| Buffalo Field Campaign- Science
is Horse Butte?
To the west of Yellowstone lies a unique piece
of land that separates two arms of Hebgen Lake. This area
is known as the Horse Butte Peninsula. It sits in a basin
surrounded by rugged mountains and the lake itself. Horse
Butte provides rich habitat to a large community of species
found nowhere else in the world. Its relatively low elevation
makes it ideal Spring habitat for buffalo. Horse Butte also
provides critical habitat for lynx, bald eagle nesting teritory,
and acts as an open-water
refuge for Trumpeter swans and hundreds of other wintering
waterfowl. This unique thumb of land is frequented by otters,
beavers, skunks, marmot, deer, elk, moose, and other incredible
wildlife species. Native cutthroat trout utilize the surrounding
lakes and rivers and numerous plant species not found in the
surrounding alpine regions grow from the Butte's soil. The
Butte's proximity to the Park's boundary and neighboring wilderness
areas make it a vital corridoor for wildlife species such
as the gray wolf and grizzly bear. An incredible diversity
of plant and wildlife species and habitat types thrive on
Horse Butte is Important to Buffalo?
For generations, buffalo have migrated to Horse
Butte via a winter/spring migration corridor. The buffalo
winter at this lower elevation and calve (give birth) on the
"protected" peninsula in the Spring. When the sun
has melted the deep snows, and the time is right, they return
to ellowstone using this same route. While this migration
to the Butte is a recent phenomenon of the buffalo˜Hebgen
Lake is a reservoir created by a dam - surely they would have
historically migrated along the Madison River's lowland riparian
zone. The Butte has become a great example of the ecological
connectivity of a dynamic ecosystem that is not truly represented
by man-made lines on a map.
Butte's Traditional Use by Native Americans
Hunters, gatherers, and fisherfolk - like their buffalo relatives
- have long drawn sustenance from the Butte's early green-up.
Archeological explorations have found remnants of early Native
American artifacts. The area is under intense pressure from
a multitude of human sources including the hazing, capture
and slaughter of buffalo, unregulated snowmobile use, and
Butte Capture Facility
| View photos
of the facililty |
to the Interagency Bison Management Plan :
"purpose" of the bison capture and testing facility is to
capture bison migrating out of Yellowstone National Park (YNP)
between November 1 and April 30 annually and test them for
brucellosis. Bulls, seronegative non-pregnant cows and calves
would be released after testing. Seropositive bison or pregnant
cows would be loaded into stock trailers and removed from
the area. (Translates to: SENT TO SLAUGHTER!)
Many Bulls and non pregnant females are not tested for
brucellosis and are sent to
is on traditional buffalo winter and birthing grounds
proposed capture facility site was preferred by DOL due
to the travel patterns of bison and the topography of the
area. Bison travel to and from YNP to Horse Butte along
the Madison River and the north side of the Madison Arm
of Hebgen Lake and along the Gneiss Creek, Cougar Creek
and Duck Creek. Bison traveling northwest towards Horse
Butte or southeast from the Butte would be funneled between
Horse Butte and the Madison Arm into the capture facility.
proceeds from the Slaughter of Buffalo will go directly to
the Montana Department of Livestock
capture facility would be owned by the USDA Animal, Plant,
Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and installed, operated
and maintained by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL)
and APHIS. A special use permit authorizing the capture
facility on National Forest System lands would be issued
to DOL from the US Forest Service (USFS).
Combined cost of these federal agencies actions will be
over 500,000 dollars to the tax payers
The facility, parking of vehicles, space for bringing trucks
and trailers in for loading and transporting bison from
the site, and an area for piling snow plowed from around
the facility would be located on 1-2 acres of an open sagebrush/grass
flat near a small patch of conifers.
facility itself would be comprised of a series of green
metal-panels (corral type) that are connected into four
holding pens (30' X 50' each), a work area (50' X 70'),
wing-extensions and capture area (175' X 100'), and alley-ways
(10' X 100') around the pens. Outer dimensions of the entire
facility would be approximately 100' X 300'. An estimated
5 acre area around the capture facility would be closed
to all human entry except for permitted and administrative
activities. A small (12'-14') self-contained, propane fueled
trailer would be located in the work area to provide shelter
for personnel 24 hours/day.
gas powered generator would be on site to run the hydraulic
system associated with operating the capture facility gates
and chute mechanisms. The generator would run intermittently
when bison are being moved into the capture facility, when
they are moved around inside the facility and when moved
out of the facility. Personnel would be on site around the
clock for security reasons.
permit would authorize storage of various equipment on-site.
On a daily basis 1-2 pick-up truck???s, a bobcat and/or
1-2 snowmobiles would be parked at the facility. Snowplow
parking would not be needed if DOL contracts a groomer.
However, storage of a snowplow may be necessary if a groomer
is unavailable. During active bison trapping, 1-2 one-ton
trucks with gooseneck trailers needed for animal transportation
might be parked at the facility for short periods of time.
THESE VEHICLES will transport buffalo TO SLAUGHTER HOUSES.
would be used to "bait" or attract bison into the pens and
hay would be stored on-site near the self contained trailer.
Both the trailer and the hay would be located within the
work area and surrounded by panels. According to the Special
Use Application submitted by the DOL, the number of snowmobiles
associated with the bison capture facility is normally expected
to be 1-2 per day.
It is possible that up to 5 snowmobiles may be in use on
any one day during operation of the capture facility.
Opposed to the site
News Article 8/11/03-
Community Organization Calls For End To Hazing And Killing
Of Wild Buffalo On Horse Butte Penninsula, Requests Meeting
with Governor to Consider Alternative, Common Sense Management
Up in Arms: Residents Angry Over Horse Butte Hazing
Horse Butte capture facility would be accessed via forest
roads (FR) 6954 and 610 or accessed via the "Pine Avenue"
road in the Horse Butte subdivision. The residents signed
a petition as well as holding a demonstration at the local
Forest Service office against this facility. See Bozeman
Daily Chronicle Op Ed 1/31/04
WITHIN WILDLIFE CLOSURE AREA
wildlife closure area was established for the protection
of wildlife, including bald eagles on approximately 75 acres
along the south end of Horse Butte. This closure was initiated
in 1993 and prohibits any human entry from December 1 to
August 15 annually.
And Threatened Species
wildlife closure area was established for the protection of
wildlife, including bald eagles on approximately 75 acres along
the south end of Horse Butte. This closure was initiated in
1993 and prohibits any human entry from December 1 to August
15 annually. The capture facility is located within 1/2 mile
of the bald eagle nesting site. The 24 hour a day activities
would impact many wintering wildlife species.
according to the Special Use Application submitted by the
DOL, the number of snowmobiles associated with the bison capture
facility is normally expected to be 1-2 per day. It is possible
that up to 5 snowmobiles may be in use on any one day during
operation of the capture facility.
addition to thes factors the EA states that this pristine bald
eagle nesting site will experience this disruption:
"Noise associated with the capture facility would include:
the gas powered generator (in operation only when bison
are being moved in/around/out of the capture facility),
human voices, the bobcat in operation (engine noise and
contact with the metal panels of the facility), bison hooves
hitting the metal and plywood panels of the facility and
the sides of trailers (used to transport animals out of
the area), trailer doors hitting each other or metal panels
of the facility, scraping of snow shovels (removing snow
from facility), snowmobile engines (used for hazing animals
to and from the facility) and a snowplow or snow blower.
The frequency and intensity of noise at or near the capture
facility would be variable. Noise associated with access
to and from the capture facility includes intermittent travel
of motorized vehicles (described above), snowmobiles, a
snowplow and/or snow blower."
addition to Bald eagles, there is habitat for the following
sensitive species on Horse Butte:
Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)
Owl (Aegolius funereus)
Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
Lake provides year-round habitat for trumpeter swans, but
is crucial wintering grounds. On average during the winter,
there are 300 Trumpeter swans observed on the open water
of the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake. When snowmobile and helicopter
hazing activities occur along the Madison Arm of Hebgen
Lake associated with the Horse Butte capture facility, the
Swans are sent aflight.
Gallery Wildlife for the Swan disturbance.
of Fall 2006 Hebgen Lake is recognized by Audubon as an
are currently proposed for listing as a threatened species.
Federal agencies are required to confer with the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service when they determine that an authorized
action "is likely to jeopardize the continued existence"
of lynx or their habitat.
Lynx may use the area around Horse Butte, the lake and the
river shore as part of a dispersal or travel corridor to
more desirable habitat but would not likely remain in the
area near the proposed capture facility due to existing
human activities including a high use snowmobile trail and
and a residential area. This facility will increase human
activities considerably for the next 10 years in this area.
owls are generally present from January to July therefore
could be present during proposed activities. Although owl
surveys have not been completed on Horse Butte during the
winter. Early summer point count bird surveys were completed
in the Horse Butte area in 1996 and 1997. Although great
grey and great horned owls were observed in the vicinity,
boreal owls were not eard in this area. One boreal owl was
heard in the Tepee Creek drainage approximately 4-5 miles
northeast of the proposed capture facility in 1997.
Boreal owls hunt primarily after dark. Generators and personnell
on site 24 hours a day will impact this species.
travel by wolverines is not unusual and wolverines can have
home ranges of up to 950 km2 (Ruggiero et al., page 117).
Natal and maternal den sites require a high degree of structural
diversity. They are considered a "wilderness" mammal and
have been observed in remote areas of the Hebgen Lake Ranger
District. Wolverine are not predators of bison, but will
consume bison as carrion.
unknown It is very probable that within their range
requirements ans sightings in this area that wolverines
could use Horse Butte now or in the future.
are many diverse species of birds and mammals which also use
this area including: elk, moose, deer, sandhill cranes, pelicans,
black backed woodpeckers, pikas, rabbits, voles, porcupines,
bats, otters, skunks, foxes, beavers, black bears, grizzly
bears, and wolves. An intact ecosystem at work, please let
public officials know that this is important to you - there
is no need for a capture facility if there are no cows on
the federal lands there!
species are those plants and animal species identified by
a Regional Forester for which population viability is a concern
as evidenced by a significant current or predicted downward
trend in population numbers, density, or in habitat capability
that would reduce a species' existing distribution (FSM 2670.5.19).
of sensitive species and their habitats is a response to the
mandate of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) to maintain
viable populations of all native and desired non-native vertebrate
species (36 CFR 219.19).
As part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision
making process, proposed Forest Service programs or activities
are to be reviewed to determine how a proposed action will
affect any sensitive species (FSM 2670.32). The goal of the
analysis should be to avoid or minimize impacts to sensitive
impacts can not be avoided, the significance of potential
adverse effects on the population or its habitat within the
proposed project area and on the species as a whole needs
to be assessed.
biological evaluation is the means of conducting the review
and of documenting the findings (FSM2672.4).
plant surveys were not conducted specifically on the site
for the capture facility. This is a unique ecosystem, a pennisula,
so findings could be unique if research was conducted.
decisions were based on surveys in the area over 5 years ago.
Species whose habitat is known to be in this area from the
scketchy science that has been done for these sensitive species:
White paintbrush (Castilleja longispica)
balsamroot (Balsamorhiza macrophylla)
also highly likely that habitat could be available for these
Small-flowered Columbine (Aquilegia brevistyla)
Meadowrue (Thalictrum alpinum)
BUTTE WILDLANDS PROTECTION PROJECT
Thanks to you and BFC, cattle will no longer graze here!
In May of 1999, BFC presented its first batch of citizen's petitions
requesting that wildlife be given priority over livestock on
the Horse Butte Peninsula. Since then, after collecting and
submitting nearly 200,000 signatures, coupled with innumerous
emails, one of our petition's demands has been met. Cattle will
no longer graze on the Butte's public lands. This is a victory
that we should all celebrate, but the insane management practices
of the MT DOL continue regardless of cattle's presence, and
so we continue with the Horse Butte Wildlands Protection Project
The HBWPP is a holistic approach to assessing the biological,
cultural and anthropogenic components of the Horse Butte Peninsula.
This study utilizes existing data from archeological surveys,
predicting threatened and endangered species habitat range,
satellite imagery, and Geographic Information System (GIS) layers
of reliable species observations on Horse Butte. The study looks
at historical U.S. Forest Service range vegetation records as
well as current range conditions. Our plant surveys from last
summer discovered two sensitive species of monkey flower near
the site of the DOL's buffalo capture facility. We are urging
the US Forest Service to liste these plants as species of special
concern on the Gallatin National Forest.
BFC's daily patrols document wildlife sightings and the locations
and activities of wildlife are entered into our GIS database.
Volunteers document ways in which the harassment of buffalo
disturbes all wildlife on the peninsula. The sum of all thes
parts will be an encompassing view of the ecology of Horse Butte.
This will provide a better understanding of the area‚s
biological components and will help guide efforts to change
human use and managemnt regimes in this unique part of the world.
Step by step, we will return public lands to their intended
use as wildlife habitat using this project as a mode.
With help from the Missoula-based Ecology
Center, we are developing a series of GIS maps of the Horse
Butte Peninsula. The HBWPP's future presentations will show
the importance of this area to decision-makers and the public
and support our outrech and education efforts.
THE LATEST: Buffalo are still not "allowed"
to roam freely on the Horse Butte Penninsula, and hundreds were
hazed from the area last year. Unfortunately, the DOL is quickly
preparing to offer them the same fate again this year. We are
getting closer to our goal of making public lands available
for public wildlife and know that our work in the field and
constant pressure on the agencies involved has made a difference.
For more information about the HBWPP, email buffaloatwildrockies.org.
|FAQ about the yellowstone buffalo slaughter