* Update from the Field
A mother with her new calf. Buffalo mothers are fierce defenders of their calves and the bond between the two is immediate and incredibly strong. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
There are so many ups and downs and steady challenges for our friends the buffalo, who press on in their ancient wisdom despite all odds and hundreds of years of oppression.
Thanks to your continued persistence, and the greening of the earth, Yellowstone has finally begun to release buffalo from the Stephens Creek trap. Approximately 200 buffalo, including nearly seventy calves born in captivity, are now out of prison. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, all of the buffalo held in the trap will be released. THANK YOU! This year marks the first time in BFC history that we have stopped the slaughter! The combined efforts of our unique field patrols that witness and document, our incredible legal counsel, our presence in Washington, D.C., and you, faithful friend of the buffalo who raised your voice so loud: together we ensured that more than 800 wild buffalo will walk away from the Stephens Creek trap. Let this encourage us all to believe in our power to make a positive difference and reinforce our commitment to never give up. For there is still much work to be done.
While buffalo calves are able to stand and even walk just a few hours after birth, they need a lot of rest and quiet, and cannot sustain intense travel until their new muscles have had a chance to fully develop and grow strong. Even so, they will do whatever they must to stay with their mothers, who, under natural circumstances, take their gentle time going from place to place. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
On Thursday morning, outside of West Yellowstone, patrols found the tiny body of the newborn calf that was first hazed when only four hours old. There is no doubt that this baby buffalo was hazed to death. Immediately suffering damage to its hind legs from being forced to move at such a fragile stage, agents continued to harass it every day of its life, and now a mourning mother walks alone. Our hearts break for this little buffalo and its mom, especially knowing that so many buffalo suffer the same fate every spring because Montana's livestock interests allow their unfounded fears to trump compassion.
Here four bulls are run for over ten miles down Highway 287. No cattle are present in the area, and hazing operations severely exacerbate the difficult time the buffalo have had in surviving this long winter. Cattle or no, this is the buffalo's land! BFC file photo by Justine Sanchez. Click photo for larger image.
Montana Departments of Livestock (DOL) and Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), assisted by Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin County Sheriffs, have conducted numerous hazing operations along Highway 287 on the north side of the Madison River corridor, west of Yellowstone National Park. Bull groups, pregnant moms, newborn calves, buffalo of all ages and sizes have been repeatedly forced to give up their chosen ground. And their ground is only just now beginning to give forth the grasses they so desperately need. A few warm days coupled with a stretch of rainy days melted a good amount of snow and green-up is finally starting. But inside Yellowstone's higher elevations, snow still covers much of the ground.
Melting is coming in the nick of time. This winter has been severe, and has held on so long that buffalo are still dying from her long cold grip. Some pregnant buffalo have had such a difficult time getting enough nutrition to carry forth a healthy calves; we are seeing and hearing of stillborn calves. Other buffalo are bone thin and struggling, awaiting the Earth's re-greening. The melting snow is also helping buffalo move away from the roadsides, where they were finding grass most abundant. Patrols have been busy on the highways, every day and deep into most nights, putting up signs to warn traffic. But not every driver heeds the warnings and we tragically lost three buffalo to vehicle collisions this week: a bull and a mom and calf. We give thanks to our volunteers who spend tireless hours on the dark roads every night, trying to help the buffalo survive.
Mom's rich milk is the main staple for this little one, and will be for at least a year to come, but its fun to give grass a try since it will very shortly be on the menu. Whether consumed through milk or directly, grass is what will shape this baby into a massive buffalo. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
On Monday an Associated Press story announced that the Department of Livestock (DOL) had plans to send their monstrous helicopter to the Hebgen Basin and begin their intensive hazing operations. Hazing now would kill many buffalo. We immediately called Yellowstone to encourage them to not allow it. The Park informed us that while the DOL was indeed wanting to haze, Yellowstone officials refused to permit such actions due to the poor conditions on the ground. This decision by Yellowstone has bought the buffalo a couple of weeks, a little bit of time for newborn calves to grow stronger, for pregnant mothers to give birth in peace, and for weak buffalo to find some nutrition to grow strong once again. While BFC will continue to insist that hazing never take place, we are grateful that Yellowstone stood their ground. Please send a quick thank you to Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk for this decision.
The new decision from Interagency Bison Management Plan partners to allow buffalo to temporarily roam the Gardiner Basin is already being challenged by Park County's anti-buffalo contingency, including their Stockgrowers Association and county commissioners. The agencies seem optimistic that these much-needed adaptive changes will move forward, but not without a struggle. Yet bison advocates in the Gardiner Basin are strong in number and the buffalo will have their voice. Agencies have also begun to put up fencing at Yankee Jim Canyon in their effort to prevent buffalo from accessing the good habitat of the Paradise Valley. The fencing is intense, extending from the cattle guard on Highway 89, running east high up a steep cliff. Across the Yellowstone River more fencing runs west up another steep cliff. Next winter will determine how the buffalo interact with this latest migration blockade. In all likelihood they will press the boundaries and we will be there to support them.
* Patience ~ by Roman Sanchez
The peaceful, winding Madison River that the buffalo follow leads out to Horse Butte, a favorite traditional calving grounds with south-facing slopes that loose snow earlier than other areas. BFC file photo by Stephany. Click photo for larger image.
It's been 11 years now that I've been walking along the bluffs that follow the twists and turns of the Madison River, me following the age-old swathe created by the mighty bison as they head out towards their ancestral birthing grounds.
11 years! I'm thinking to myself--seems like a lot of time--definitely a lot of memories. Some filled with incredible beauty, others filled with the tragedy of management plans and those who carry them out. Mostly though it is the incredible magic, the sublime beauty that possesses this place and all of its inhabitants that keep me wanting to come back and stand with the buffalo. To feel what it must have been like before management plans and the ignorance of their machinery and arrogance. To think -- 11 years! A blink in the grand scheme of things. This is certainly what the bison have known since our earliest military men and their management plans called for a landscape "speckled with cattle." A Uwipi Medicine man once told me when he came to camp to pray and cleanse with us for the buffalo, "We Indians have been praying with and for the buffalo for hundreds of years--we have the patience." Patience I think---this beauty that surrounds us continually--these bluffs that wind themselves along the Madison--the lone mountain fox out on the icy waters of Hebgen Lake stopping to acknowledge my presence one frigid winter morning. The incredible wingspan of the juvenile bald eagle that soars above me. The grizzly tracks in the sand I followed one early morning with an intense knowing that I am merely a thread in this incredible tapestry. The colors of the sky before the sun fully rises--the joy of a bison herd when calves are born. The presence of wolves, the northern lights in all their sublime glory illuminating the sky over our cabin. The roaring bulls during the rut-- a herd of elk crossing the river. An old growth stand of Douglas Fir--the great gray owl alighting upon our yurt. My son's first ski out on Fir Ridge and into the Park--cohorts of blue birds flitting about the green sage with their penetrating blue--ravens dancing on thermal currents, Sandhill cranes necks outstretched with their prehistoric calls. This landscape will continue to call to me--its wildness continue to have a profound impact deep within me. It is wildness and those words spoken to me of patience that will have me returning to this land--to stand with the buffalo until there is JUSTICE--until management plans are replaced with the highest form of order that is the wild!
BFC Board Member
* Mother's Day Celebrates barb and Buffalo Calving Season
A mother buffalo and her new baby spend some relaxing time together Mother's Day weekend. Photo by Tom Woodbury, BFC board member. Click photo for larger image.
I can't remember if it has been 5 or 6 years that we have been celebrating Mother's Day with our "Free Coffee, Free Cookies, Free the Buffalo!" event. As Simon and Garfunkle put it, "The years are rolling by me, they are rocking evenly. I am older than I once was and younger than I'll be, but that's not unusual." I am older and my memory has never been that good. But I will always remember barb abramo.
This Mother's Day barb's buffalo family invited those who loved her out to Horse Butte, to PHILbarb Cove, to celebrate our dearly missed friend. We gathered at Rainbow Point Road and Hwy 191 and, after plenty of coffee and cookies, the procession made its way out to PHILbarb Cove to release barb back to the Earth, back to the bluffs, back to the water, back to Phil. An older female bison sat quietly, witness to our procession. A juvenile bald eagle, perched high in a snag, kept watch. I know barb would have been happy with the community of two-legged, four-legged, and winged ones assembled in her honor. She always loved Mother's Day. She loved the return of all of the Buffalo Field Campaign kids and moms; our buffalo family. She loved her coffee roadside and the cookies too! We set a cup out for her this year, feeling her presence.
It's been a hard week. Returning to camp for the first time with no barb. Losing a baby buffalo. A calf born and hazed to death all in the short span of four days. Then there is the small group of moms and babies on Highway 287, so tender and vulnerable, hazed several times. The result of these hazing operations is that the buffalo stay dangerously close to the road, exhausted, with just the first spring greens available to replenish with after being hazed.
Monday we spent in Gardiner on a tour of the Basin with the Citizen's Working Group and Pat Flowers of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP). We were shown all the beautiful green habitat secured for the buffalo. Unfortunately, there were no buffalo on those acres. In fact, the overwhelming majority of buffalo that I saw, approximately 1000, were either in the Stephen's Creek capture facility or the high fenced quarantine pens. Taxpayers and NGO's have given more than 15 million dollars to the Church Universal and Triumphant's Royal Teton Ranch for bison habitat. Yet I saw no buffalo on those lands. But that's not unusual.
What is unusual is our BFC family and the way we come together, year after year. We are strong, dedicated, powerful, hard-working, passionate, and beautiful. These are all words used to describe barb and we embody those attributes in our commitment to protect the last wild bison. We have much to celebrate! Not only the life and work of barb abramo but also the accomplishments we have made for the buffalo. This year in Gardiner no buffalo were shipped to slaughter. We should celebrate! This year in West Yellowstone, NPS took a stand and halted the DOL's helicopter haze, buying the bison two more weeks to calve and graze before being run back to the Park. We need to celebrate! Our board of directors met at camp headquarters and crafted an impressive list of next steps. Celebrate! It is important to remember that BFC's field work fuels our legal team in the courts as well as our policy coordinator in Washington, D.C. We have the strength of our community, those past, present, and future generations, to draw upon as we walk forward in celebration and solidarity with the buffalo.
It continues to be an honor to be a part of the Buffalo Field Campaign. I am humbled by the majesty of the bison.
For the buffalo,
Justine Sanchez, BFC board member
* TAKE ACTION! What You Can Do to Help
Take the challenges head on for the buffalo! Bison rut phot by BFC's Darrell Geist. Click photo for larger image.
1. Contact Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk and thank him for beginning to release all the buffalo that have been held prisoner in Stephens Creek and Corwin Springs buffalo traps. Please also thank him for taking a stand and not allowing the MT Department of Livestock to begin hazing operations while snow still covers so much ground. Please continue to encourage him to protect America's last wild buffalo population, not cater to Montana's livestock interests. TAKE ACTION!
2. Contact Your Members of Congress and urge them to force an end to the Interagency Bison Management Plan and re-direct federal funding towards habitat-based solutions for wild buffalo. TAKE ACTION!
3. Contact Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson and demand that she not hide behind the failed Interagency Bison Management Plan and allow buffalo to access all available habitat in the Gallatin National Forest, year round. TAKE ACTION!
4. Write Letters to the Editor in support of protecting America's last wild buffalo. TAKE ACTION!
Thank You! Spread the word to save these herds! Please share these action links on FaceBook, blogs, etc.
* Volunteer with BFC this Summer!
As the harsh winter snows begin to melt and the life-giving grasses start to green we can sense the approach of summer. We are forming our summer tabling crew and are seeking volunteers to come help us educate visitors to Yellowstone on bison issues and what we do as a Campaign. BFC provides food, lodging, camping in and near the Park, gear, and transportation to and from the park. We ask for at least a three week commitment in order to accommodate training and orientation. This is a great opportunity to get involved and advocate for the last of the American free roaming buffalo! If you are interested please contact Tony and I can answer any questions you may have.
* WANTED: A New Work Horse Computer for Our Habitat Coordinator
Buffalo Field Campaign's habitat coordinator, Darrell Geist, needs a computer to replace his laptop that has been a faithful work horse for four years. A new Mac with extra memory and hard drive space with software and a magic mouse is needed to keep him operational and mobile in the field.
View BFC habitat coordinator's dream machine.
* By the Numbers
AMERICAN BUFFALO ELIMINATED from the last wild population in the U.S. The last wild population is currently estimated at fewer than 3,600 individual buffalo.
2010-2011 Total Buffalo Killed: 227
2010-2011 Government Capture: 770
2010-2011 Government Slaughter: 0
2010-2011 Died In Government Trap: 3
2010-2011 Miscarriage in Government Trap: 1
2010-2011 State & Treaty Hunts: 211
2010-2011 Quarantine: 0
2010-2011 Shot by Agents: 3
2010-2011: Killed by Angry Residents: 2
2010-2011 Highway Mortality: 9
2009-2010 Total: 7
2008-2009 Total: 22
2007-2008 Total: 1,631
* Total Since 2000: 3,939*
*includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine, hunts, highway mortality
* Last Words ~ Roman Sanchez
"Born and Hazed in Montana"
on the side
of the road
Vulture on fence post--waiting
traffic races by
Agents on horseback
how many more
will have to die
before the masses
Mama grunts across
the road--afterbirth still hanging
as calf's death is
broadcast over the radio
"Born and hazed every day
of its life!"
We know that Buffalo mourn
seen it with our
no need to anthropomorphize
we are not the only ones
Although management plans
~ Roman Sanchez, BFC Board Member
Do you have submissions for Last Words? Send them to Stephany. Thank you for all the poems, songs, quotes, and stories you have been sending; you'll see them here!