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Weekly Update from the Field May 22, 2008
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* Nine Bulls Sent to Slaughter
* Update from the Field
* "Let Buffalo Roam" License Plates Available for Out-of-Staters!
* Buffalo in the News
* Buffalo Field Campaign Needs Summer Volunteers
* Photo of the Week
* Last Words
* Kill Tally

* Nine Bulls Sent to Slaughter
Yesterday we sent out a special alert to inform you that the Montana Department of Livestock had captured nine bull bison at the Duck Creek trap. Thank you all for making the calls to help these bulls. Unfortunately, the livestock interests got their way in spite of our efforts: in the early morning hours, the nine wild bulls confined to the Duck Creek trap were loaded onto two livestock trailers and shipped to slaughter by the Montana Department of Livestock.

In the face of over 1,600 killed by government management actions alone, the lives of nine bulls may not seem like much, but it is a lot. Every single buffalo life is significant; each carries the future of the next generation; each holds within itself the evolutionary potential of this magnificent prehistoric natural wonder.

From our observations, we can tell you with confidence that the buffalo population is below the conservation threshold of 2,100 established in the Interagency Bison (mis)Management Plan. The agencies can confirm this if they want to do another aerial survey. As it is written in the Plan, when the population falls below 2,100, the agencies "will" take action to prevent more slaughter of the buffalo by taking more non-lethal management actions. It just so happened that the late winter count on April 11 observed 1,970 buffalo, but the agencies stuck that number into their population matrix and out popped 2,145 buffalo. That same report estimated 400 to 700 winter kill.

It's a fact of life that politicians lie; they'll say anything to get elected or maintain popularity. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer made a statement in mid-April that no more wild buffalo would be slaughtered. Just days later, the Montana Department of Livestock captured and sent three bull buffalo to slaughter. This week, another nine were trapped and killed. People who are calling the Governor's office to express their concern and outrage are being immediately transferred to the Department of Livestock; the Governor is trying to hide from his responsibility in the bloodshed of thousands of wild American buffalo. Toss up your hands and pass the buck, that's the name of the game. When Schweitzer ran for the governor's office, he campaigned on the promise of "more tolerance" for wild buffalo in Montana. The results of his words have been more wild buffalo killed under the four years of his watch than in the eleven years preceding his election. It appears that Schweitzer does not have control of the Department of Livestock and its livestock inspectors. Either he doesn't care or he doesn't mind Montana's state vet calling the shots.

But we, the global, national, collective 'we', care. We are going to hold him accountable. Anyone can see that the brucellosis argument is a complete fraud. It's a political move being used by the cattle industry to eradicate wild bison from their native habitat in order to hoard grass for livestock. Montana and it's livestock industry are playing lethal games with our national/natural heritage, with ecological systems that are the life of this planet, all to maintain a "bottom line" and a "lifestyle" that has failed the landscape and her native inhabitants for decades, and, indeed, for centuries. As Mother Jones said, "pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!"


* Governor Brian Schweitzer - brianschweitzer@mt.gov
* Hal Harper, Governor Schweitzer's Chief Policy Advisor #406-444-5546
* Mike Volesky, Governor Schweitzer's Policy Advisor for Natural Resources #406-444-7857
* Marty Zaluski, Montana State Vet #406-444-0782
* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
Bull bison are massive! Their heads are unimaginable! And those hair do's! The thick, coarse, black hair spilling from the top of their heads down between their horns that protects their massive skulls from serious bull-to-bull combat during the rut: all unique, all purely BUFFALO. As we drove home from our p.m. rove patrol, the "boys were back in town": Ten bulls spanned Highway 287, walking side by side, taking up both lanes as if daring anyone to argue against their right to roam wherever they choose. So impressive...they own the road! At least for the moment. Heading west toward the Madison River Valley, there is plenty of room to roam for these bulls. Unfortunately, agents hazed them back into the park, once again demonstrating Montana's lack of tolerance and appreciation for the last wild bison.

The female bison display their power through vulnerability. Swollen in pregnancy, they choose the Horse Butte Peninsula for its luscious spring grass and plentiful water. Many calves are born there, dotting the Butte like ochre colored rocks. In nature, the newborns spend most of their time resting punctuated by short bursts of energetic play. The new mamas replenish themselves on fresh spring grass. The agents hazed this mixed herd of over 150 off the Butte using a helicopter, ATVs, and horses. The 20 mile run consists of thick sage brush, steep sandy bluffs and mud flats. The herd is scattered and exhausted by the time they reach the park. Then they are pushed another seven miles inside Yellowstone. Ironically, more than 300 bison were held captive for months on the northern park entrance because there was not enough suitable forage for them inside Yellowstone, according to park officials. Yet on the western boundary, bison can't access public lands, like the Horse Butte peninsula, and are instead hazed into the same park they are denied on the north. Another one of the many contradictions this mismanagement plan exhibits.

We entered the park to check on this herd exiled from Horse Butte. Just past Seven Mile Bridge, a day after the large helicopter haze, we spotted a small herd of three adults, one yearling and two newborn calves, who couldn't have been more than a few days old. One calf was visibly struggling. Whether the calf sustained a broken leg or was suffering from severe muscle spasms I can't say. However, several park visitors had stopped to observe these bison and also noted the little calf's trouble. We informed them of the hazing operations and encouraged folks to ask the Park Service for some answers. A few miles deeper into the park we encountered the large herd of about 150 buffalo. A mama had just given birth. We stayed with the herd for the next two hours and were rewarded when another calf was born. The mother bison labored on the ground for some time, then stood and released the next generation of wild bison to the Earth. Her power, even in this delicate time, exhausted and spent from the prior day's haze, was undeniable. She began licking her calf clean of afterbirth and within minutes a raven landed to check out the bounty left by the bison. Here in nature there is no need for a management plan. The ecosystem will take care of itself. To see a birth in the wild has been a dream of mine for many years. And yet this one was somewhat bittersweet. I know the trauma these mamas and babies have sustained and the long battle for their freedom yet to come.

Speaking of freedom, the 330 wild buffalo that have been confined to the Stephens Creek trap on Yellowstone's north boundary were released this week. These buffalo have been through trauma that we cannot even begin to understand. Chased off of their native ground, into a trap where hundreds of their relatives were stolen from them and sent to slaughter or domestication prisons. Wildness confined equals madness. After being held for nearly two months, wranglers opened the gates of the trap and hazed the buffalo deeper into the Park. BFC was there with the buffalo, monitoring their condition. What we saw was not good. All the buffalo have numbered tags glued to their bodies. One female buffalo was reported to have a broken leg, and numerous buffalo have gore wounds. In natural conditions buffalo rarely harm each other. When confined, their behavior obviously changes. It's a damn shameful thing to see the buffalo released from Stephens Creek with numbered tags on their gored hides. They looked like fruit marked for check-out at a grocery store.

BFC's habitat coordinator, Darrell Geist, has been taking friends into the Park this week, looking for buffalo and the supposed green-up the agencies are pushing them to. Here's what he had to report: "The interior 'summer ranges' the agencies claimed the buffalo and their newborn calves were being forced to from Horse Butte and the upper Madison Valley are under spring floods, and or late winter snows. There's very little green-up inside Yellowstone from the Madison to Firehole to Old Faithful, and from the Madison to Gibbon to Norris. Green up was just taking hold in the Lamar Valley from Mammoth to Blacktail Plateau. Once again, the agencies involved have ignored ecological conditions on the ground to enforce an arbitrary May 15 drop dead line. There's not one beef cow here on the west side and they will not be trucked in until early July or late June at the earliest."

My family and I have been in West Yellowstone for about 2 weeks this time around. My eyes and senses have been treated to wild bison, wolves, grizzly bears, moose, golden, bald and immature bald eagles, great blue herons, trumpeter swans, Sandhill cranes, pelicans, ospreys, ravens, king fishers...the list goes on! The beauty of the wild seeps into my soul again and again...and the years go by and bison are yet to have a home in Montana. The bison are why we see the diversity we do within the Yellowstone Ecosystem...I just know it...I feel it...we see it and document it 365 days a year. To be a volunteer with the Buffalo Field Campaign is to be in relationship with the mighty bison. And, for me, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else!

Join us!

With love for the buffalo,
Justine Sanchez
BFC volunteer and board member
* "Let Buffalo Roam" License Plates Available for Out-of-Staters!
Show your support for wild, free-roaming bison in Montana from wherever you live! Buffalo advocates outside Montana can acquire sample plates to display on your vehicle or in other visible locations. These plates will only be for show, and cannot be legally registered.
For $20 you can get a sample plate with AAA-000 on the plate.
For $30 you can write up to 6 characters of your choice on the plate.
Contact Mike at mease@wildockies.org with questions or send a check or money order to License Plates c/o Buffalo Field Campaign, P.O. Box 957, West Yellowstone, MT 59758.
* BFC Needs Summer Volunteers
Buffalo Field Campaign is in need of hard-working, self-motivated volunteers starting this June to help conduct buffalo outreach efforts inside Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and/or to help with maintenance projects at our headquarters on Hebgen Lake.

Do You Have:
* An outgoing personality and knowledge of the issue with a willingness to communicate to Yellowstone visitors?
* Construction, carpentry, plumbing, cleaning, or automotive maintenance skills?

If you have any of the skills listed above, or are willing to learn, then you should plan on joining us this summer. All volunteers will be provided with food and lodging at our main cabin outside of West Yellowstone in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. If you have just a few weeks or the whole summer, Buffalo Field Campaign could use your help.

If you are interested in helping with summer outreach projects inside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks please contact Iwi at: summer@buffalofieldcampaign.org

If you are interested in assisting with cabin maintenance projects this summer please contact BFC at: (406) 646-0070
* Buffalo in the News
June 2008 - Harper's Magazine - "They Shoot Buffalo, Don't They?" by Chris Ketcham
Journalist Chris Ketchum spent a few weeks with BFC in the field last spring, working on a story for Harper's Magazine and, finally, his story is out! We'd love to share it with you, but Harper's online magazine is subscription only, so we cannot provide a link. But please be sure to pick up a copy of the June issue of Harper's Magazine and share it with the people you know. Thousands of Americans read Harper's and are bound to learn about the insane mismanagement of America's last wild bison population.

May 21, 2008 - West Yellowstone News - "Open Letter to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis" by Robert Hoskins
* Photo of the Week

Wild buffalo enjoy their time out on Horse Butte, within Montana's largest 'buffalo safe zone' the 700+-acre property owned by the Galanis family. The Montana Department of Livestock is itching to harass these buffalo and force them off the land, but as yet, private property rights are keeping the buffalo safe. Stay tuned for a potential showdown, because livestock inspectors may ignore the wishes of the Galanis family and change this scene from peaceful to chaotic within the next week or two.
~ Photo by Jesse Crocker
* Last Words
"Some environmentalists are in predictably high dudgeon as state and federal officials began the practice of driving Yellowstone bison back into the park from the Horse Butte area on Hebgen Lake last week. Hazing the bison back into the park is called for in the Interagency Bison Management Plan adopted by state and federal officials in 2000, and the practice has become an annual spring ritual. But the longer it goes on, the less sense it makes. This is an expensive, time-consuming process that was once justified in the name of disease control. Many of the park bison carry the brucella bacteria that can cause domestic cattle to abort their calves if they become infected. But there are no cattle in the area outside the park where the bison have been roaming. And the nature of the landowners in the same area is changing, with many welcoming the presence of the bison. It also must be noted that there have been no recorded cases of bison infecting cattle with the disease in the wild. Another important consideration is the fact that the bison are in their most weakened state, coming off a winter of heavy snowfall. Driving them back into the park - much of which is still blanketed with snow - could endanger their survival, a significant consideration in light of the fact that more than half of park's bison were slaughtered, harvested by hunters or winter-killed since last fall. The plight of the park bison - and the treatment they receive when they wander into Montana - has attracted some very negative publicity for our state. This, along with all of the above, begs the question: Why, exactly, are we doing this? The environmental groups have called on Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to convene a meeting of the agencies that were party to the 2000 management plan and propose amendments to the plan that will allow the bison to remain outside the park. At the very least, they deserve an answer - one that makes sense."
~ An unexpected and amazing opinion piece by the editorial staff of Montana's Bozeman Daily Chronicle - Paper's Opinion, May 18, 2008
AMERICAN BISON ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2007-2008 Total: 1,613
2007-2008 Slaughter: 1,447
2007-2008 Hunt: 166
2007-2008 Quarantine: 112
Total Since 2000: 3,678*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts

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