, brucellosis was discovered in a Montana cattle herd and the bison were not responsible. Perhaps the agencies need to stick to what works: Yellowstone should be protecting the wildlife in their care, while the Department of Livestock should keep their focus on livestock and away from our wildlife.

TAKE ACTION! Please take the time to contact Congress and urge your representatives to take proactive measures to stop the slaughter and protect America's last wild bison population and its habitat. Americans are looking to our representatives and supporters in Congress to find ways to secure a future for wild bison in Yellowstone. Millions of dollars of American taxpayer money now used to slaughter wild bison can buy the grass that cattle now graze on. 

Write your Senators:  http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Write your Representative: http://www.house.gov/
Read the GAO Report: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08291.pdf
Read BFC's press release: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org
Read an Associated Press article: http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2008/04/03/news/state/21-bison.txt
* April 15: Releasing of the Buffalo Spirits Ceremony ~ Arvol Looking Horse
Buffalo Field Campaign is honored to share this announcement of a Releasing of the Buffalo Spirits Ceremony to be held in Gardiner, Montana on Tuesday, April 15, beginning at 12:00 noon (MST). The ceremony is open to all, and all are welcome. The ceremony will be led by Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe. Buffalo Field Campaign would like to thank Rosalie Little Thunder for making a request for Arvol's presence, and we extend our gratitude to Arvol and his family for making arrangements to travel to Yellowstone on such short notice. We are honored by your presence and help. After the ceremony, a community meal will be served at the Gardiner Community Center on 206 Main Street.

From everyone at Buffalo Field Campaign, thank you for your help in honoring wild buffalo.
* Releasing of the Buffalo Spirits Ceremony Tuesday, April 15, 12:00 noon (MST)
GATHERING - Releasing of the Buffalo Spirits Ceremony.
RECORDINGS - Protocols will be announced on what photos, video and all recordings of the ceremony, if any is permitted.
WHEN - Tuesday, April 15, 2008 and begin 12:00 noon (MST).
WHERE - Stephens Creek road and Old Yellowstone Trail, west of the Yellowstone River, 2 1/2 miles north of Gardiner, Montana.
DIRECTIONS - From the Arches landmark, located near the Gardiner, Montana Fee Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, head north past the football field/local school along the Old Yellowstone Trail County Road for 2 1/2 miles to Stephens Creek Road, that leads to the bison trap. Please note that Yellowstone National Park has a closure in effect from near the Fee Entrance to Stephens Creek west of the Old Yellowstone Trail. Please do not park off-road or block traffic. For people who are car pooling, there is extra parking at the Arches landmark along the gated fence.
LODGING - Accommodations in Gardiner and the surrounding area can be found online: http://www.gardinerchamber.com/directory.asp?cat=1

TRAVEL ADVISORY - DUE TO CLOSED ROADS IN THE PARK, it is advised that you take the route from Interstate 90 through Livingston, Montana to Highway 89 south to Gardiner, Montana.

* Community Meal at Gardiner Community Center
Seeds of Peace and Bear Creek Council are co-hosting a community meal in the historic Eagles Hall Gardiner Community Center on 206 Main Street following the ceremony. The purpose of our community meal is to share our gratitude with everyone who traveled near and far to participate in ceremony honoring America's wild buffalo. We thank the Gardiner Community Center for sharing their space, and extend an invitation welcoming all to share in a meal together. 

* Contributions
Contributions are welcome and will be used to acquire food for a community meal, cover the costs of renting a community center, medical kits, gas, lodging and travel for honored guests. Please earmark your contribution to "Releasing Ceremony".

Donations can be made online: https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?id=1807
Please include in the Gift Information field that you are making a donation for "Releasing Ceremony". Thank you!
* Montana's New License Plate: Let the Buffalo Roam!
Wild bison advocates across the state of Montana will be able to show their support for native wild buffalo with issuance of a new license plate. The license plate, featuring an image of a buffalo and the words "Let the Buffalo Roam" is currently available at all Montana Department of Motor Vehicles locations. Buffalo Field Campaign will receive a donation with every set of plates ordered. Montana residents can inquire about getting these license plates by visiting your local DMV or by visiting the Montana Department of Justice Driver Services web site: http://www.doj.mt.gov/driving/licenseplates.asp

Read a joint press release from BFC and Patagonia, Inc.:

Many thanks to everyone who helped us raise the money to make this happen!
Special thanks to Patagonia, Inc. who has always been a champion of BFC and wild buffalo.
* Help Keep BFC Healthy & Happy ~ Food & Coffee Donations Needed
One way you can always help with defending the buffalo is by donating food to support our work in the field. We spend approximately $10 per person per week on food and that leaves some gaps. We can always use donations of organic coffee, bulk spices, chocolate, Luna bars, hot cocoa mix, and emergen-C packets. Every donation helps keep our volunteers on the front lines health and happy. You can donate monetarily by going to https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?id=1807, or you can send in-kind donations. All donations are tax-deductible. If you would like a tax deductible receipt for your in-kind donation of food, please contact the office and include a copy of your receipt.

Thank you for helping us defend the last wild herd of buffalo. ~ BFC Kitchen
* Mother's Day: Handcrafted Cards for the Buffalo's Cause
Mother's Day is on the horizon, and once again Buffalo Field Campaign invites you to send a hand-created card to the special woman or women in your life. Our card will feature a Yellowstone bison photo, a brief message on our work, and a sentiment appropriate for mom, grandma, that special nurturing neighbor...anyone you'd like to honor with a Mother's Day contribution to BFC's work for bison moms and their offspring.

Watch for more information and ordering details next week.
* Summer Volunteer Educators Needed
Dear Friends of the Buffalo,
Help us tell the buffalo's story in the season of the largest bison slaughter since the 19th century by volunteering as a summer educator. Our outreach in Yellowstone National Park informs millions of visitors about the unjust and unscientific capture and slaughter of the bison. By educating the public on the issue, strangers become allies and supporters. This is a wonderful opportunity to become intimately involved with the buffalo's struggle and to understand the egregious mismanagement of the Interagency Bison Management Plan. The last wild, free-roaming bison need our support, actions, and words. 

We are looking for volunteers between June 1st and September 1st. If you want to experience the beauty of the Yellowstone ecosystem and speak out for the buffalo, we want to hear from you! Applicants should be hardworking, presentable to the public, outgoing, friendly folks who are comfortable camping for up to five days at a time (in the park - what a dream!) A minimum commitment of one month is required.

BFC provides volunteers with food and housing and an invaluable experience.
For more information, write to Iwi at summer@buffalofieldcampign.org, or call 406-646-0070,
or 917-968-4442.   

BuffaLove, ~ BFC
* NEW! Buffalo Field Campaign Blog
Buffalo Field Campaign has launched a blog site! This is a great opportunity to discuss the bison issue, get the facts out there, share stories, photos, poetry and information ~ anything that will help spread the word to protect these sacred animals. Blog for the Buffalo!
Thanks to Ken Cole for setting this site up.

* Photo of the Week
A much-needed peaceful moment in the field, watching a buffalo cross the Madison River.
Photo by Jesse Crocker.
* Last Words
"… bison are still hazed and slaughtered every year, and livestock owners are still concerned about the significant economic consequences if Montana's cattle industry loses its brucellosis free status. Even if the agencies improve their management and fully implement the current plan through step three, we believe the controversies will continue, in part because critical underlying differences among agency mandates, management philosophies, and political interests have not been resolved. In addition, the plan lacks clearly defined, measurable objectives to guide the agencies' bison management actions, and the agencies are not adequately applying an adaptive management approach in implementing the plan. Moreover, the agencies' implementation of the plan has remained fragmented, because no single entity is accountable for coordinating and steering the management, research, and resolution of these bison-related issues. In addition, the agencies' management lacks the accountability and transparency expected by the public and Congress. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to spend millions of dollars on uncoordinated management and research efforts, with no means to ensure that these efforts are focused on a common outcome that could help resolve the controversies." 

~ Robin M. Nazzaro, Director, Natural Resources and Environment,
Government Accountability Office

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