* USFWS Caters to Livestock Interests, Denies ESA Protection for Yellowstone Buffalo
On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a negative finding, denying Endangered Species Act protection for the wild buffalo of Yellowstone, the world’s most important bison herds. The decision came 14 months after Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds project petitioned to list these bison as an endangered or threatened species. The groups sought federal protection for the Yellowstone bison because these unique bison herds are harmed by inadequate federal and state management and other threats. Given the intense livestock industry-controlled politics surrounding the Yellowstone buffalo, this decision was anticipated. While still unfortunate news, there was some good news included: in their finding, the USFWS now agrees that the Yellowstone bison constitute a distinct population segment, reversing its 2011 position.
We are nowhere near done seeking ESA protection for America’s last wild buffalo and are reviewing the decision and intend to take legal action with help from the Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. We will be calling on you to help bolster this policy effort with strong public support, so be with us as we press forward to gain federal protection for the wild buffalo of Yellowstone country.
Our press release, full ESA petition, and the USFWS decision can be found HERE.
* Update from the Field
Buffalo Field Campaign photo. Click for larger image.
The killing of the buffalo, whether through slaughter disguised as “hunting” or slaughter from capture, is all part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), which was crafted by and for the benefit of livestock interests and not the buffalo or their ecosystem. Even those hunting under treaty rights are being used by Montana's livestock interests, and consequently, the IBMP, to facilitate the destruction of the buffalo and to prevent them from restoring themselves to Montana and elsewhere. The IBMP and the state of Montana are also trying to divide those of us who should be the strongest allies — First Nations and buffalo defenders — by using the buffalo’s relatives to finish what the government and industry of conquest started. The officials who celebrate the killing of the buffalo under treaty right would be up in arms (probably literally) if treaty hunters came in to take so many elk. This government reeks of double standards; the government will allow you to do what they will allow you to do, and no more.
A bull buffalo lies dead, just outside Yellowstone's north boundary. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photo for larger image.
Nearly forty more of America’s last wild buffalo were killed by hunters since our last Update. The new bi-weekly hunt closure at Beattie Gulch has not made much difference for the buffalo. Over the weekend, directly following the re-opening of the closure, 35 buffalo were killed. Patrols documented in horror as a family group of about eighteen buffalo moved through Beattie Gulch, out of the Park, and were encircled by numerous men with rifles. Nearly sixty shots were fired to kill this entire family. Another family group of eight was gunned down (video) a quarter mile away.
Early Tuesday morning, just about sunrise, we headed out on patrol. We were checking on a solitary bull who was in imminent danger. The evening before, we — as well as a few hunt parties — spotted him in an all-too-convenient location. As we climbed up the Forest Service road leading to the spot we'd last seen him, the area was empty. Our spirits cautiously, momentarily raised; hunt parties were out looking for him, too. On our course searching, we drove up Travertine Road, got to a good vantage point, and got out to scope around. The wind was whipping, invading the barriers of the thick and numerous layers of clothing we wore. As we scanned the landscape, our eyes watering from the frigid gusts, we spotted the bull. He was alone in the middle of a huge, grassy field, surrounded by sage brush. No hunters were eyeing him. Relief. Scanning to our left, we looked to see who else might be out there, expecting no one. To our surprise we spotted two more bulls. They had not been there the evening before. Two hunters had also spotted them and were already coming in for the kill, circling from about 20 yards, rifles aimed, ready to fire. Pop! Pop! Pop! One bull looked at the two-legged predator, and took a few steps. Pop! Pop! Pop! He stumbled, then stood back up. Pop! Pop! Pop! The other bull walked slowly away, not far. Pop! Pop! Pop! The first bull fell to the ground, shook, and lay perfectly still. Pop! Pop! Pop! The second bull stumbled, stood again, fell to the ground, succumbing to the the frozen earth, yet still alive. Pop! The light went out. Sixteen shots to kill two bull buffalo. One hunter raised his rifle in a gesture of victory. The hidden members of the hunt party moved in to take the buffalo apart.
The timeless power of buffalo migration cannot be stopped by the ignorance of man. Wednesday evening, hundreds of wild buffalo migrated into Montana and we vowed to celebrate with the buffalo, no matter the consequence! Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photo for larger image.
With heavy hearts and eyes brimming with tears, we moved down the mountain to check on the hundreds of buffalo migrating through the Gardiner Basin. It is a beautiful sight, this migration. You can feel it through your entire being. The rightness and truth of it. A wondrous phenomenon; ancient and steady. The buffalo come as they always have, grazing and playing along the way, but they never stop moving, not for long. We want to celebrate their coming, sing them welcoming songs. Our spirits reach out, but our hearts break, for we know that this timeless dance across the earth today leads the buffalo into numerous, fatal traps that they will never escape.
Who does this Park Ranger serve? Buffalo kills at the boundary of Yellowstone, along Beattie Gulch. Photos by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photos for larger image.
Of all the hundreds, three bulls were first to leave the Park. Trucks were waiting at the Beattie Gulch parking lot. One belonged to a hunt party, one to a Yellowstone National Park Ranger. We went to investigate, armed with our cameras and our love for buffalo. We climbed the hill, walking right along the Park boundary. We heard one shot, then a second. We saw a hunter and Park Ranger Brian Helms, both with rifles. Shocked, I asked Helms what he was doing here and with a rifle? He said he’s here in case a buffalo runs back into the Park after being shot, to “humanely dispatch” him. I said, “Oh, so that’s what they are calling it now?” He walked away with the hunter and his helper. We found the buffalo; two bulls, one who was still alive. We shouted to the men, “one is still alive! one is still alive!” They stopped and turned, and we shouted again, “he’s still alive!” But they only turned and left. I called out, “What about humanely dispatching?!!?” They disappeared from sight. The bull took a last breath. He and his companion dead on the ground barely twenty feet from the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. A third bull, left alive, glances sideways at us and his brothers. We lay our hands on the bulls, crying out loud, tears streaming down our frozen faces, apologizing for all of humanity, promising them that we will stop this, we will stop this slaughter.
Terribly hard to see, but this is the truth of what is taking place. Our hearts break every day, a piece of us lost with each buffalo who dies. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click for larger image.
Welcome to the Gardiner Basin. Gut piles lie everywhere; big, fleshy boulders cloaked in the undulating sleek black feathers of ravens, raucously celebrating their bounty; magpies, bald and golden eagles, joining in the feast.
Whether the excuse for these fatal tactics is brucellosis or population control, neither is based on reality and they only serve a political agenda. Tens of thousands of elk, who have also been exposed to brucellosis, roam freely in the land where buffalo are fatally targeted. The IBMP exists because Montana livestock interests sued Yellowstone for “allowing" wild bison to migrate into Montana, and because of a law crafted by the livestock industry — MCA 81-2-120 — which places the Montana Department of Livestock in charge of managing wild bison. One industry’s intolerance is driving a national treasure towards the brink of extinction. We know you care deeply about wild bison, and one of the single most important things you can do is to help repeal this law. Montana Governor Bullock must hear from us all, frequently. Please contact Governor Bullock today, even if you have already, and thank him deeply for granting year-round habitat for wild buffalo on Horse Butte, and urge him to help repeal MCA 81-2-120, so we can gain more of the buffalo’s Montana home for them to roam. It was endless pressure, endlessly applied that gained us Horse Butte, so please don’t stop until the buffalo are free to roam! email@example.com / 406-444-3111
Thank you for being with us for wild buffalo!
Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!
* For the Love of Buffalo! Send a Handcrafted Valentine to Support BFC
For the love of buffalo, support BFC with these beautifully handcrafted cards! Order now!
Valentine's Day: a time to express appreciation, love, and gratitude. Buffalo Field Campaign invites you to honor the important people in your life with a hand-crafted valentine that supports our work: securing justice for Yellowstone Country's wild buffalo.
Our 2016 valentine card again features a reproduction of an original drawing by long-time BFC supporter and Montanan Kathleen Stachowski. Titled "Horse Butte, MT: Under the protection of the Great Buffalo," it celebrates the recent acquisition of year-round wild bison habitat on Horse Butte west of the Yellowstone boundary--a victory for BFC after 18+ years of advocacy and activism. With Horse Butte in the background, two bison are at their ease under the watchful presence of the Great Buffalo constellation. Our card (8-1/2" x 5-1/2" when open) includes a paragraph on the work of Buffalo Field Campaign and the following sentiment:
"Be humble for you are made of earth.
Be noble for you are made of stars." ~Serbian proverb
"Love is the strongest force the world possesses
and yet it is the humblest imaginable." ~Mahatma Gandhi
A gift has been made in your honor by _____________
for the love of justice & wild buffalo!
Happy Valentine's Day!
Monday, February 1st is the last day orders will be taken. Please order early, as this is a hand-crafted item; early orders will be mailed later, in time to arrive for Valentine's Day. Additionally, your card(s) will be sent with a note on the envelope flap advising the recipent(s) to "open on the 14th." Minimum donation per card: $15.00. ORDER TODAY!
* Save the Dates! BFC Week of Action February 15 - 21, 2016
BFC's Week of Action will take place February 15 - 21, 2016.
Join Buffalo Field Campaign for our upcoming Week of Action! We are planning events in southwest Montana towns, and there will be an event that everyone, everywhere will be able to participate in. We are still in the planning stages and welcome your ideas. The Week of Action will kick-off on Monday, February 15 and will last through Sunday, February 21. Here is a tentative schedule of events, dates are confirmed, but a few places may change and more details will be announced:
- Monday, Feb 15: Rally in Bozeman, Montana
- Tuesday, Feb 16: Protest outside Yellowstone’s administrative building in Mammoth, Yellowstone National Park, followed by a candlelight vigil procession beginning at Mammoth, we will head to the Stephens Creek bison trap access road, and then close the vigil at Beattie Gulch.
- Wednesday, Feb 17: National Call-In Day (targets to be announced)
- Thursday, Feb 18: Rally in Helena
- Friday, Feb 19: Rally in West Yellowstone
- Saturday, Feb 20: Rally in Big Sky
- Sunday, Feb 21: Closing dinner in West Yellowstone to celebrate year-round habitat on Horse Butte
Again, the dates are confirmed, but some of the details may change. Please join us at any or all events! Tell your friends and bring them with you! If you are able to come for the full week and would like to stay with us, please RSVP with Stephany or Natalie so that we can make accommodations.
* TAKE ACTION! Endless Pressure, Endlessly Applied
The killing of the buffalo, whether it’s through “hunting” or slaughter, is all part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), which was crafted for the benefit of livestock interests, not buffalo. Even those hunting under treaty rights are being used by Montana's livestock interests, and consequently, the IBMP, to facilitate the destruction of the buffalo and to prevent them from restoring themselves in Montana and elsewhere. Whether the excuse for these fatal tactics is brucellosis or population control, neither is based on reality and they only serve a political agenda. The IBMP exists because Montana livestock interests sued Yellowstone for “allowing" wild bison to migrate into Montana, and because of a law crafted by the livestock industry — MCA 81-2-120 — which places the Montana Department of Livestock in charge of managing wild bison. One industry’s intolerance is driving a national treasure towards the brink of extinction. We know you care deeply about wild bison, and one of the single most important things you can do is to help repeal this law.
Contact Governor Steve Bullock today, and please take these other actions, even if you have already. Don’t stop until the buffalo are free to roam!
1. Montana Governor Steve Bullock needs to feel the pressure from everyone who cares about wild, migratory buffalo, enough pressure that he has no other choice than to help repeal MCA 81-2-120, the law that is driving the nefarious actions against America's last wild buffalo. Please contact Governor Bullock today, and everyday, demanding he change the status quo for wild bison in Montana by repealing MCA 81-2-120 and rejecting the government's alternatives in the newly proposed Montana-Yellowstone Bison Management Plan.
2. Help change the status quo for wild buffalo by urging your members of Congress to support BFC’s alternative to “Manage Wild Bison Like Wild Elk in Montana."
3. Submit Letters to the Editor in support of BFC's alternative to “Manage Wild Bison Like Wild Elk in Montana,” the only alternative that respects wild buffalo and their right to roam their home.
* 2016 Calendars! Celebrate Wild Buffalo Every Day of the Year!
2016 is here! We know you or a friend would really enjoy celebrating wild buffalo 365 days a year! Our Wild Bison of Yellowstone calendars will bring you into the majesty of what it will look like for wild buffalo on Horse Butte, now that hundreds of them are able to live here every single day!
Order BFC's 2015 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendars!
Celebrate wild buffalo every day of the year! This is our sixth annual Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendar, and it is another wonderful exploration of this country’s largest land mammal. Featuring stunning photos from generous professional photographers such as Sandy Sisti, Tom Mangelsen, Ric Kessler, and others, along with photos from Buffalo Field Campaign, this calendar also includes incredible artwork, interesting facts, and beautiful poetry and quotes. BFC's 2016 calendar is dedicated to BFC co-founder Rosalie Little Thunder, our friend and teacher who passed away in August 2014. All proceeds from the calendar go directly to BFC’s front lines work in defense of America’s last wild buffalo. Support our work to help these gentle giants as you celebrate wild buffalo every day!
Fall in love with the buffalo and strengthen your resolve to help protect them! ORDER HERE!
* Spread the Word for the Herds! Distribute BFC Newsletters in Your Community
Help spread the word to save the herds! If you would like us to send you a stack of newsletters to place around your community, Tara can help you with that, too. We love that we have supporters who are willing to distribute our annual newsletter, spreading the word to save the herds is one of our main tenets and we are thrilled to have so many volunteers! Shipping can be costly, so please let Tara know an exact number that you feel you are able to distribute and she will happily get them to you ASAP!
If your address has changed, or if you are new and would like to be added to our mailing list, please contact Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*By the Numbers
The last wild, migratory buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,900 individual animals, living in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wild, migratory bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native range in North America.
Total Buffalo Killed: 136
Buffalo Released from Capture:
Tribal - ITBC & CSKT Slaughter:
Died in Government Trap:
Died in Government Research Facility**:
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
State Hunt: 14
State “Damage" Hunts:
Treaty Hunts: 105
Unknown Hunts: 4
Poached in Yellowstone:
Sent to Quarantine:
Sent to APHIS Research Facility:
Shot by Agents:
Shot by Landowner:
Shot by Idaho:
Highway Mortality: 2
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 5,775
* includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine/experiments, hunts, and highway deaths
** bison stolen from the wild and placed in APHIS research facilities (such as for GonaCon) have already been counted as being "eliminated from the population" so bison that have died in a government research facility are not reflected in the total.
* Last Words of Buffalo Inspiration ~ Gardiner Basin Vacationer
A Slice of Life on the Northern Range of the Wild West
"I want to share with you my past few days. It includes indescribable peace and serenity, perseverance in survival, wild open spaces of wilderness and coexistence; yet, conflicted with the natural selection of the survival of the fittest vs. the chosen elimination of an unwelcome species. I will attempt this collection of events without my embellished opinion. This is a sector of my life in Montana/Wyoming that most never experience, and few fully understand.
The short story goes like this:
With word from reliable sources, over 27 wolves were counted in the Lamar [Valley] less than two weeks ago on one given day, prompting my desire for a road trip to Yellowstone with scope and camera in stow. A crisp 12-15 degrees as I drove towards the Lamar passing iconic herds of bison, elk, and a manageable flow of visitors. But no sign of wolves, only the sound in the distance of howling from many directions. I drove upon a ‘kill’ that 3 coyotes were feeding on, as a flock of ravens perched on the 6x6 rack still intact and upright as if the bull was bedded down for an afternoon rest. Truly a picturesque site of a food chain in progression. I spent 3 hours scoping the Lamar, but no wolves. Before heading north I had counted over 20 coyotes, 2 fox, and numerous birds of prey.
The next morning I woke to bull elk posturing next to the bedroom window of the small cabin where I stayed, only a few miles from the Park’s boundary. As the sun lit the morning sky, a small herd of bison were pacing on an island along the Yellowstone River… the park wildlife had followed me, so I smiled to myself. Midday I decided to drive to Gardiner, but noticed a gathering of trucks, cars, and trailers along the dirt road. Being curious, I turned the opposite direction of town and drove slowly by the gathering of people in camouflage armed with rifles. I asked one young man, “what are you hunting?” “Buffalo”, was his reply. My subliminal voice said, “Bison Bison”… As I continued northward, I saw a herd of bison in the middle of the dirt road walking toward me. A posse of several pickups was herding/pushing them southward in the direction of the clan of hunters. I immediately pulled off the side of the road and turned around to avoid the procession. My thoughts were validated; I was witnessing the process of hazing, or the official elimination of bison that have wandered beyond the boundary of YNP. A slaughter that was about to unfold and something that I had no intention of experiencing; The culling of a herd.
But before I could exit the scene, a state truck stopped me, and the Warden asked, “How many times do you plan on doing this?”
“Driving back and forth along this road. Can’t you see that those animals are being herded this direction?”
“Of course, that is why I turned around… I realize now that an Event is in process…. I haven’t been driving up and down this road, I’m staying over there."
“Yes, I know where you’re staying. Are you with the Buffalo Campaign?”
“Just a tax payer…………………………………."
“You best leave for your own safety.”
To add to my observation, I thought the Warden was wrapped a bit tight, and I felt he was implying that I was trespassing on public land. However, I would not have wanted his job on that day. I could have cut the tension with a dull knife. As I drove away, a few “hunters” exchanged a few verbals I didn’t understand, nor chose to respond to.
Decided to bag the town trip, as the encounter of it all crushed the mood for an outing. I returned 2 days later to the park with my cousin, Stacey, with anticipation of finding the wolves. None again, but counted another 8 coyotes all close to the road. But the wonder of the Lamar still rewarded us with its splendid beauty. Unfortunately, we had to pass the hazing program twice that day knowing that the bison we saw that morning roaming toward the boundary less than a mile away, would be dead by the time we returned to the cabin that night.
Sunday, at noon, we started to drive back home along the dirt road once scattered with herds of bison, elk, hundreds of pronghorns. Some elk remained (species other than bison were not hunted, of course), but all were lying down in close vicinity. The pronghorn remained. Few deer were seen. No hunters. No pickups or trailers. But birds of prey filled the sky; bald and golden eagles, hawks, ravens, osprey all in view, as well as countless piles of bison remains left on the land to be cleaned up by those that were not selected. The remains of the Day.
This past weekend was a collision of emotion: Coexistence. Can we?
~ Anonymous. Report from the experience of a person vacationing in the Gardiner Basin, near Beattie Gulch.
Please keep sending quotes, poems and other words of buffalo wisdom. You'll see them here!