* Update from the Field
The historic buffalo-killing trains of yesterday, today come in the form of the Montana livestock industry and Interagency Bison Management Plan. Click image for larger view.
"As long as the North American buffalo roamed free and bountiful, the Plains Indians were able to remain sovereign. Buffalo were their lifeline—the Indians had a symbiotic relationship with them, and always honored the mighty beasts for the many blessings they provided…. Andrew Isenberg, author of The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750-1920, said, 'Some Army officers in the Great Plains in the late 1860s and 1870s...foresaw that if the bison were extinct, the Indians in the Great Plains would have to surrender to the reservation system.' Colonel Dodge said in 1867, 'Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone,' and Delano wrote in his 1872 annual report, 'The rapid disappearance of game from the former hunting-grounds must operate largely in favor of our efforts to confine the Indians to smaller areas, and compel them to abandon their nomadic customs'….while it wasn’t feasible for the U.S. Army to kill tens of millions of bison, it was feasible for the Army to let hunters use their forts as bases of operation and stand by as they slaughtered the animals in staggering numbers.”
~ Adrian Jawort, Indian Country Today, 2011.
Such nefarious actions can only be called what they are: genocide. Today, many of the same forces are still at play on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, where the country’s last continuously wild bison live. Instead of the U.S. Army driving the slaughter, today we have the Montana Department of Livestock and the government agencies who serve them forcing policies and political agendas to ensure that buffalo attempting to recover and restore themselves on their native landscape will never be able to do so. While some of the tactics have changed — including those doing the actual killing — the end results are the same.
A young bull buffalo soaks up warm sunshine on a frigid morning. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photo for larger image.
In the name of the Interagency Bison Management Plan, which is in place to serve Montana’s livestock interests, hunters along the edge of Yellowstone National Park’s north boundary took the lives of 120 more ecologically extinct wild buffalo in the past week. The buffalo death toll is rising at an alarming rate, and has now surpassed three hundred. These counts reduce them to digits, the killing reduces them to meat, yet they are individuals with families and loved ones, who have their own thoughts, ideas, desires, family members they love, siblings they butt heads with (literally), and elders who teach them how to be wise. Buffalo are gifts to this living land and they would restore themselves and reclaim their grassy throne of sovereignty with ease, if we humans would only get out of their way. Entire family groups are being obliterated day after day. They are being pushed towards the brink of extinction once again by many of the same forces that nearly destroyed them in the 19th century.
The war against wild buffalo underscores the hypocrisy of the arguments used to facilitate their destruction. The livestock disease brucellosis is one such excuse, yet wild bison have never transmitted brucellosis back to domestic cattle outside of a laboratory setting. Indeed, the hundreds of gut piles strewn about the landscape include the very flesh where brucellosis lives: reproductive organs, tissues, and discarded fetuses. Meanwhile, on more than one occasion, elk have been shown to be responsible for transmitting brucellosis to cattle, yet they are rightfully free to roam. The other excuse the killers use is “population control,” with livestock interests demanding that the world's most important wild bison population, which used to exist in the tens of millions, be driven down from fewer than 4,600 buffalo to a mere 3,000 and claiming that anything above this arbitrary number are “surplus” and “unmanageable.” Although there are tens of thousands more elk than bison, you’ll never hear anyone claim there are “surplus” elk. Prejudice and a lust for control are the driving factors in the war against buffalo.
The torture chambers of Yellowstone's Stephens Creek bison trap. Photos by Amanda Nemeth, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photos for larger images.
As buffalo blood is shed just outside Yellowstone National Park by hunters, park rangers are greasing up the gears and locks of the Stephens Creek bison trap, ready to finish by capture-for-slaughter inside Yellowstone what hunters fail to accomplish. Last Wednesday, BFC and others attended a tour of the currently empty facility. If, or rather when, Yellowstone has its way, it won’t be long before the eerily quiet, fortified walls of the trap are clanking and rattling with terrified buffalo, trying to find any means of escape. When the buffalo are shut in, the public is shut out. Yellowstone prefers to hide the abuse, terror, and torment that they put the buffalo through, but they are being challenged for this secrecy. On Tuesday, a law suit was filed against Yellowstone for violating first amendment rights (more info below).
Those who commit or participate in the killing are certainly responsible for their individual actions, yet the livestock industry’s intolerance is directly responsible for the buffalo’s current brush with extinction. We must put an end to livestock industry control over wild buffalo, and to do so we must repeal the law — MCA 81-2-120 — that places them in charge. As evidenced by his decision to grant year-round habitat on Horse Butte, Montana Governor Steve Bullock is listening, but the livestock industry is trying to undermine his citizen-supported decision. He must hear from us all, frequently. Please contact Governor Bullock today, even if you have already, thank him for granting year-round habitat on Horse Butte and urge him to help repeal MCA 81-2-120. With endless pressure, endlessly applied, we can end livestock industry control and gain more of the buffalo’s Montana home for them to roam.
Thank you so very much for being with us for wild buffalo!
Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!
*NEWS! Yellowstone Sued for Denying Public Access to Bison Trap
Journalist Christopher Ketcham and Buffalo Field Campaign patrols scope the Stephens Creek bison trap, far in the distance. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaing. Click photo for larger image.
As a result of years of secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding bison capture operations, Yellowstone National Park is facing legal action. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Jamie M. Woolsey of the private Wyoming law firm Fuller, Sandefer & Associates, L.L.C., and two constitutional law professors filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of journalist Christopher Ketcham and wild bison advocate Stephany Seay, who are seeking access to Yellowstone National Park’s controversial bison trapping operations that lead to the slaughter of hundreds of bison. The lawsuit argues that the First Amendment guarantees citizens and journalists reasonable, non-disruptive access to the publicly funded national park.
Read the press release and full legal complaint HERE.
* 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.
* 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 last through Sunday, February 21.
Here is a tentative schedule of events. Dates are confirmed, more details will be announced:
- Monday, Feb 15, 10-5: Rally and tabling in Bozeman, Montana. Info tables at the Bozeman Co-Op and public library from 10am-5pm, rally through Downtown mid-day.
- Tuesday, Feb 16, all day: Protest outside Yellowstone’s administrative building in Mammoth, Yellowstone National Park, followed by a candlelight vigil beginning at Mammoth, convoy to the Stephens Creek bison trap entrance, ending at Beattie Gulch.
- Wednesday, Feb 17, all day: National Call-In Day (targets to be announced)
- Thursday, Feb 18, 1-4 (rally) 4:30-? dinner: BFC & Natives Rally in Helena! Rotunda of the Capitol Building from 1-4pm. Join BFC along with members of the Nez Perce, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Blackfeet, and Confederated Salish & Kootenai tribes, as we honor Governor Bullock for opening year-round habitat for wild buffalo on Horse Butte and urge him to expand the lands where wild buffalo roam! We will also pay a visit to the Montana Department of Livestock offices to let them know how we feel about their maltreatment of America’s last wild buffalo. Afterwards, join us for a working-in-solidarity dinner.
- Friday, Feb 19: Rally in West Yellowstone
- Saturday, Feb 20: Rally in Big Sky
- Sunday, Feb 21: Closing dinner. Join us at BFC headquarters in West Yellowstone for an open house and community meal to celebrate year-round bison 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.
* WANTED: Photos & Artwork for 2017 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country Calendar
Order BFC's 2016 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendars!
It’s that exciting time of year when we give a shout out to all the awesome photographers and artists out there! We are on track to create our 2017 Wild Bison of Yellowstone Country calendar and we want your Yellowstone buffalo images! Our calendar project is a true celebration of the wild buffalo of Yellowstone country, America’s last wild herds. Your generous and amazing contributions have made this an amazing buffalo exploration stunning photos, incredible artwork, interesting facts, beautiful poetry, and inspired quotations. Please contact Stephany at firstname.lastname@example.org for details or to submit your images.
We still have a few 2016 Wild Bison calendars left, with more than eleven months left to enjoy it. It’s never too late to celebrate wild buffalo every day of the year! All proceeds go directly to BFC’s front lines work in defense of America’s last wild buffalo. Fall in love with the buffalo and strengthen your resolve to help protect them!
* Buffalo in the News
Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign. Click photo for larger view.
Three bison wounded in hunt outside park
Montana Public Radio
Science, not rhetoric, should lead bison decisions
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Governor’s bison decision irks Montana Farm Bureau
Animal Legal Defense Fund sues to lift secrecy around mass slaughter
Wildlife Conservation Examiner
*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: 310
Buffalo Released from Capture:
Tribal - ITBC & CSKT Slaughter:
Died in Government Trap:
Died in Government Research Facility**:
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
State Hunt: 16
State “Damage" Hunts:
Treaty Hunts: 267
Unknown Hunts: 4
Known Wounded in Hunt: 12
Wounded & Shot by NPS: 1
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: 5,947
* 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 ~ Granville Stuart
"In 1880, [Montana] was practically uninhabited. One could travel for miles without seeing so much as a traveler's bivouac. Thousands of buffalo darkened the rolling plains. There were deer, elk, wolves and coyotes on every hill and in every ravine and thicket. . . . In the fall of 1883, there was not a buffalo remaining on the range and the antelope, elk, and deer were indeed scarce. . . [T]here were 600,000 head of cattle on the range. The cowboy . . . had become an institution.”
~ Granville Stuart, quoted in Donald Worster, Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
Please keep sending quotes, poems and other words of buffalo wisdom. You'll see them here!