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Weekly Update from the Field January 8, 2009
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* Update from the Field
* Thank You Pearl Jam!!
* Bison Advocates Rally in Helena
* Send BuffaLove for Valentine's Day
* BFC Wish List ~ Snow Plow Needed!
* Last Words
* Kill Tally

* Update from the Field
Dear Buffalo Friends,
Over the Winter Holidays the snow finally came and a thick blanket of white now covers the landscape. Patrols are once again donning skis and snowshoes, but our daily recons still find Montana empty of wild buffalo. For now, all the buffalo are within the Park's boundaries. Consequently, very few buffalo hunters have been seen in the area and all have been going away empty-handed.

When buffalo walk out of Yellowstone this season, will things be different for them? As you know, the agencies involved in the Interagency Bison Management Plan signed an Adaptive Management Plan. They've been forced to take a different course of action because together we have kept the pressure on and never given up. Your voice for the buffalo was heard by Congress, who requested the Government Accountability Office to conduct an investigation, which has ultimately resulted in a small reprieve for some of our buffalo friends. Far from perfect, these changes are still a sign that our collective "endless pressure, endlessly applied" is beginning to create positive, on-the-ground changes for the buffalo.

The management changes differ on the north and west boundaries of Yellowstone, with buffalo on the west side gaining the most. On the north boundary, 25 "lucky" buffalo get the corridor to nowhere. Buffalo will be hazed into Yellowstone's Stephens Creek bison trap and tested for brucellosis exposure. Buffalo testing positive will be slaughtered; those testing negative will be fitted with radio collars, and adult females will have vaginal telemetry devices implanted. An electric fence will outline the corridor they can walk through, keeping them off part of Church Universal & Triumphant (CUT) land, leading them to a small grassy area called Cutler Meadows. Cattle guards and topography will prevent these two dozen buffalo from reaching to the Paradise Valley, where they really need to go. Come spring, when newborn buffalo are born, they will be hazed back into Yellowstone's boundaries.

Bull bison on the north boundary may have some tolerance in certain areas or "zones" outside Yellowstone, as defined in the Interagency Bison Management Plan, though this remains unclear as agency heads and the Plan are contradictory.

On the west boundary, there is a little bit to celebrate, as there will be temporary tolerance for wild buffalo in certain areas. No buffalo will be captured or tested before they can access Zone 2 lands outside the Park (Zone 2 is approximately five miles from the Park boundary). The Adaptive Plan states that on Horse Butte, the number of buffalo allowed will be unlimited. South of Horse Butte and the Madison River, no more than 30 mixed buffalo (adult cows, young bulls, yearlings, calves) will be allowed access to lands within Zone 2. North of Duck Creek, no more than 40 mixed buffalo will be allowed to access lands within Zone 2. Should more buffalo arrive in this area, hazing, capture, and slaughter may all take place, and if any of the buffalo dare step across that Zone 2 line in the sand, it will trigger immediate management actions such as shooting, slaughter, or hazing. By May 15, all of these buffalo will be forced back into Yellowstone's boundaries through aggressive operations using helicopters, ATV's, horses, and even explosive cracker-rounds. Bison will be forced off of Horse Butte where there are no cattle at any time of year.

For bachelor groups or single bull bison, it appears, but is as yet unclear, that they will have access to certain areas of Zone 2 lands year round. That's probably the best news in this adaptive plan. But it's tricky, because bull bison will not be tolerated on lands north of Duck Creek, which is a favorite migration corridor for bulls. It's as if the agencies are trying to set the buffalo up to fail. At the very least, the agencies are arranging things to keep themselves busy. Bull bison will undoubtedly enter lands north of Duck Creek, and that will trigger management actions. Should bull bison damage property or threaten human safety (a very rare thing when one knows how to act around buffalo), or if they co-mingle with cattle (which are only around in the short summer months) management actions - including being shot by agents - will be triggered.

The ultimate insult is that everything is up to the discretion of the Montana State Vet, Marty Zaluski. While the adaptive plan states that an unlimited number of buffalo can access Horse Butte, the State Vet could change his mind at any time he feels there are "too many." He has sole authority as to how and whether these changes are implemented on the ground. Buffalo are still constrained by political lines in the sand and human timeframes.

In the adaptive plan, the agencies admit that they hold a serious lack of knowledge of the ecological role and genetic health of the last wild bison. After decades of opportunity, they state they will finally begin to study the critical, keystone role that wild bison play in the health of the ecosystem as well as their genetic integrity.

The changes announced in December place very little responsibility upon cattle producers. Buffalo bear the overwhelming burden. Cattle producers "may" opt to take certain steps to mitigate brucellosis risk, which "may" include stocking less brucellosis-susceptible cattle such as steers, test and vaccinate cattle for brucellosis, fence livestock, or adjust cattle turnout dates. But none of these actions are mandatory and taxpayers will help foot the bill if any are taken. Even so, Montana Stockgrowers are challenging this adaptive plan with a lawsuit!

We cannot stress enough - and from your responses we know you fully understand - that these changes barely represent the tip of the iceberg of what needs to happen. In many regards, after the loss of over 1,600 wild bison last season alone, along with a plan that's been in place for more than eight years, positive changes for the buffalo are long overdue. These adaptations to the plan are far from the answer. But they do represent the first real, on-the-ground change in more than a decade, and some buffalo will realize a brief respite from the agony of hazing, capture, and slaughter. We are still analyzing these changes on paper and will share with you what they look like on the landscape as the buffalo begin their 2009 migration.

While we clearly still have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us, the reality is that your actions for the buffalo and support are making a difference. The buffalo are victims of a centuries-old range war, and change comes slowly. Your persistence, resistance, and endurance are making that change. Let us continue to press on together to gain real, lasting protection and year-round habitat for wild buffalo.

Roam Free!
~Stephany

P.S. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle has a poll asking people to vote whether bison should be allowed to roam free on Horse Butte. Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and please vote YES for the buffalo!
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* Thank You Pearl Jam!
The amazingly powerful and talented band, Pearl Jam, puts their money where their mouth is. Pearl Jam initiated a holiday giving program this year through their Vitalogy Foundation and personal contributions from band members. Each band member chose one group or more to support with a monetary donation. Pearl Jam's bass player, Jeff Ament, a Montana native, chose Buffalo Field Campaign as one of his groups and gave a very generous donation to BFC in support of our work in defense of the last wild buffalo. BFC has been honored to have Jeff and Pearl Jam's support throughout the duration of our campaign and this recent contribution will help keep us on the front lines standing with the buffalo.

In Pearl Jam's words: The Economy is $%#, so we felt like it was particularly important to extend our resources to provide much-needed funding in a time of need for a few of the organizations close to our hearts. It's never enough, but here's where we're steering our resources this holiday season.

THANK YOU JEFF AMENT! ROCK ON PEARL JAM!
Please join us on the front lines in the land of the last wild buffalo any time.
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* Bison Advocates Rally in Helena
"Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Let the Buffalo Roam!" These words were heard through the streets of Helena, Montana on Monday morning as wild bison advocates gathered in the state capital to draw attention to the cruel treatment of wild buffalo and advocate for their right to roam in the Big Sky state. Members of Buffalo Field Campaign, Buffalo Allies of Bozeman, Natural Resources Defense Council, and residents of Helena and Missoula gathered to don masks and carry banners to highlight support for wild, free-roaming buffalo in Montana. We marched to the capitol building, where Brian Schweitzer was being sworn in for his second term as Montana's governor. We entered the capitol where the ceremony was taking place, banners and buffalo masks in tow, and got the attention of the Governor himself, as well as all present. Buffalo were on the minds of people that day and Montana was reminded that buffalo advocates will not go away until wild buffalo roam free!

During Governor Schweitzer's first term, more wild bison were killed than under the combined three terms of the governors who preceded him, even though when he first campaigned he did so under the promise to provide "more tolerance for wild bison in Montana." We expect Governor Schweitzer to fulfill that promise now that he's been given another term and we will be here to remind him of it until he makes good on it.

The spirit and hearts of those who attended the rally were enormous. We were uplifted by all the "thumbs up" and "keep up the great work" that people greeted us with. The sentiment was almost one hundred percent positive. We were also able to garner a lot of media coverage that day, as swarms of newspapers and TV stations were present for the inaugural event and the swearing in of the Montana State Legislature. You can view a few photos from the rally.

Our deepest thanks go out to everyone who joined us in person and in spirit for the rally in Helena!
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* Send BuffaLove for Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day approaches, and with it, our offer to send a card with conscience to the recipient(s) of your choice. Your card will represent an investment in the wildest of wild bison-the Yellowstone-area herd-and our ongoing work for their well-being and freedom. How's that for a Valentine with heart?!?

This year's hand-drawn and reproduced image (4-1/4" x 5-1/2") features two bison peacefully grazing on a snowy landscape, watched over by the Great Buffalo Constellation (embellished with a shiny heart).

The inside sentiment reads:
"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
~Harriet Tubman

A gift has been made in your honor by ____________ to help us change the world.
Happy Valentine's Day!

The card also includes a few words on Buffalo Field Campaign's mission.

The deadline for ordering cards is Friday, February 6. Please order early! Your card will be mailed to arrive close to Valentine's Day. Please provide a donation of $15 per card plus recipient name and address by clicking on this link.

You may also send a check or money order (no cash, please) to
Buffalo Field Campaign/PO Box 957/West Yellowstone, MT 59758.

We must receive your order by Friday Feb 6 and please remember to include the name and address of your Valentine recipient(s) and indicate how you would like the card signed.
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* BFC Wish List ~ Snow Plow Needed!
The snow is growing really deep now, and our plow is broken. We are in great need of a working snow plow that fits a pick up truck. Currently, we are getting by with some help from our friends, and volunteers are spending a lot of time shoveling around the cabin so vehicles can make it to and from the field. But as the snows get deeper, things will be much more challenging.

If you can help us please contact our maintenance crew at maintenance@buffalofieldcampaign.org or call 406-646-0070. In kind donations are tax-deductible and extremely appreciated.

Please visit BFC's Wish List for other items that help keep us functioning. Thank you!!
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* Last Words
"The constant dripping of the water wears away the largest stone."
~Unknown


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