Tabling inside Yellowstone on behalf of wild bison, when volunteers spend the bulk of their time in the park talking with visitors, is one of our most important summer jobs. Time and again we are reminded how important it is for us to be there, to share the buffalo’s story with the hoards of people who come from around the world to see them. Most people we talk with have no idea what Yellowstone and Montana are doing to these gentle giants during the long winter months, and when they find out how our national mammal is being treated, they are ready to take action. Summer tablers have been dispensing critical information, gaining advocates for wild buffalo, and filling up petitions addressed to Montana Governor Steve Bullock urging the state to endorse a new plan that respects wild buffalo like wild elk in Montana. When these visitors next encounter Yellowstone park rangers, they will be much better informed should conversations turn towards the buffalo.
The importance of speaking face to face with the thousands of people who have come to see the buffalo can not be stressed enough. Conversations that our tablers have with so many visitors brings a variety of perspectives ranging from the outlandish and inaccurate to the informed and passionate. While some people seem predisposed to not liking buffalo and believing they should be kept like pets in Yellowstone, most people we speak with are ready to do what they can to help the buffalo.
BFC’s hat is off to these stellar volunteers who spend long, hot days talking with thousands of strangers every week to tell the buffalo’s story. There can be challenges in communicating with so many people who hold such diverse opinions, especially when alerting them to the fact that park managers, supposed caretakers of the sacred buffalo, are in fact assisting in their destruction. Our summer volunteers open so many hearts and minds. After leaving our table, park visitors will carry the conversations and knowledge they gained from our tables into their next experiences with the buffalo and back into their daily lives.
There are many rewards to being a BFC summer volunteer, not least of which is dispelling the government and livestock industry’s myths and building stronger, better-informed advocates for the last wild buffalo. Spending stretches of days for weeks at a time inside the world’s first national park, surrounded by breathtaking views in the presence of wild, migratory buffalo and all of Yellowstone's other amazing wildlife, is not something that many people have the opportunity to experience. It is a dream come true and the a chance of a lifetime.