(the only Group Working in Yellowstone FULL TIME!)

February 5, 2004

In This Issue:

*  Update from the Field
*  DOL Erects Trap for Yellowstone Buffalo -- Threatening Wildlife on Gallatin National Forest
Wild Buffalo Shot Near Gardiner
*  Oppose the Horse Butte Buffalo Trap
*  Support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act!
*  Yellowstone Wildlife DVD available to Support BFC
*  BFC Wish List
*  Last Words

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*  Update from the Field
Buffalo Supporters,
I haven't been to Horse Butte in a while.  I've been meaning to get out there, to say some prayers for the buffalo, to give thanks that the Horse Butte Trap was never set up last year, to manifest healing for the land.  I have fond memories from last spring of hiking through the aspen groves on Horse Butte, watching large herds of buffalo, calves running circles around their mothers, bulls charging each other, wild buffalo roaming free.  I also have painful memories of the two months of intense hazing during calving season, of the stillborn birth during a haze, of the calf that was run through a barbed wire fence and killed, of the needless stress placed on pregnant buffalo and newborn calves during this critical time.  But somehow I could still find relief that they weren't trapping and killing buffalo last spring on Horse Butte.  The land where the trap had once been was given a rest and the ghosts of so many lost buffalo from previous years could perhaps find peace.
Yesterday the Department of Livestock (DOL) began constructing the Horse Butte Trap.  They are finishing up today.  A metal scar now marks the land, warning us of the peril facing the last wild buffalo in America.  I remember the last day that the Horse Butte Trap was used, in late April 2002.  The DOL hazed 69 buffalo through a barbed wire fence and captured them.  They were all sent to slaughter.  Later, as we picked bits of bloody flesh and fur from the fence and tried to comfort each other, a small herd of buffalo emerged from the forest and came over to the trap with heads hung low.  It was as if they were paying their respects.  We honor those buffalo by continuing to bear witness to this senseless slaughter.
There haven't been cattle on public land on Horse Butte for over two years.  The cattle allotments for the National Forest on Horse Butte have been cancelled.  There are also bald eagle nests in the area that can be disturbed by hazing and capture operations in the area.  Below you will find an action item asking the Forest Service to revoke the permit for the Horse Butte Trap.  Please take a moment to contact them and tell them that you do not support the slaughter of wild buffalo on your National Forests.
This morning a bull buffalo was shot by the DOL near Gardiner.  As the threat to buffalo on the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park increases, we are preparing to maintain a camp near Gardiner.  As a result, we will be stretching our resources even farther.  As always, we appreciate your support, whether financial or as a volunteer.  If you have ever thought of coming out to Yellowstone to defend the buffalo, please come now.
This afternoon, DOL agents hazed a lone bull buffalo into the Park from Cougar Creek.  They attempted to haze more buffalo on the Madison River in the Gallatin National Forest but ran out of time.  Tomorrow they will likely be at it again, harassing the 19 buffalo left on the Madison River--buffalo just trying to graze in our National Forests. 
It is hard to stay positive on days like today.  But I know when I spend time with the buffalo that their example of resistance can guide us through these difficult winters.  I can also feel a growing momentum at camp, in the media, in Congress, in the courts, in conversations with buffalo supporters around the globe.  Thank you for being a part of that momentum.  Together we will stop the slaughter.
For the buffalo,
Ted Fellman
BFC Media
*  Montana Department of Livestock Erects Trap for Yellowstone Buffalo -- Threatening Wildlife on Gallatin National Forest
For Immediate Release:  February 4, 2004
West Yellowstone, MT -- The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) began construction of the Horse Butte buffalo trap on the Gallatin National Forest this morning.  The trap will be used to capture and slaughter Yellowstone buffalo, members of the only herd in America with continuously wild ancestry.  The State of Montana has slaughtered more than 3,500 Yellowstone buffalo since 1985.
The last time the Horse Butte trap was used, on April 29, 2002, the DOL captured 69 buffalo and sent them all to slaughter without testing a single one for brucellosis, the supposed reason for the slaughter.  There has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from wild buffalo to livestock and since the grazing allotment was retired in 2003 there have been no cattle on the Horse Butte Peninsula.
Horse Butte is an ecologically rich area on the Gallatin National Forest comprised of approximately 15 square miles or 10,000 acres of world-class wildlife habitat.  Much of the land is owned by the public (Gallatin National Forest) and provides crucial habitat for Yellowstone's wild bison herds and a number of sensitive species including the bald eagle, gray wolf, trumpeter swan, peregrine falcon, grizzly bear, wolverine, lynx, and boreal owl.  All species are negatively impacted by buffalo hazing and capture operations.
Despite language in the Forest Service's Operating Plan stating that the "USFS strongly recommends the capture facility be installed before Feb. 1," to protect bald eagles, the DOL didn't initiate installation until February 4. 
The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) has documented violations of the Endangered Species Act associated with the buffalo trap, located within a Bald Eagle Management Zone.  The BFC, Cold Mountain Cold Rivers, and The Ecology Center have brought suit against the federal agencies permitting the trap and an appeal in the case will be heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on 3/ 1.
"It is very unfortunate that the state would put the facility up with this case pending," said Jim Coefield of The Ecology Center.  "Today's actions reveal the agencies' disdain for the legal process."
"The two symbols of America--the bald eagle and buffalo-and the entire Yellowstone ecosystem are being abused by our government, and we will not stand by and watch as they destroy our public lands in the name of cattle that haven't even been here in over two years," stated Mike Mease of the BFC.
"The trap is located on public land belonging to all Americans," said the BFC's Dan Brister.  "The majority of residents on Horse Butte enjoy the presence of free-roaming buffalo and are opposed to this trap."
The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild buffalo.  Volunteers defend the buffalo on their traditional winter habitat and advocate for their protection.  Daily patrols stand with the buffalo on the ground they choose to be on and document every move made against them.
*  Wild Buffalo Shot Near Gardiner
For Immediate Release:  February 5, 2004                    
Gardiner, MT - Agents of the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) shot a bull buffalo this morning north of Gardiner.  The bull was shot on private property near the Little Trail Creek.  Rangers with the National Park Service (NPS) were present.
The bull came down from Eagle Creek last night.  Tracks indicate that it was the only buffalo in the area and that it was his first time out of the Eagle Creek Area.  Eagle Creek is the only area in Montana outside of Yellowstone National Park where wild buffalo are allowed to roam freely.
Currently there are about 100 buffalo in the Eagle Creek Area north of Yellowstone National Park.  The Park Service is required to monitor buffalo in Eagle Creek regularly.  The NPS is further required to monitor buffalo daily that approach the boundary of the Eagle Creek Management Area and haze them if necessary to prevent them from ranging beyond the protected area.  There is no indication that the bull had been monitored or hazed before being shot this morning.
"As long as Montana maintains a zero tolerance policy towards wild buffalo, we will continue to see buffalo being killed for following their instincts," said Ted Fellman of the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC).
"The DOL are especially trigger happy this winter.  The DOL and Park Service made no effort to haze this bull before shooting him.  This will be a very bloody winter for the last wild buffalo in America," added Dan Brister with the BFC.
Meanwhile, on the western boundary of Yellowstone National Park, the DOL is finishing construction of the Horse Butte Buffalo Trap today.  The trap is located in the Gallatin National Forest in the middle of traditional buffalo calving grounds.  In the winter and spring of 2002, the DOL captured and slaughtered 176 buffalo using the Horse Butte Trap.  There have been no cattle in the National Forest land on Horse Butte for over two years.
The DOL has spent over $3.5 million on bison management operations since 1996 that have resulted in the slaughter of over 2000 wild bison. The Yellowstone herd is the only continuously wild herd in the United States.  It is descended from just 23 wild bison that survived the mass eradication of the 19th century and is the largest remaining single population of genetically pure bison.
The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild buffalo.  Volunteers defend the buffalo on their traditional winter habitat and advocate for their protection.  Daily patrols stand with the buffalo on the ground they choose to be on and document every move made against them.
*  Oppose the Horse Butte Buffalo Trap
In 1998, the US Forest Service (USFS) gave permission to the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) to operate a bison capture facility on the Horse Butte Peninsula in the Gallatin National Forest.  In order to grant the MDOL's request, the Forest Service modified several aspects of the Gallatin Forest Plan.  Specifically, the bald eagle management plan and standards for visual quality adopted in the Gallatin Forest Plan were amended to allow construction and operation of the capture facility.  Horse Butte is also critical habitat for endangered Grizzly Bears, Canada Lynx, Gray Wolves, Trumpeter Swans and a host of other wildlife.  All of these species are disturbed and threatened by the MDOL's hazing and capture operations. 
The Environmental Assessment and Biological Assessment performed by the Forest Service in conjunction with the MDOL's request concluded that, "direct, indirect and cumulative activities associated with the bison capture facility "may affect - are likely to adversely affect" the Horse Butte bald eagle pair and their habitat."  The Biological Opinion prepared by the US Fish and Wildlife Service further concluded that, "the proposed action, in addition to the current levels of recreation and human activity on Horse Butte, would result in the incidental take of bald eagles using the Horse Butte nest site by annoying them to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patters such as breeding, and/or feeding, and/or sheltering."  In the face of overwhelming evidence that the MDOL's bison trap would negatively impact bald eagles, the Forest Service went ahead and allowed the trap to be built anyway.  To ameliorate some of the concerns about impacts on bald eagles from the trap's operation, the Forest Service proposed minimal restrictions on MDOL's hazing and capture activities.  In the six years that the MDOL has had permission to operate the bison trap, we have documented numerous violations of the hazing restrictions.  These include flying helicopters inside the bald eagle closure area and exceeding the incidental take permit. 
These violations and others, in addition to violations of the NEPA process in issuing the Special Use Permit that allows MDOL to operation the capture facility, are the basis for a lawsuit we initiated in 2000.  On March 1, 2004, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear our appeal of Federal District Court Judge Charles Lovell's finding in favor of the Forest Service.  Lovell did not review critical evidence in the case, but rather decided that forest service acted appropriately in denying our claims of abuse.
The Horse Butte Capture Facility is terrible eyesore on the landscape and is in direct violation of the objectives set forth in the Gallatin Forest Plan.  The Forest Plan states that, "human activities may be evident but must be subordinate to the characteristic landscape."  The Forest Plan was amended to allow for the capture facility.  Further, the Special Use Permit issued to the MDOL requires soil restoration at the capture facility site.  To date, no restoration work has taken place and the site remains barren and infertile throughout the year.  Recent ecological studies have found two rare plant species (Mimulus or Monkeyflower) on Horse Butte that were previously know only to exist in Glacier National Park.  The Forest Service has thus far refused to review the impacts on these plants due to bison capture operations. 
****  Please take the time to express your disgust with the US Forest Service's blatant disregard for the delicate habitat of the Horse Butte Area and the impacts on local residents and recreationists alike.  Call or write to Rebecca Heath, Supervisor, Gallatin National Forest, 10 E. Babcock St., Bozeman, MT, 59715; email to mailroom_r1_gallatin@fs.fed.us; or call 406-587-6703.  Let the Forest Service know that it is their duty to protect your public lands.  Ask them to revoke the MDOL's Special Use Permit for the Horse Butte Bison Capture Facility. 
*  Support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act!
The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act, H.R. 3446, is the first step toward realizing a future of truly wild and free buffalo herds once again roaming the western landscape.  The bill calls for a three-year moratorium on the hazing, capturing and killing of Yellowstone bison.  It expands the boundary in which bison will be allowed undisturbed access on both the west and north sides of Yellowstone National Park.  The bill also requires the dismantling of the Stephen's Creek Capture Facility located inside Yellowstone National Park and re-establishes the Park Service as having sole jurisdiction over bison within the Park.
The bill is currently sitting in the House Resources Committee waiting for enough co-sponsors to call for hearings.  We currently have over 52 co-sponsors signed on to the bill.  Please check to see if your representative is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3446 on our website at: http://www.wildrockies.org/Buffalo/politico/3446.html.
If they have not already joined in defense of the last wild buffalo, please encourage them to do so by calling or sending an email.  Also, letters to the editor in your local paper are a good way to encourage support for the bill and to spread the word.
*  Yellowstone Wildlife DVD available to Support BFC
Long time BFC friends, West Yellowstone resident, barb abramo and the late Phil Morton (known collectively as PHILbarb) are joining our SUPPORTER-TO-SUPPORTER campaign by agreeing to donate 10% of net profits on sales of their DVD during the entire months of January and February 2004.
RUTTIN' ELK, RUTTIN' BUFFLER is available for preview and sale on the web at:
RUTTIN' ELK, completed in spring 2003, runs 30 minutes and was the joint effort of PHILbarb.
RUTTIN' BUFFLER, completed in the early 90's by Phil, runs 15 minutes.  Phil spent over 25 years studying & videotaping the buffler of Yellowstone (otherwise known as buffalo).  Phil deeply regretted that he would not live long enough to see the buffler WILD & FREE again, but was promised by barb that efforts in support of that goal would be continued.  Joining the SUPPORTER-TO-SUPPORTER campaign is one such effort for the buffler he so loved.  Barb will also send all purchasers a copy of the full text of a letter Phil wrote and quotes from at the beginning of RUTTIN' BUFFLER.
Thank you barb for your support.
Thank you for supporting the BFC!
* BFC Wish List
-- Volunteers in the Field to Defend the Buffalo
-- Waterproof Gators
-- Wool Pants (available right now through Cabellas)
-- Warm Waterproof Gloves
-- Polypropylene Long-john Bottoms
-- Ski Boots with Three-Pin Bindings
-- Snow Shoes
-- Warm Winter Boots
-- Cross Country Skis
-- Air compressor
-- 4 portable battery chargers for automobiles
-- 35 mm film
Thank you for your support.  If you have any questions about a gear donation, please contact Amy at (406) 646-0070 or buffaloatwildrockies.org.
Donations may be sent to:
BFC, PO Box 957,
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
(406) 646-0070
*  Last Words
"Exceptions to these requirements must be discussed with and approved by the District Ranger prior to initiation."
--This clause is repeated after most requirements outlined in the Annual Operation Plan for the Montana Department of Livestock Bison Capture Facility on Horse Butte.  It seems like the Forest Service is ready to put the fox in charge of the henhouse.
Buffalo Field Campaign
PO Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
(406) 646-0070

Our Friend "Curly"


Hazing operation - December 30, 2003 -- Causing unnecessary stress on America's last wild buffalo

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