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Bison Slaughter In Yellowstone National Park Draws Protest Against Park Service

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More than 200 Yellowstone National Park bison have been killed this winter to prevent possible transmission of a deadly disease to Montana's cattle industry. Photo by Jim Macdonald.

Editor's note: More than 200 Yellowstone National Park bison have been killed so far this winter. Why? Ostensibly to prevent the spread of brucellosis, a disease that can cause livestock to spontaneously abort fetuses. This past weekend the Buffalo Field Campaign, a group organized to oppose the killings, held a protest in West Yellowstone, Montana, to draw attention to the killings. Jim Macdonald attended the protest and files this story.

This Saturday, in West Yellowstone, Montana, members of Buffalo Field Campaign rallied outside of Yellowstone National Park's West Entrance to call attention to and protest the ongoing hazing and killing of Yellowstone bison by the National Park Service and Montana's Department of Livestock.

As part of a week of action, Buffalo Field Campaign rallied, marched, and performed street theater. As snowmobiles and snowcoaches entered and left the park, they were greeted by a puppet dressed as the grim reaper pinned with an identifying sign that simply said "Park Service."

In the past week, at least 127 bison have been shipped to slaughter by the Park Service, which captured the bison at the Stephens Creek facility near Yellowstone's North Entrance. Another 17 were to have been shipped to slaughter Saturday. The numbers of bison shipped to slaughter have surpassed the numbers (112) killed in Montana's bison hunt, which ended Saturday.

According to a Park Service press release, the bison herd had moved "toward or across the park boundary, where cattle graze on private land. Under the (Interagency Bison Management Plan]), the park works with other agencies to conserve a viable, wild bison population while cooperating to protect Montana’s brucellosis-free status."

However, the Buffalo Field Campaign claims that there "has never been a documented case of a wild, free-roaming buffalo infecting domestic cattle with brucellosis." Instead, the group argues that "public lands currently designated for livestock grazing should be reclassified to give priority to native wildlife species, including wild buffalo."

At the rally, there was some interaction with Yellowstone visitors and Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers. Some posed for pictures with Buffalo Field Campaign while some questioned what the rally was about. One man on a snowmobile inquired about the buffalo masks. He asked if the volunteers put them on whether he'd be permitted to shoot one of them. In retort, a volunteer quipped, "Do you work for the government?"

It's not clear how many Yellowstone visitors are aware that the National Park Service is engaged in hazing and slaughtering buffalo inside of Yellowstone.

As the bison hunt ends, Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers are beginning to transition into the next phase in the season, where the Montana Department of Livestock hazes and slaughters buffalo, usually west of the park at its Horse Butte facility. According to a volunteer, the Department of Livestock had not yet prepared the facility.

Bison numbers were estimated this past fall at 4,700. To date, this winter, 239-256 have been killed by hunts and by slaughter. The total killed already surpasses the 69 killed last winter and is on its way toward approaching the 2005-06 total of 1,016 and the 1996-97 total of 1,084, which still ranks as the highest number of bison killed during a single season.

Since 1985, more than 5,200 bison have been killed.

Comments

Yes, very sad. I'm still hearing reports of winter kill in the Lamar Valley. NPS announced today that the bison haze in West Yellowstone will be starting tomorrow (interestingly coinciding with a Buffalo Field Campaign rally at the state capitol in Helena). According to a resident near the buffalo at Horse Butte, there are about 250 there that will be forced back into Yellowstone.

In Bozeman, our new group just put out a press release announcing ourselves. See http://www.buffaloallies.org - Buffalo Allies of Bozeman. We must do more at the grassroots level to make the changes we want to see.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World


Sad! my husband and I have been coming to Y.N.P for yrs, we come each spring and Fall. We look so forward to seeing baby bison, we just left the park may 13, 2008, I can honestly say I counted 10 or less baby bison, I know their was alot of snowfall this winter, which could of resulted in so many deaths, but I don't think so, think it was due to the ignortant thinking of the people who manage our national parks, half of them sit in offices and know nothing of them. If we continue to wipe them out than what will be left for our kids and grandkids to see, this is our national heritage....
that's what I think..


Very tragic news.

If the numbers are correct, the AP is reporting today (link) that the number of bison killed this winter will soon be at an all time high when bison captured yesterday are killed. That number is 1,090, or approximately 23% of all the buffalo that were alive this fall. What's the really bad news is that the total could easily rise by as many as 700 this winter if that many bison go west or north of the park. And, even after the magic 3,000 number is reached, bison will still face hazing and then testing to exposure to brucellosis.

In Bozeman, we're having a teach-in on this issue and beginning to organize grassroots efforts in solidarity with Buffalo Field Campaign. That teach-in is March 26 at 7 PM at the Procrastinator Theater. The teach-in features a film documenting the buffalo slaughter in recent years and a discussion with Mike Mease of Buffalo Field Campaign. The goal is not simply educational, however. The goal is to begin organizing a group of people interested in this and other issues in Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley. Part of that is solidarity with Buffalo Field Campaign.

Full information of the announcement can be found at http://bozemanactivist.wordpress.com.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World


On 11/17/97, I spoke with Cheryl Mathews, of YNP - she was a PR officer, I believe, and she told me that the Yellowstone bison slaughter started in 1984, 24 years ago.

Here's the earlier total, from Cheryl Mathews; year 2000 and beyond are from BFC:

1984: 88
1985: 57
1985: 6
1987: 35
1988: 569
1989: 4
1990: 14
1991: 271
1992: 79
1993: 5
1994: 424
No totals for 95-96; approx. 400-450; I used 425
1997: 1084
Since 2000: 3,194 (from BFC)
--------------
6,255

Six thousand, two hundred and fifty-five bison killed for no reason other than to placate and pander to cattlemen in Montana.

We need totals for '98-'99.

This bison slaughter is one of America's most important wildlife tragedies.

--

Mack P. Bray
My opinions are my own

wildlifewatchers@bresnan.net
http://wildlifewatchers.jottit.com/


Mack,

Then, we are closer than we are farther apart. And, I hope that despite our disagreements over tactics (and Rockefeller), that we will continue to work in solidarity on behalf of Yellowstone's beleagured buffalo - now there have been 760 killed by the combined slaughters of DOL and NPS and the Montana hunts, as well as the Salish Kootenai and Nez Perce hunts.

I'm sad beyond belief about this more than anything else, and I hope we can work together. I'm not going to apologize for taking a picture of a puppet and using it as my headline (I can't speak for BFC), but where we can work together, let's continue to do so. There are a lot of sad things happening. And, while I would never say conversations like the one we are having hurt, I would say that it would be very bad if it meant we didn't continue to work on this issue.

Thank you for all you have done.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World


"Do you think that members of the Park Service should be doing more to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo - at the various levels of the bureaucracy?"

Yep. Hard to do so in today's political climate, thanks to Bush, Inc.

"Is the IBMP completely independent from the partner agencies who manage and enforce the IBMP?"

The IBMP is an agreement/document created by agencies. How can a document be independent?

"Should the National Park Service be doing more to change the IBMP?"

Yep, although jobs would be at risk.

"Under the IBMP, what principles guide the different decisions that NPS makes in respect to enforcing the IBMP? Are those decisions justified? Might they be different?

I'm not sure; I'd have to study the IBMP and I can't at this point in time. You would agree that YNP has to abide by the IBMP?

"And, if PEER actually is there to help rangers pursue interests of environmental justice, can they be doing more not to carry out the policies of their superiors? (PEER is controversial in itself, but that's neither here nor there.)"

I do not know.

"And, on the issue of hypocrisy, first of all the charge is ad hominem..."

I don't view it as an attack; rather an observation, separate from the issue at hand.

"I have said that people should have sympathy with people who are caught under any hierarchical oppression, who are not able to carry out their own will. What is hypocritical or empty about that? The picture that headlines this that was featured at the rally was labeled "Park Service." Why are you conflating that with sympathy for rangers on the ground? That's rather insulting and mean-spirited, and I find what you've said personally hurtful."

Sorry. I don't mean to hurt your feelings. The hypocrisy I see is that you claim sympathy for rangers on the ground, yet you degrade and insult them by using some black puppet, as you describe it, hanging in effigy near the west entrance. I don't know why you can't see the hypocrisy. By the way, how large was this "puppet?"

"Look, we both clearly want their to be justice for the buffalo. We have a disagreement over tactics and the appropriateness of certain tactics and how to go about things."

Only one tactic, actually; the "puppet" incident.

"I'm probably far more radical (though I would not say idealistic - as you have about me) than you."

Don't be so sure, young man. :)

"Because I see the IBMP as ultimately not the issue - merely the vehicle to pursue a particular agenda against the buffalo - and see the joint invested interests of private industry and government as one significant root of the problem."

I agree 100%.

"And, where rangers also do that (professionals or volunteers like yourself), I will be the first to support them."

Again, this is where we depart - I maintain that you are degrading and insulting YNP personnel on the ground by using some black puppet, as you describe it, hanging in effigy near the west entrance. That's all.

I support BFC in all their actions except this black puppet, as you describe it, hanging in effigy near the west entrance.

Bottom line is, BFC has been documenting and protesting this tragic situation for years, and I very much appreciate it, but there's been no improvement in the situation. So whatever BFC is doing hasn't been effective. Where's the resolution? I told Mike Mease years ago that this situation would be resolved only in the courts.

Find some sharp attorneys and drag the IBMP into court.

--

Mack P. Bray
My opinions are my own

wildlifewatchers@bresnan.net
http://wildlifewatchers.jottit.com/


Mack,

Do you think that members of the Park Service should be doing more to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo - at the various levels of the bureaucracy?

Is the IBMP completely independent from the partner agencies who manage and enforce the IBMP?

Should the National Park Service be doing more to change the IBMP?

Under the IBMP, what principles guide the different decisions that NPS makes in respect to enforcing the IBMP? Are those decisions justified? Might they be different?

And, if PEER actually is there to help rangers pursue interests of environmental justice, can they be doing more not to carry out the policies of their superiors? (PEER is controversial in itself, but that's neither here nor there.)

And, on the issue of hypocrisy, first of all the charge is ad hominem (because whether one is a hypocrite is ultimately irrelevant to the argument - just because you catch a vegetarian eating a cheeseburger wouldn't make that vegetarian's arguments about the benefits of vegetarianism wrong), but even so, your sentence above does not illuminate any hypocrisy. I have said that people should have sympathy with people who are caught under any hierarchical oppression, who are not able to carry out their own will. What is hypocritical or empty about that? The picture that headlines this that was featured at the rally was labeled "Park Service." Why are you conflating that with sympathy for rangers on the ground? That's rather insulting and mean-spirited, and I find what you've said personally hurtful.

Look, we both clearly want their to be justice for the buffalo. We have a disagreement over tactics and the appropriateness of certain tactics and how to go about things. I'm probably far more radical (though I would not say idealistic - as you have about me) than you. I have argued against the rationale that created Yellowstone National Park - not simply the Jackson Hole annexation to Grand Teton National Park - and argued (as Kurt knows) that the rationale of right and left on this issue is rooted in the same false beliefs regarding the right to property (arising from John Locke's philosophy). Ideologically, we are therefore very far apart, and I'm not afraid for us to be honest with each other about that point. But, deep down, in terms of this, we both want the same thing.

Can we then figure out the best way to do this while respecting our differences? Because I see the IBMP as ultimately not the issue - merely the vehicle to pursue a particular agenda against the buffalo - and see the joint invested interests of private industry and government as one significant root of the problem, I'm much more likely to agree with BFC's strategy and tactics in drawing those groups out and holding them accountable. Because I also see social change as driven from the direct interests of people empowered to act on their own half, participating in their own processes, I'm also that much more likely to support those tactics. But, I'm not going to stop people from pursuing the courts or going down that road. Strategically and tactically, I don't think that will make the systemic change that's needed. Still, I would support those efforts. I just hope we can have similar solidarity, and by your own actions, you have been doing that. And, I do think that's wonderful.

And, where rangers also do that (professionals or volunteers like yourself), I will be the first to support them. I believe that would undercut policy quicker than anything. It's the same reason I've been associated with counter-recruitment actions against people joining the military. These sorts of actions have the potential to be the most powerful, but they are understandably also perhaps the hardest to pull off.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World


"If it is not easy for rangers to get out of their situation, then they do deserve our sympathy (which I have already said and which you seem to conveniently ignore)..."

Actions speak louder than words and the action of using some black puppet, as you describe it, hanging in effigy near the west entrance, speaks louder than your shallow sympathy relayed in the above sentence. Jim, your hypocrisy is astounding.

"...and everyone involved - rangers and non-rangers - need to work to make it possible for rangers stuck in this situation to be able to speak out or get out of their situation. If that's a need, what can be done to give rangers an outlet for being able to speak up and get out of their situation?"

It's called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility - peer.org : "As a service organization assisting federal & state public employees, PEER allows public servants to work as "anonymous activists" so that agencies must confront the message, rather than the messenger"

However, you fail to acknowledge, Jim, that YNP is LEGALLY BOUND by the terms of the IBMP. Don't like what's happening? Change the IBMP. You can raise all the hell you want with YNP, Montana DOL and any other entities you desire, but it's the IBMP plan that needs to be attacked and changed.

"I went to a talk by Bob Jackson - a ranger who nearly lost his job for whistleblowing - I know it's almost impossible to speak out."

Let's bring a little more accuracy into the picture, okay? Bob Jackson was an extraordinary backcountry ranger in Yellowstone - he handled the Thorofare for many years and kicked many a poacher's ass. Bob WAS fired for speaking up on his personal time - not representing YNP - about guides salt baiting bull elk out of Yellowstone and into the Teton Wilderness for their rich sucker, er, ah, big-game clients to "hunt". Bob asked PEER to help; they sued YNP, he was reinstated but retired thereafter. At least that's the way I recall the incident. Bob now raises bison on his ranch, the Tall Grass Bison Ranch, in Iowa. I consider Bob to be an expert in the family structure of bison herds.

Jim, if you want to ask Bob Jackson, ex-Yellowstone National Park ranger, his opinion of your black puppet, as you describe it, hanging in effigy near the west entrance, I'll give you his email address and/or phone number. Report back with your results.

"And, you're offended by a stinking picture of a puppet at a rally?..."

Blah, blah, blah, more defense of the "puppet."

--

Mack P. Bray
My opinions are my own

wildlifewatchers@bresnan.net
http://wildlifewatchers.jottit.com/


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