Buffalo Field Campaign.
Update from the Field.

April 20, 2006

In this issue:
* Update from the Field
* Right Now, I Will Bear My Heart
* Drumming A Sacred Circle For Life II - Saturday in Livingston, MT
* Beautiful Handcrafted Mother's Day Cards Available
* Summer Positions Open at BFC

* Update from the Field
Buffalo Supporters,

There is an article in today's paper describing how Wyoming's governor Dave Freudenthal refuses to close the state's game farms and elk feeding program despite the fact that such unnatural concentration of elk leads to a significantly higher incidence of brucellosis and other diseases in those elk.  Brucellosis, it seems, isn't the dreaded disease Montana officials would have us believe it to be.  Freudenthal's complacency with brucellosis-infected elk flies in the face of neighboring Montana's complete lack of tolerance for bison--an intolerance on which brucellosis is blamed.  Wyoming, who lost its brucellosis free status a few years ago due to transmissions from feed ground elk to domestic cattle, isn't suffering the grave economic consequences that Montana State Vet Tom Linfield likes to conjure when justifying the need to slaughter buffalo for committing the crime of stepping on Montana soil.  Neither is Idaho, who also lost its prized status because of elk.

If Wyoming were seriously concerned with regaining it's brucellosis-free designation, if brucellosis were the grave threat we are led to believe, wouldn't Freudenthal take steps to address the largest reservoir of the disease in the state?  It is widely known that brucellosis is a disease of stress and confinement, one that thrives where wildlife is unnaturally concentrated, confined, and stressed.  Wyoming's refusal to address the root of the problem and close the feedgrounds reveals the fact that brucellosis is not such a grave concern.

So do the recent actions of Yellowstone National Park officials.  Since January, Yellowstone Superintendent Suzanne Lewis has authorized the slaughter of nearly 900 bison.   The overwhelming majority of these bison were not tested for brucellosis, the supposed reason for their slaughter.  Another 300 bison were confined for nearly a month at the start of birthing season and artificially fed.  If Yellowstone were trying to increase the rate of brucellosis infection among these bison, it could hardly have dreamed up better conditions for it.   By confining them for weeks on end at the time of year when they give birth--and are therefore most infectious--Park officials created ideal conditions for brucellosis to thrive and spread and took from the buffalo some of the wildness that makes them so special.

Yellowstone distributed a press release on Monday touting the release of approximately 300 bison from the Stephens Creek trap near Gardiner.  Patting itself on the back because it didn't slaughter every last buffalo within its grasp, the Park Service missed the point.  It is not alright to treat America's only continuously wild bison herd like so many domestic cattle.  During their month of hell in the trap two bison aborted their calves, two other female bison died from causes the Park Service has yet to make clear, and a yearling and a newborn were euthanized.  By playing God with the wild creatures they are entrusted with protecting, Yellowstone officials have revealed that they're more beholden to Montana's livestock industry than they are to the American people.

While we are hopeful that things will quiet down on the north side of Yellowstone as bison move deeper into the park, we know they are about to heat up on the west side.  On the very day the 300 bison were released from the trap, a group of seventy emerged from the park on the Madison River.  300 to 500 more are not far behind them.  Last night after our nightly meeting we were thrilled by the presence, in our front yard, of 30 buffalo.  They bedded down and spent the night, before waking this morning and heading back in the direction of the park.  Unfortunately the DOL caught wind of their appearance and proceeded to chase them back to the park, carelessly enforcing Montana's zero tolerance.  As we are every day, BFC was there to document the operation.  We caught on video an agent aggressively hazing a young bison into a high-tension wire fence.  Sadly, such scenes have become nearly commonplace.

The Buffalo Field Campaign is doing everything in our power to make things better for the Yellowstone bison.  We will remain here with them, as we've been every day for the past 9 years, witnessing firsthand every action taken against them, sharing their story with the world, and working with people to create greater tolerance for these amazing creatures.  We are everyone, everywhere, who cares enough about the wild bison to take action on their behalf.  The buffalo deserve a better fate than their current mistreatment.  Please join us as we work to build a better world for our relatives the buffalo.

In Wildness,
Dan Brister

* Right Now, I Will Bear My Heart

Looking back at my past three seasons working with the Buffalo Field Campaign, I realized how much those who advocate for the wild resort to learning the language of the bureaucrats and the economists to save what they love. If the forest is to be left uncut or the river left undammed, the alternative must save money or have some sort of benefit for humans. Then, and only then, do the trees remain standing and the salmon swim upstream to spawn.

Likewise, when people who fight for the buffalos' inherent right to migrate towards greener grass try to convince politicians and lobby groups, we are forced to communicate with facts and statistics, bar graphs and spreadsheets. We are forced to play the game.

There are many reasons why the buffalo pose an almost non-existent threat to cattle in the areas west of the park border and why they should have access to land that elk and deer graze. They've all been brought up before. I've seen friends talk until they are blue in the face to those that persecute the buffalo and those who have the power to save them. Maybe they don't listen, or maybe it's still more profitable and politically easy to kill buffalo.

So, right now, I will not continue to play their game of numbers.  Right now, I will bear my heart.

The buffalo that migrate out of Yellowstone National Park deserve access to whatever lands they choose. Yes, deserve. They are sentient beings, having thoughts and feelings and dreams, having a language and friends and a community. They were born with the same rights to freedom and life that we were.

The buffalo mothers and their newborn calves are entitled to rest and love, without being chased by wannabe cowboys trying to protect cattle that aren't even here.  I don't care if the Cattlemen's Association is afraid of brucellosis. Tell them to get rid of elk feed grounds. But leave the elk alone too, or you might find me out there as well with a video camera.

I don't care if a rancher has to pay more to transport cattle in and out of the state. He's probably getting a steal on his public property grazing allotment because it's difficult to turn a profit ranching cattle in the West. There's a clue: cattle don't belong in the West.

I don't care if the National Park Service is feeling pressure from the cattle industry to "manage" its wildlife. To NPS: you are in charge of a wonderful and beautiful place. Do what you set out to do when you applied for your job.  And I don't care if this letter ruffles a few feathers. Good. Time is running out to save those last best and WILD places.

Right now, I will bear my heart, because, right now dozens of buffalo are being hazed from the north shore of the former Madison River by people who should not be in charge of wildlife (if anyone should be). Dozens of unique manifestations of the Earth are being forced to waste energy just to placate a few humans with their petty worries about numbers and how many they have in a bank account. Dozens of beautiful shaggy animals who have a right to exist beyond any value that humanity can give them are being chased by cowboys who can't even do their "job" without helicopters, ATVs, snowmobiles and horses. And this is being done to protect some politician's approval rating in the polls.

So right now I have a favor.

The next time you feel something, feel it. Don't apologize. Don't rationalize. Feel it. And then DO something about it. Talk about it. And if your only reason for wanting more trees or salmon or seals or buffalo than there were last year is because they are beautiful, then say it. If your only reason for wanting less smokestacks and nuclear power plants and oil spills is because they are wrong, then THAT'S your rationalization. Go with it.

Okay, just one more favor: Come out to West Yellowstone if you are able and care for the buffalo. You will never feel more alive than when you are doing what you know is right. You know that, you've felt it before. Think back. It may have been a long time since you've said, "no" when they've said "yes." But you'll remember.

What could 50 committed volunteers do over a weekend? What could 100 do over a week? What if everyone who ever felt that things weren't going the way they thought they should be came down here and MADE A DIFFERENCE?

So call, email or write. We're here and we're waiting for you. Let's get organized. Maybe this will be the last year that the cowboys are in control. Maybe this is the year of the buffalo.

~ Dru Dixon
BFC Office Coordinator

* Drumming A Sacred Circle For Life II - Saturday in Livingston, MT

Join us in an Earth Day celebration this Saturday, April 22, from 12:00-4:30 pm as we gather in solidarity for our wild brethren at the Park High School in Livingston, Montana.  We will share stories, inspire one another, exchange information, and celebrate Mother Earth with a focus on two of the Yellowstone region's most potent, charismatic, spiritually intense and ecologically critical gifts: wild buffalo and grizzly bears.  For them, for the sacred heartbeat and hoof-beat, we will drum drum drum for life!

Guest speakers will include Buffalo Field Campaign, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Lakota Elder Gilbert Walking Bull from Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Bring drums, rattles, friends, children and positive energy!  Help us celebrate the Earth and All our Relations in a heart-rhythm drum circle.  Adults $5 donation; Youth 12 and up $2 donation.  For more information call Monica RavenHeart at 406-224-0262.

* Beautiful Handcrafted Mother's Day Cards Available

Mother's Day, May 14th, is just right around the corner.  Celebrate the nurturing women in your life and help protect wild buffalo mothers by giving the gift of a beautiful handcrafted Mother's Day card.  All proceeds go to the front lines work of the Buffalo Field Campaign, the only group working in the field, every day, in defense of America's last wild buffalo.

To place your Mother's Day card order visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/artthoughts/mothersday.html

* Summer Positions Open at BFC

As Yellowstone fills up with millions of visitors from around the world who come each summer to admire the splendor of the mighty buffalo and all the natural wonders of our first national park, BFC is here to let them know what the buffalo have suffered at the hands of those mandated to protect them.  Believe it or not, there are people who actually believe the Park Service is protecting the country's last wild buffalo!  Therefore, it is imperative that Park visitors understand the truth of what the Park Service has been doing to the Yellowstone buffalo to appease the desires of Montana's livestock industry. 

Buffalo Field Campaign has positions open for summer tablers in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks from June 10 through September 5, 2006.  We are looking for 3-4 dedicated people who are well-versed on the buffalo issue and enjoy talking to others about it.  You can help tell the buffalo's story and inspire action from the millions who flock to the Parks to admire them.

If you've been wanting to experience the beauty of the Yellowstone ecosystem and speak out for the buffalo, we want to hear from you!  Applicants should be hardworking, outgoing, friendly folks who are comfortable camping for up to five days at a time (in the parks - what a dream!).  A minimum commitment of one month is required (and appreciated).  BFC will provide a small stipend as well as room and board.

Interested?  Contact Dru at [email protected] or call 406-646-0070.

* Last Words

"If people were going to be angry with us, then they would have been angry with us this year when we sent 1,000 of them to slaughter."

~ Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer on April 13, 2006 as he explained his new ideas for bison management to West Yellowstone area ranchers.  Read an article from 4/14/06 at http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2006/04/13/news/state/35-governor.txt

Media & Outreach
Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT  59758

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