Some context: Historically, buffalo ranged across some 20,000 square kilometers of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Madison rivers. Their current “allowed” habitat is approximately 3,175 square kilometers...or about 16% of their previous Yellowstone range.
In our modern times, the grazing of livestock—(usually cattle and sheep)—has many direct and indirect impacts on buffalo and their habitat.
Some of the primary effects from livestock include:
- direct damage to vegetation structure;
- alteration of native plant communities;
- changes to soil characteristics;
- significant threat of disease transmission from livestock to free-roaming buffalo, simply due to proximity;
- and the impact of other habitat modifications, for example the practice of allowing livestock to graze on public lands requires developments such as fencing, cattle-guards, and roads to control livestock movements. Such modifications to the land impair natural buffalo movement and distribution.
Continued livestock grazing on public lands buffalo habitat promotes a false perception that there is a “need” for “disease risk-management operations” such as those that occur under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). Unfortunately, rather than managing domestic cattle to avoid the occupation or destruction of buffalo habitat, these tax-payer-funded agencies manage buffalo out of its own native habitat for the sole benefit of a few powerful livestock interests. Does this sound like a good use of your tax dollars?
Vast areas of land within the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem are threatened by increased use.
We propose the creation of Zoning Policies or similar mechanisms covering large areas. Part of such a system should include regionally coordinated growth management efforts to preserve biodiversity by redirecting future development, including along park boundaries.
Currently, Yellowstone buffalo attempting to enter winter foraging areas on or near Park boundaries are subject to “disease risk management operations” via the current IBMP, which again benefits the livestock industry and costs “we the taxpaying people.” These actions are driven by commercial interests, and disturb buffalo population substructures.
BFC Co-Founder Mike Mease has said that hunting buffalo is like hunting a sofa, they know no predators and have no fear of mankind. It is like catching fish in a barrel.
However, according to publically available state records, significant numbers of Yellowstone buffalo have been killed since the State of Montana allowed buffalo hunting in 2005, including in the Gardiner and West Yellowstone areas.
Management agencies have made no attempt to determine the herd origins of these animals. However, since buffalo from the northern range tend to migrate out of the Park at Gardiner and those from the Central range migrate through both corridors, the smaller Central range buffalo herd clearly bears the brunt of the “hunt-based” slaughters. This adds to the lop-sided culling of genetically distinct breeding herds—a practice that is currently fostered by IBMP management operations.
This natural migration is instinctual in these few herds of buffalo, and one of the things that makes them unique. These rare animals need more protection on more land, and an expanded habitat made free of livestock grazing. BFC is working to make this happen.
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