* Update from the Field
Lone bull buffalo. BFC file photo.
Montana's buffalo hunt is finally over. This year, one bull buffalo was shot by a state hunter in early December. For the past two years, hunters have killed only one buffalo each season, even though Montana issued 144 tags to state hunters, and an additional 144 for tribal treaty hunts. The reason so few buffalo have been taken by hunters is because there have been almost no buffalo in Montana.
What kind of "hunt" is that? It's the kind authorized by Montana's cattle industry and sanctioned by the Interagency Bison Management Plan which defends the hegemony of livestock interests by chasing wild buffalo out of Montana or killing them if they choose to remain on their chosen ground. Two years ago more than 1,600 wild buffalo were killed by state and federal agencies, and the buffalo are having a hard time making a rebound. There is still no tolerance or year-round habitat for wild buffalo in Montana and the hunt has never been anything more than yet another means of killing buffalo that dare step over the line from Yellowstone into Montana, and if the hunters don't kill them, the state of Montana most certainly will.
The Nez Perce will continue to hunt under treaty right through the middle of March, if any buffalo emerge from the Park. If buffalo do begin to migrate, the Nez Perce hunt could be disrupted by the Department of Livestock. As we mentioned in last week's Update, the DOL has promised aggressive management actions - including capture and slaughter - against buffalo this year. Arbitrary numbers of buffalo on the landscape, based on the DOL's "science" to facilitate the convenience of the agents who harass them, will instigate harsh management actions when the yearly spring migration occurs.
According to the DOL, the minimal tolerance shown to buffalo last season - which we knew was created to set buffalo up to fail these man-made tests - will not be repeated this year. So far, Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin National Forest are finally showing some courage and refusing to accept the DOL's devolution from Adaptive Management. This doesn't say much as last year's "tolerance" was barely existent. But at least the agencies aren't immediately completely caving to the demands of the livestock industry. Only time will tell how things play out in the field for the buffalo. The DOL is gearing up for aggression, that much we know: BFC patrols have seen DOL livestock inspector Shane Grube plowing snow from the Duck Creek buffalo trap.
For now, wild buffalo are eluding both hunters and the Department of Livestock.
* Why Yellowstone Bison Do Not Belong on Ted Turner's Ranch
Yesterday, escorted by Homeland Security agents, four livestock trailers hauled eighty of the eighty-eight Yellowstone buffalo to the private lands of Ted Turner. Buffalo Field Campaign was there to document. Today, the remainder of these Yellowstone buffalo - eight bulls - will be sent to his ranch. Ted Turner is a prominent commercial buffalo rancher and he will get to keep 75% of these Yellowstone buffalo's calves that are born on his land and use them for his commercial gains to improve the genetics of his domestic herds that he raises for meat and canned buffalo hunts.
These Yellowstone buffalo have been stolen from all of us: from the American people and from First Nations who have wanted to bring their relatives home for many, many years. More importantly, these buffalo have been stolen from their wild-born families and the lands that are their birthright.
Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) and the media would have us all believe that the only options that these buffalo had were going to Turner or to slaughter, and if you are opposed to them going to Turner then you must be for slaughter. Ironic, coming from one of the agencies that participates in the slaughter of wild Yellowstone buffalo. This is a wily way to spin the facts in order gain blind public support for the Turner option, which was their last-minute bail-out plan because they completely failed to use their five years wisely. MFWP broke the promise they fed us when they initiated the Quarantine Feasibility Study: to return these Yellowstone buffalo and their calves to public or tribal lands. Privatization and commercialization were expressly forbidden. And now we are being force-fed the ultimatum of slaughter or a "good home" at Ted Turner's big bison ranch. The fact is, there are other options including millions of acres on public and tribal lands in Montana and throughout the country. This is just one more instance of the government and livestock industry manipulating wildlife and public perceptions. In transferring these wild buffalo to corporate interests, MFWP has broken trust with the public and tribes. We believe they have broken the law. It is not enough to trust that Yellowstone buffalo going to Turner's private lands is better than slaughter. Do not fall prey to the false government line that these are the only options.
There is another reason that Yellowstone buffalo should not go to Turner's land: two years ago there was an anthrax outbreak on Turner's Flying D ranch, a stone's throw from Turner's Green Ranch where the Yellowstone buffalo will be held for five years. Anthrax occurs in the soil and lies dormant under drought conditions until heavy rains occur. Turner lost 257 of his ranched buffalo to anthrax in 2008. It is also believed the outbreak was responsible for the deaths of wildlife: at least 2 deer and 14 elk. One domestic bull died from anthrax, and the Montana State Vet even recommended that cattle ranchers on lands adjacent to Turner's land vaccinate their cattle against anthrax. With this highly deadly bacteria in the soil, this land should never have been an option for further quarantining Yellowstone buffalo.
Buffalo Field Campaign has opposed the Quarantine Feasibility Study from the beginning, knowing strongly that this experiment would manipulate and sacrifice the wild integrity and unique behavior of America's last population of migrating buffalo. Proponents of quarantine would have us all believe that this is the only way that American buffalo will be restored to the landscape, but we advocate for natural bison restoration, one hoof at a time, via migration corridors to vast tracts of historic habitat enjoyed by all other wildlife. Buffalo advocates who honor the free-born bison and their right to roam their native lands should refuse to accept the privatization and commercialization of Yellowstone buffalo, and instead insist that disease-management be focused on domestic cattle. Since stress and confinement are instigators of disease, the only option that makes sense for wild buffalo is to roam free.
* Buffalo Battle Nominated for Genesis Award!
Buffalo Battle, the TV-documentary highlighting the controversy surrounding the management of wild Yellowstone buffalo and the work of Buffalo Field Campaign has been nominated for a Genesis Award, presented by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). According to HSUS, "HSUS's annual Genesis Awards recognizes artists, writers, and others in entertainment and the media who contributed their time and talents over the past year to raise awareness of the plight and suffering of animals." Learn more.
* Last Words
"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."
- President Lyndon B. Johnson, on the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964
Do you have submissions for Last Words? Send them to bfc-media"at"wildrockies.org. Thank you all for the poems, songs and stories you have been sending; you'll see them here!
* Kill Tally
AMERICAN BISON ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S.
2009-2010 Total: 1
2009-2010 Slaughter: 0
2009-2010 Hunt: 1
2009-2010 Quarantine: 0
2009-2010 Shot by Agents: 0
2009-2010 Highway Mortality: 0
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
Total Since 2000: 3,703*
*includes lethal government action, quarantine, hunts, highway mortalities