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Weekly Update from the Field August 13, 2009
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* Update from the Field
* Obama Sign-On Letter
* Update: Stockgrowers Lawsuit Against Wild Bison
* Quarantined Buffalo: Tribe, Zoo, Group May Want Them
* Join BFC for Wood Cut Week Sept. 14-20
* BFC Needs Two On-Demand Hot Water Heaters
* Last Words
* Kill Tally
* Important Links
* Update from the Field
On August 5 a bull buffalo was shot and killed after migrating from Yellowstone's interior through a corner of southwest Montana and into Idaho. You can read BFC's press release here. This marks another natural effort by buffalo to restore themselves in their historic native range of Idaho, only to be abruptly halted by government bullets.

This time it was not Idaho Fish & Game who killed the buffalo, but USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) officials. APHIS is a participant in the Interagency Bison Management Plan, and also one of the agencies spearheading the bison quarantine feasibility study (see below for an update). Apparently APHIS was in the area inspecting captive elk at a facility that operates canned elk hunting. The APHIS official fired three shots from a 30.06 rifle to kill the buffalo. BFC was there to witness and document the incident, and to our knowledge, the bull never mingled with cattle.

The theoretical threat of brucellosis transmission from wild bison to cattle is the continued excuse used by the government and cattle industry to prevent wild bison from gaining any ground outside of Yellowstone National Park's boundaries even though there has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting the disease to cattle. Furthermore, the National Academy of Science states that bull bison pose virtually no brucellosis risk to cattle. And if brucellosis is such a dreaded disease, why then does the government so willingly give the meat of the buffalo they kill to tribal charities and food banks, as they did with the remains of this bull? Brucellosis is not the threat, but the excuse used to maintain control; what the cattle industry really fears is wild bison restoring themselves to their native range and eating the grass the cattle industry feels is for their cattle only. Idaho already has laws in place that prevent the migration of wild bison into its borders, effectively staunching any natural restoration efforts before they begin. The land continues to suffer with the absence of buffalo, but not for lack of buffalo trying.

Meanwhile, the agencies implementing the Interagency Bison Management Plan met in Helena this week for another round of "public" meetings, where the public gets to sit in the audience while the talking heads shuffle paperwork and decide the fate of America's last wild bison. The agencies are due to make a report to Congress in response to the scathing Government Accountability Office's report that slammed the IBMP and called on the agencies to scrap it or make some real progress. So far, the agencies have held meeting after meeting with very little, if any, positive, on-the-ground change. Now the agencies are saying that to prevent future large-scale slaughtering of bison, they will haze bison more aggressively this coming season. Here's a brief news story.

These government officials want to keep the focus off of the real solution: HABITAT. If left unchecked and unquestioned, they will repeat their rhetoric and mismanagement actions, wasting millions of U.S. tax dollars and harming wildlife and wild lands until America's last wild bison have been hazed, captured, shot, quarantined and killed to the point of genetic dysfunction, behavioral manipulation, wild integrity compromised; buffalo families harassed and annihilated to the point of no return.

Only outside-the-box action will bring positive change for wild bison; outside the box that is Yellowstone: HABITAT. President Obama has the authority to move the agencies outside the confines of current thinking; he has the power to force the agencies to give the buffalo a fighting chance and he's on his way to Yellowstone now and he needs to hear from you!

SEND AN EMAIL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA. It doesn't matter if you've already done so (but, thank you!) because you can edit the letter to give it that critical, personal touch reflecting current news and information. Please spread the word to help defend the herds!

Roam Free!
* Obama Sign-On Letter
In addition to the more than 3,235 emails that you have already sent to President Obama through BFC's Take Action Center, we have been working with Native American tribes, businesses, and organizations on a sign-on letter we will send to the President in the fall.

We will begin circulating this letter early next week and, in order to make sure the effort is as successful as possible, will need your help. If you are part of a group, business, or tribe that might like to join us in asking President Obama to protect America's only continuously wild population of bison, please contact BFC Executive Director Dan Brister at bfc@wildrockies.org. Dan will then contact you with a copy of the letter.
* Update: Stockgrowers Lawsuit Against Wild Bison
On August 4 Montana District Court Judge John Brown presided over oral arguments in a state lawsuit on the fate of wild bison in Montana.

Attorney John Bloomquist representing Sitz Angus Ranch, Bill Myers and the Montana Stockgrowers Association filed suit against the Montana Department of Livestock claiming that the Interagency Bison Management Plan obligates all wild bison "be returned" to Yellowstone National Park "no later than May 15 of each year."

The two ranchers who truck cattle in to graze seasonally on leased private pastures are seeking a court order compelling the slaughter or forced removal of wild bison in the entire Hebgen Basin, an area that encompasses tens of thousands of acres of bison habitat including Horse Butte Peninsula where cattle no longer graze.

Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, representing local Horse Butte residents, argued there is no "legal duty" for the State of Montana to kill or remove bison by May 15 every year who have roamed to range outside Yellowstone National Park. To download legal filings click here.

Locals who intervened in the rancher's suit want wild bison to roam on places like Horse Butte without government harassment. The locals rightfully claim that their private property interest in allowing wild bison to be in their neighborhood is not represented, and that Montana livestock agents trespass and intrude where they are not wanted.

"The majority of Horse Butte is public land. The National Forest Service has a responsibility to manage it for wildlife. We encourage them to do so," says Horse Butte resident Karrie Taggart, who also heads up Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo. "Since cattle no longer graze there it stands to reason that bison should be allowed room to roam."

The nonprofit lawyers argue the bison plan is adaptive and Montana law is permissive in how bison can be managed. They were joined by Assistant Attorney General Norman Peterson, representing the Board of Livestock, who asked the court to dismiss the suit as the ranchers lack standing to sue and are not a party to the bison plan.

It is unknown when Judge Brown will rule. But stay tuned as the fate of wild bison to occupy habitat year-round in Montana hangs in the balance of his decision.
* Quarantined Buffalo: Tribe, Zoo, Group May Want Them
The unfortunate quarantined buffalo who were ultimately rejected by Northern Arapaho tribal officials may have found some folks who want them, though in some cases their existence will be behind bars. These buffalo, now numbering nearly 50 animals, have been confined to an ill-conceived Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service quarantine feasibility study since 2005. The buffalo were calves when they and their families were captured after migrating towards Yellowstone's boundary. The adults went to slaughter, while the calves grew up in small fenced enclosures, being treated like livestock, in a government experiment to "create a disease-free herd" with a goal of providing "seed stock" for bison restoration efforts. But, the bull that was shot in Idaho last week (see above) and the hundreds of bison that attempt to migrate into Montana every year are enacting real buffalo restoration, yet the same agencies spend millions of U.S. tax dollars each year to prevent their success. Migration corridors to habitat, not quarantine, will be the real road to bison restoration. Read the news story about the latest on the quarantined buffalo.
* Mark Your Calendars: Wood Cut Week, Sept. 14-20
Join Buffalo Field Campaign in beautiful West Yellowstone during the week of September 14-20, and help gather, stack, and cut the wood that will keep volunteers warm and alive this coming field season. Room and board will be provided. Please contact Mike at mease"at"wildrockies.org or 406-646-0070 if you are interested. Please let your friends know - the more the merrier!
* BFC Volunteer Cabin Needs Two On-Demand Hot Water Heaters
The BFC main cabin, which houses our volunteers, is in need of two on-demand hot water heaters in order to save energy and space. These energy efficient water heaters could shave 25% off our gas bill each month and will free up much-needed space in our crowded cabin.

If you can help, please make a secure online donation and specify that it is for the water heaters, or send a check or money order (no cash please) to BFC-Maintenance, P.O. Box 957, West Yellowstone, MT 59758. If you have questions or would like more detail, please contact BFC Maintenance Coordinator Chip at 406-646-0070 or by email at maintenance@buffalofieldcampaign.org. Thank you!!
* Last Words
To a Buffalo Skull
"On the sable wall your great skull gleams,
A regal ornament;
A relic of weathered bone and horn,
Once lord of a continent.
The war-lord, yea, of a countless host,
But gone is your kingly sway;
For never again will you head the herd
In the spring when the young calves play.
All bleached with the merciless sun and rain
Of many and many a day,
You're all that is left to tell the tale
How the black lines passed this way."
~ Robert V. Carr

Do you have something that we could use for Last Words? Something you've written, or a favorite piece by some other author, famous or as yet unknown? A quote, poem, song, story, a few lines, a paragraph, any words you feel are fitting to tell in these chapters of the buffalo's story? If so, please send them to Stephany at bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org. Thanks!
* Kill Tally
AMERICAN BISON ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2008-2009 Total: 23
2008-2009 Slaughter: 3
2008-2009 Hunt: 1
2008-2009 Quarantine: 0
2008-2009 Shot by Agents: 3
2008-2009 Highway Mortality: 16
2007-2008 Total: 1,632
Total Since 2000: 3,703*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts, highway mortalities
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Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
BFC is the only group working in the field every day in defense of the last wild buffalo population in the U.S.

Buffalo Field Campaign West Yellowstone Montana
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