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Weekly Update from the Field November 29, 2007
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* Update from the Field
* Many Ways to Support Buffalo Field Campaign
* Agencies to Hold IBMP Open House
* Buffalo in the News
* Last Words

* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
An interesting thing happened last week. Two mixed groups of approximately 80 buffalo migrated out of Yellowstone towards Horse Butte and along the Madison River. We have had very little snow, and temperatures have been mild, so it is interesting that these buffalo arrived when they did. Typically we experience bulls arriving first, either solo or in bachelor groups, then the mixed groups start coming out much later in the season, as early as January or as late as April. This fall arrival of the mixed groups goes to show that we just don't know enough about wild bison behavior to make any solid predictions as to what they might do, or when, or why. We can't know enough because the buffalo are never allowed to simply live their lives, always being harassed or killed whenever they step foot into their native Montana. The buffalo have so much to teach us and the powers that be refuse to let them.

Nine of those eighty buffalo were killed in the hunt last week; two the day before Thanksgiving, and seven the day after. Following these kills, the rest turned around and went back into Yellowstone. Exactly what the cattle industry wants. Currently, there are no wild buffalo in Montana.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, seven buffalo were shot by members of the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes, who are hunting under treaty right for the first time in nearly 150 years. BFC fully supports tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, and while we do feel it is premature to kill the buffalo, we know that these treaty hunts will bring significant change in due time. We look forward to the day when First Nations take a leading role in defending wild buffalo and their habitat, and help change the way wild bison are treated by the government and cattle industry.
We were present with a Salish-Kootenai hunt party on top of Horse Butte when they shot a bull and two young cows. Gibson and I had been sitting with and admiring this family group for a while. They were just walking along the Forest Service road, visible to all, grazing and sparring and just being buffalo. On the horizon we saw two trucks coming over the hill. We knew they were hunters. We knew that the day was about to change and we took some very deep breaths to prepare ourselves to stay strong. Previously, BFC had been asked by members of the Salish-Kootenai tribal government to be absent during their hunts, so we were also prepared to be asked to leave. But the gentlemen of this party welcomed us to stay. We conversed for a while about the current management scheme and how the control of the livestock industry over buffalo must end. We talked about the buffalo's need for habitat and freedom to roam, to live. We talked about the tribe's frustration with the government's control of the buffalo on the National Bison Range, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, where the Salish-Kootenai now live. We talked about a lot of things, and then Baz, one of the hunters, smudged us with sage, and then they made their kills.

The mourning ritual of buffalo is probably one of the most intense things in this world to witness. They are such strong family, so similar to elephants, and to us if we could only see. With tails up and shocked expressions, they circle and run around their fallen comrades; with their great heads, they literally try to lift the fallen back up again. Calves run back and forth to their mothers, to the kill site, back to their mothers. The buffalo standing try again to pick up the fallen. Over and over they try. They cry out loud. The sounds they make cause the earth to tremble; enormous bellowing growls, a roaring that makes your bones vibrate and your spirit shiver.

Baz and two others in the party wanted to give the buffalo their time for this ritual. Unfortunately, another in their party, a tribal government man, was not as patient and he began to haze the buffalo away from the kill sites beeping his horn and driving towards the mourning buffalo. But the buffalo didn't go far and they kept trying to come back to the fallen at every possible chance.

Gibson and I were torn. We held deep sadness in our hearts for these buffalo, for all that they suffer, yet we also couldn't help but feel a certain awe and respect for the reawakening relationship between the buffalo and the Salish-Kootenai. As our dear friend Monica RavenHeart said to me a couple days later, "Remember the voice and the spirit inside the ancient bones? Imagine the spirit of the buffalo just killed enveloping the hunter and anyone else nearby. Never underestimate what is really happening when you see a buffalo fall. If it was not its mission it would be deep in the park pushing snow. Those who come forward, come forward as warriors and great wise beings... you honor them by acknowledging their mission." Is that why this mixed group caught us by surprise, coming out so early in the year? Were these buffalo warriors carrying a message, willing to sacrifice themselves in order to be heard, felt and understood?
Before we left, Baz spoke with us again and gave us an interview which you can see here http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.

Make no mistake. While we fully support tribal treaty rights, there is no question or denial that we feel it is very premature to kill these buffalo. We celebrate with the tribes while we mourn with the buffalo. The buffalo suffer so much and have nowhere to live, be wild, and free. We also understand that the treaty hunts invoke an obligation to the buffalo. With the advent of the Nez Perce and Salish-Kootenai treaty hunts, there is a relationship re-establishing itself which we late-comers to this continent cannot immediately understand, and perhaps some of the hunters themselves do not yet understand it either. As we hold fast to our defense of wild buffalo, and our vision of these prehistoric beings reclaiming their stolen lands, filling up the empty valleys and prairies once again, we must be patient and trust that the ancient bond between the tribes and the buffalo is reawakening into something powerful. An ecological perspective will build and all who are tied to the buffalo and the land will clearly see that the battlefield has changed and we are all in this together. I was recently reminded to look long and hard at how the Nez Perce have helped bring back the salmon, the ferret, and the wolf. The buffalo are next.

Roam Free,
* Many Ways to Support Buffalo Field Campaign
Contributions from supporters are the lifeblood of Buffalo Field Campaign, enabling us to be the only group working in the field and on the policy front to protect America's last wild bison. We are incredibly adept at accomplishing a great deal on a very modest budget. For example last spring, working in concert with you, our active supporters, we were able to generate significant public pressure and prevent the slaughter of 300 bison, including 100 newborn calves. Images of this herd, captured by videographers and photographers on BFC's daily patrols, played a critical role in this success.

Unfortunately, it does cost money to keep volunteers well trained, equipped, housed, fed, and in the field, as it does to send representatives to countless bison-related hearings, meetings, and gatherings throughout Montana and across the country. As a reader of BFC's Updates From the Field you are probably aware of the many ways to plug in and take an active role in the movement to protect America's last wild bison. Supporting BFC with a tax-deductible monetary donation is a major way for you to ensure that we can remain here with the buffalo keeping you plugged in, well-informed, and active in the struggle to protect the wildness of this irreplaceable icon on North America.

Big buffalo hugs go out to Ron Hunter at Patagonia and Aaron Crocker for answering our recent plea and donating computers! Your generosity and help will greatly increase the effectiveness of Buffalo Field Campaign. We are still in need of a MacBook computer and firewire hard drives on which to edit and store our irreplaceable video footage. Video has always been at the heart of our bison-protection efforts, allowing us to share with the world the plight of the buffalo.

Please make a tax-deductible contribution today. You can contribute online via the secure groundspring server: https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=845 or by sending your contribution to BFC, P.O. Box 957, West Yellowstone, Montana 59758.

For the Buffalo!
Dan Brister
Project Director
Buffalo Field Campaign
* Agencies to Hold IBMP Open House
The five agencies responsible for carrying out the infamous Interagency Bison misManagement Plan (IBMP) will hold an open house for the public on Tuesday, December 4, in Bozeman, Montana. The event will go from 4:00 pm - 7:45 pm, at the Holiday Inn located at 5 Baxter Lane.

The five agencies include the Montana Department of Livestock, the National Park Service, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the National Forest Service, and the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service.

Last year they held a similar open house, where the public was invited to explore all the various tactics being used by these agencies, including the continued hazing, test-and-slaughter, quarantine, vaccination, and all other undesirable ways they are "managing" the last wild buffalo in the U.S. After this tour of information, we broke out into discussion tables, where the public's voice was heard, the vast majority of those present held the same message: Let the Buffalo Roam!

If you can make it to this meeting, please join us and bring friends. Very likely the cattle industry will have a lot of representation there this year, since they have failed to properly manage their cattle and brucellosis was found in a herd last spring; the industry is looking for any way to blame it on the buffalo and the elk. If you are unable to attend, there is still opportunity for you to speak your voice for the last wild buffalo. Contact information for all the IBMP agencies can be found on our web site at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/politicians.html.
* Buffalo in the News
11/29 - Butting Heads: Politics of race and environment clash at Bison Range
Missoula Independent

The Next Great Hunt (excellent piece on bison restoration and genetic integrity)
Plenty Magazine, Dec-Jan 2008 issue

11/27 - Meeting on park bison planned, Billings Gazette

11/27 - Interagency partners to hold bison discussion in Bozeman
Times News (ID)

11/27 - Guest Opinion: Cattle industry not the only consideration in brucellosis debate (EXCELLENT!)
Bozeman Daily Chronicle (subscription only; text pasted below)

I'm a home and business owner living on Horse Butte. Having experienced first hand the Montana Department of Livestock's (DOL) aggressive conduct and arrogant attitude toward me, and my neighbors, forced me to educate myself.

According to Public Health Assessment of Potential Biological Terrorism Agents prepared by the federal Centers for Disease Control, brucellosis is a category B bacterium, while Anthrax, a much more serious bacteria, is placed in category A. In the CDC brucellosis overview, brucella melentesis and brucella suis are considered more important than brucella abortus in terms of public health security and preparedness. They say wild bison do not pose a human health danger.

Yellowstone bison carry a gene known as natural resistance associated macrophage protein 1 (NRAMP1). The DNA sequence of NRAMP1 has been partially conserved in these bison. Conserving this trait is an important consideration for long term brucellosis management.
By consuming products of birth and abortion, carnivores remove the bulk of infectious materials from the site exposing any remaining brucella abortus on soil and vegetation to light and desiccation, to which they are vulnerable.

The National Academy of Science concludes that predation and scavenging by carnivores biologically decontaminates the environment of infectious B. abortus with efficiency unachievable any other way.

They conducted a model run simulating bison test and slaughter program. After brucellosis was eliminated from the model population, reinfection of bison from elk led to an increase of sero-prevalence to pretest and slaughter levels. Transmission of brucellosis from elk to bison will prevent long-term eradication.

DOL's bullying resistance to compromise has me asking why they're so determined to have their way. Arrogance like this is normally used to hide something.

Cattle cause mad cow disease. It gives rise to a new variant of the always fatal brain wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

Nearly all meat is contaminated with dioxins, a chemical related to Agent Orange and DDT. Ninety-five percent of human intake of DDT comes from dairy and meat products.

Multiple studies link consumption of animal products to heart disease.

It takes the equivalent of a gallon of gas to produce a pound of grain-fed beef. To sustain the yearly beef requirements of an average family of four requires the consumption of over 260 gallons of fossil fuel. When that fuel is burned it releases 2.5 tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - as much as the average car emits in six months.

An estimated 85 percent of U.S. agricultural land is used in the production of animal foods, which in turn is linked with deforestation, extinction of species, loss of soil productivity through mineral depletion and erosion, water pollution and depletion, overgrazing and desertification. This is just the beginning! Cattle are more trouble than they're worth.

As a former consumer of your product, I'm sorry for the hardships ranching families are encountering. However, I'm of the opinion that your very own industry has done you a grave disservice by not taking elk into account years ago. On your behalf the Montana Stockgowers Association, and their attorney John Bloomquist, choose to ignore the fact that deer, moose, pigs, beaver, wolves, coyotes and bighorn sheep carry brucellosis. Why?

They instead push the fear of bison on you then logic looks away. Fear is what works. They depend upon it.

Doesn't it seem more logical to control disease within an already controlled environment? Millions of dollars could've been spent on behalf of ranchers by investing in research for cattle vaccines with efficacy rates close to 100 percent. Why didn't they?

The cattle industry isn't the only economic builder in Montana. Gov. Brian Schweitzer has a responsibility to tourism, education and health care also. He has no other choice but to take all our interests into account. Give him some moving room, would you?

Karrie Taggart is a home and business owner who lives on Horse Butte near West Yellowstone.
* Last Words
"If you've come here to help me, then you are wasting your time
But if you've come because your liberation is bound with mine
Then let us work together."
~ Australian Aboriginal Elder, Lilla Watson

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