Montana Buffalo Campaign
December 15, 2005
* Update from the Field
Often times we here at the BFC tend to focus on the harder side of life. It is news and unfortunately for all of us involved a fact of daily life. But today I want to tell a different kind of story, one that we don't normally get to tell.
On any given day a group of volunteers will get up, get dressed, eat and head out to stand with our brothers in spirit the buffalo. Some of these days are as hard as any care to remember but then there are the days when we receive a special treasure that reminds us all why we are here. I personally have been lucky enough to see the sun rise over the Rockies, exploding into a kaleidoscope of pink, orange and purple. I have also witnessed herds of elk roaming across the fields, counted not in single number, but instead by tens and even hundreds. I have even seen days when eagles both bald and golden fill the skies with their graceful dance. Above this all, is in a word, the majestic buffalo and among the buffalo there is one that, in my mind, rose above the rest.
We first saw him nearly two weeks ago standing near a hill of golden grass and crisp white show. He stood strong and bold, fully encompassing the spirit of the buffalo but with wisdom normally reserved for elders. When he looked to me, I could see his age. His head hung low, and his horns were warn down to the bone. This by no means meant that he had given up on life, for he was a healthy as a bull half his age.
Grandfather, as some of us began to call him, had the ability to look right through you with no more than a glance. But this was not his way. When Grandfather would look at you it was not to look through you but instead to say, "Come, sit close to me so I may tell you a story of my life and of the Buffalo." He did not use words but instead used subtle movements, feelings, and his spirit to speak. For four days he stayed and told his story. After the fourth day he returned to safety.
Now if I have done my job right you too will be able to close your eyes and see the Grandfather Buffalo. See him as a young calf running and playing in the fields. Later as a strong powerful bull leading his heard from year to year. Then finally as an elder sharing his wisdom to all who will take the time to watch and listen. Let him tell you his story and when he does, keep it golden and pure.
After we win this fight, and we will win, It is my dream to walk into a meadow of gentle green and gold on a warm spring day to lay back and listen to the story of the Buffalo once more. It is then that I know they will tell us all of their story again, though this time they will be not just safe but as always Wild and Free.
To all my relatives,
P.S. For more information about what happened in the field this week, check out our press release:
* Today is National Call-in Day!
December 15th marks the dark anniversary of the shameful assassination of the great leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota people, Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull). It also marks one month into Montana's "hunt" of the country's last wild buffalo.
Please join us today in a nation-wide call-in day to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer letting him know that Montana's bison hunt is wrong and should be canceled immediately. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Animal Welfare Institute, and others will be helping in this effort. With everyone's participation this will be a powerful action and we'll make Gov. Schweitzer's phone ring off the hook! Please urge your friends, family and co-workers to participate.
Also today, from 2:00-3:00 pm, BFC will be in Helena, Montana, with other bison advocates including the HSUS and the Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo, holding a press conference inside the state's capitol building. We will offer common-sense solutions, show video footage from the field, and deliver to Governor Schweitzer the thousands of post cards that supporters like you have signed, urging Montana to protect and respect the last wild buffalo.
* * CALL GOVERNOR SCHWEITZER TODAY! 406-444-3111
THANK YOU for taking action to help the last wild buffalo! Find our more about why BFC opposes this canned hunt at
Special thanks to the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute, Colin and D.J. for your help and inspiration!!
Comments Needed on Bison Quarantine Plan
The plan to quarantine wild Yellowstone buffalo has once again resurfaced in the form of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for Phases II and III of the experimental protocol. Public comments are being accepted through January 13, 2005.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) agency, in a joint project with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), are seeking to extend the currently approved and initiated quarantine project for several more years, including the addition of the breeding and calving phases of the plan. The stated goal of the proposal is to determine if it is possible to get "certified disease free buffalo" from the Yellowstone herd for relocation to other areas outside the Park. If successful, the agencies intend to modify the existing Interagency Bison Management Plan to allow full scale capture and quarantine operations as a method of population control.
This EA seeks approval for the construction of a second quarantine facility near Gardiner, Montana and modification of the existing facility for use during the calving phase of the experiment. As with the previous environmental documents on quarantine, the agencies are claiming that the original Interagency Plan covers all of the analysis relating to the concept of quarantine for Yellowstone buffalo and the impacts on the buffalo themselves. This leaves only the details of the sites selected and the impacts of having quarantine facilities on those sites as issues for review. Therefore, the government encourages your comments on the proposal to focus only on two issues: the inadequacy of the facilities selected in the proposal and an indignant reproach of the agencies decision to limit the scope of analysis to the specifics of the sites. (But if you have thoughts about the government capturing wild baby buffalo, stealing them from their mothers, locking them in fenced-in areas, feeding them hay and tagging them like livestock, experimenting on them, and perhaps slaughtering them when all the scientific "fun" is over, you should share those thoughts.)
As to the first issue, FWP and APHIS have selected the Slip and Slide Ranch as their preferred alternative for Phase II. They intend to lease 60 acres on the ranch to house 50 two and three year old buffalo in two groups within 30 acre pastures. 25 young buffalo on 30 acres for at least one year. This amount of space is far too small for growing young buffalo. When quarantine was initially proposed several years ago, the agencies claimed that they would have 400-600 acres available for the buffalo in Phase II. Now, in an effort to avoid the complaints from the hunting and outfitting communities over the use of elk winter range for the facility, the agencies have sacrificed the well being of the buffalo once again and want to consign them to a mere 30 acres, just over one acre per buffalo. Cattle would not even be raised in such confines.
As for the broader issue of quarantine in general, it is still entirely appropriate to express disgust with the agencies for even proposing such an inhumane and domesticating procedure for the last and only genetically pure, free roaming wild buffalo in the United States. The captured buffalo that survive the quarantine experiment will have been captive for at least 4 years before release. They will have been handled frequently by humans and accustomed to eating feed and hay. These will by no means be wild buffalo any longer.
Additionally, the experiment will encourage large-scale capture operations to get the required number of buffalo calves. Based on the figures from last year, it is estimated that nearly 2,600 wild buffalo would need to be captured and tested for the agencies to get 200 non-brucellosis exposed buffalo calves, 100 in each year. If the agencies release the other negative testing buffalo, then only half or 1,300 buffalo would be killed during the two-year period. If, however, the agencies kill all of the captured buffalo because the current population exceeds the target of 3,000 buffalo as prescribed by the Interagency Plan, then we are looking at a two-year buffalo slaughter of epic proportions.
Public comment for the quarantine proposal will be accepted until January 13, 2006. As is typical with these agencies, they have released a plan during a time when eliciting comments from concerned citizens is difficult at best. It is possible, however, to get a 30 day extension to the comment period if there is significant demand. Additional BFC analysis will be added in the coming weeks.
TAKE ACTION! Please send your original comments including a request for an extension to: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, C/o Bison Quarantine, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701, or via email to
BisonQuarantineEA@mt.gov , or faxed to:406-444-4952. For Montana residents, there will be a public meeting in Bozeman at FWP Headquarters (1400 S. 19th Ave.) from 6 - 9 PM on Monday December 19, 2005. For more information contact
* Last Words
"Every time a buffalo is killed here, that brings back sharp pains of what happened in the late 1800s to our people. And, I descend from the people that were killed at Wounded Knee, and my family still feels that pain, that we were killed for no reason. And that's the same thing when a buffalo is killed here. My family feels that that mentality is still alive and well in America today"
- James Garrett, Cheyenne River Lakota