* 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
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
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
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
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.
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!
* 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.
* 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!
* 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
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
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
You may also send a check or money order (no cash, please)
Buffalo Field Campaign/PO Box 957/West Yellowstone,
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
* 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
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.
* Last Words
"The constant dripping of the water wears away
the largest stone."
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