Bison Slaughter In Yellowstone National Park Draws Protest Against Park Service

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

From what I have read the bacterium Brucella abortus came to Yellowstone NP around 1917 and now infects a significant fraction of the Yellowstone bison. For the bison it seems to produce little illness or disability. In fact the symptoms in cattle are pretty mild but does cause some infected cows to abort and therefore slow down their milk production. Of course for the low profit margin in raising beef, this is a concern. The brucellosis free designation of Montana cattle means they can ship them outside the state without the quarantine step (expensive.)
Yes, it is theoretical that bison can transmit brucellosis in the wild. It has happened in captivity when cattle and bison were kept in close captivity, but a cow would have to be licking the afterbirth material from a bison within 48 hours of birth.
Then what about Yellowstone's one hundred thousand elk, most of which also carry B. abortus? There have been documented cases from Wyoming and Idaho of elk transmitting B. abortus to cattle. Of course Montana receives lots of the almighty dollar from elk hunters.
The Interagency Bison Management Plan allows up to one hundred B. abortus free bison to roam outside Yellowstone's western and northern boundaries. Any bison that can not be chased back into Yellowstone and elude capture for testing are shot. I believe this plan is just to pacify the ranchers and fog the greater issue that the Montana has no tolerance for bison outside Yellowstone's boundaries.
Some of the Yellowstone bison are altitudinal migratory critters. especially during heavy snowfall winters when the larger slaughters get attention. Bison do not pay much attention to boundaries or even to being chased by helicopters, snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles and humans on horseback so most of these are murdered.
All animals (even humans) are born to roam. Stifling this freedom is counterproductive to the preservation of and will result in Our NP's becoming nothing more than micromanaged “wild” animal parks and zoos. Lets give them room to roam.

Excerpt From: http://www.yellowstoneparknet.com/articles/bison_2.php

Montana will kill bison despite disease report
Tests show that 82 percent of slaughtered buffalo not infected by brucellosis.
By Rachel Odell, Jackson Hole News 12-23-99

The Montana Department of Livestock will continue to kill bison that test positive for brucellosis antibodies despite evidence that the agency is killing scores of uninfected animals.
Montana state veterinarian Arnold Gertonson said Monday that the Department of Livestock will continue to send bison that test positive to slaughter in an effort to eliminate the risk of brucellosis transmission to domestic livestock.

Last week the National Veterinary Services Laboratory revealed results of tissue sampling of bison that had tested positive in the field and been sent to slaughter. The analysis showed that of 144 bison, 117 were not infected with brucellosis.

That suggests that about 82 percent of the 1,189 bison killed in the past three years were not infected.

Still the state will not alter its policy which calls for trapping bison that leave Yellowstone National Park, testing them for exposure to brucellosis and sending positive-testing ones to slaughter, Gertonson said. Montana operates under an interim bison management plan that will be in place until the National Park Service endorses a permanent plan. The Park Service is expected to release a final environmental impact statement on bison management this spring.

Environmentalists and federal officials said the findings suggest the brucellosis field tests used on the bison are unreliable and encouraged the DOL to find alternatives to slaughter. Those tests search for brucellosis antibodies and cannot distinguish between a bison that is infected and one that has developed immunity, said Patrick Collins of the federal Animal Plant and Health Inspection Agency. To avoid killing uninfected bison, the DOL should focus more on flexible management that would keep the wild ungulates away from domestic ones, he said.

"This raises some real concerns," Collins said. "It seems to suggest that the field test is maybe not the tool we should rely on completely. Not to say there is no risk, but it suggests we could be more flexible."

Environmentalists were more adamant. The state agency has egregiously erred, at the expense of America's last free-roaming, wild buffalo herd, said Mike Clark, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. "This is sad news and it confirms ... that Montana's Department of Livestock is killing buffalo unnecessarily," he said. "If you consider that 1,189 Yellowstone buffalo have been killed in the past three winters, this science, coming from the best lab in the country, indicates that as many as 966 of those buffalo died without ever posing a risk to cattle."

Gertonson defended Montana, saying that although 117 buffalo tissue samples tested negative, the animals could have still been infected. Collins from APHIS said the DOL was skirting the issue. "They are being a little disingenuous," he said. "It is clear that bison need to be managed and we are not suggesting we don't manage. But we can manage effectively without lethal control."
APHIS has proposed to Montana governor Marc Racicot to aid the state in getting away from killing bison and has offered to pay expenses and to intercede if other states threaten to boycott Montana livestock, Collins said.

"Unfortunately we cannot get Montana to cooperate in good faith," Collins said.

I want to let you all know that in addition to this article, I've also posted an introspective essay that looks not so much at the rally but rather the context of my meeting Buffalo Field Campaign again after so many years. I attended a rally in Washington, DC, in April 2002 (and actually again in 2003, but it was raining so hard, and I barely felt as though I was there). From April 2002 on, the world and my life became very different. It was both the most joyous time of my life and the most tumultuous, filled with the most failure.

Between the place where those meet, I kept thinking about the buffalo and the paradox of the joy and the failure there. Where I tried to keep to the facts in the article above, this is a much richer, more defiant essay that shows where I am coming from and what has brought me to the place where the article above resides.

Please read: Meeting up with Buffalo Field Campaign in Yellowstone: The paradox of joy and failure

And, if anyone is interested in discussing activism against the hazing and slaughter of buffalo, this is a great thread to do so. More than complaining about NPS or discussing the ideological divide (for instance, I do not believe for a minute that the slaughter of buffalo has anything at all to do with brucellosis), I'm more interested in the kinds of things that will actually give buffalo room to roam.

Thanks,

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

I have a big problem with the use of the word "slaughter". You have already made your point. To use brucellosis as a reason to harvest American bison is absolutly ludicrous. Don't think I'd like to vacinate one though! Sure did lots of cows.

According to any press release you read when a bison is sent to be killed, they ship it "to slaughter." You can find that language in the government's own words on the press release I linked to in the article. They prefer to use the sanitized phrase "Management Operations" to describe what they are doing.

"Harvest" is a loaded term as well, that suggests that what the Park Service is doing is something akin to raising crops. That's not what's going on. Rather, like domestic livestock, they are rounding them up and shipping them to slaughter. That there is a double meaning to the "word" slaughter is not accidental, but in a winter where 5% of the supposedly wild buffalo have been killed in a single week, I'm not sure there's an objectively better word for it. It's both the accurate description of what happens and a truthful description of the amount of death in a week. The word needs to capture the scope as well as the actual "what" (just as when someone wins an election by a large amount, it is called a "landslide.") In this case, the use of the word "slaughter" is actually far more justified since it is not only true metaphorically, it is literally what they are doing to the bison.

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

My question is, How big of a herd do we want? 4500, 45,000, 45,000,000? If you think we kill alot of buffalo now, wait till we are managing a herd of 1,000,000 or so. Also, I want to know why it is better for a buffalo to be killed by wolves than to be killed by man?

A few of you have mentioned the real issue here. The Montana beef industry spends millions of dollars lobbying their industry as they should. However they have made themselves so powerful that they can influence what a federal organization (the Yellowstone NPS) does or doesn't do with their management practices. The park service is understandably in a predicament as they have to juggle the demands of the neighboring ranchers, public visitors, and overall management within the park. The sole reason for this issue lies with the ranchers/beef industry. Why else would the park service actively "harvest/slaughter" one species within the park when the mission for the entire park is to leave it wild and let nature do as it does? (Ok so they revised that plan slightly for wild fire management.) The pressure put on the park service from the beef industry is too great. I agree that organizations like the Buffalo Field Campaign need to bring these issues to the attention of Joe Public, however they have focused their energy on the wrong group of people. They need to set up camp in the parking lots of the beef industry, and walk the halls of Washington DC and rub shoulders with Joe Beef. That is where they will have the most influence. Leave the park service alone, they are not the enemy here. Everyone loves to hate the government. We need voices to attack the real problem here, the almighty all powerful beef industry. Oh and by the way I love my steak just like the next guy or gal, so my issues don't involve killing cattle or bison. My issues deal with an industry who thinks they can get what they want (be it bison control or wolf control) by throwing money and irrational theory at the problem and not science and cooperation.

I want to take a shot at answering the last couple of comments, particularly eric's, since he raises some very important ethical questions.

eric asked about the proper size of the buffalo herd, and he asked whether it was better for a buffalo to be killed by wolves than by man.

I do not think it is up to us to determine how big of a herd that we want, and the key to my answer to your question is that we have to rid ourselves of the belief that we are here to "manage" wildlife. The idea that the role of human society is to manage resources is I think a mistaken one. I don't think we have the knowledge to know how to do this while at the same time grasping all the consequences of our actions. The "management" ethics is based on an atomistic understanding of the world. It doesn't matter whether the atom is managing a particular animal, a particular disease, or even a particular ecosystem, the attempt to make moral decisions regarding what to do about buffalo and other animals is not a closed system. It is not possible to know the variables. So, we cannot really answer how many buffalo absolutely we would want, and we shouldn't even try. The question shouldn't be how many bison should there be but rather why we think we are right to control the number of bison within a certain number. And, more than control that number, why we think we are right to control the movements of these animals.

In Yellowstone, from what I have read from range scientists, Yellowstone National Park historically supported a herd of about 1,000 bison. In the past, before the so called natural regulation theory took hold in the late 1960s, the National Park Service culled ungulate populations (notably elk populations) in order to maintain the quality of Yellowstone's Northern Range. As the bison population grows, there has been a tendency of bison to leave the national park boundaries. Now, the Park Service could try to regulate the numbers of buffalo so that they will be less likely to leave the park (by slaughtering buffalo), or they could let them wander out and try to reclaim a small piece of their historic range. No matter what, there are consequences in the choice that go well beyond humans' ability to manage the full scope of the situation. Yellowstone National Park is simply not an intact ecosystem (and an ecosystem is never a closed system, anyhow). The question for me again is by what reason does the National Park Service or any other entity justify stopping bison from reclaiming their range. By what right does it set up these boundaries and these numbers, which when push comes to shove, are arbitrary and based only on values placed on the range science.

So, however you count the proper numbers, there is no rationale that justifies the killing of buffalo. Of course, you might challenge my premises, and we can continue that conversation (and probably should to move this conversation forward).

Secondly, you asked about whether it's better for a buffalo to be killed by a human or by a wolf. Obviously, it makes no difference to the buffalo as far as any of us know. I don't know how we could ask each one to find out. Seriously, though, the question in terms of human action isn't whether one kind of dying is better than another, but whether one type of killing makes more sense than another. Why is it that we kill buffalo? Is that rationale coherent? We don't kill buffalo in order to survive, we don't kill them because we find ourselves with little choice, we do so in order to protect a certain social order that we've set up. We are protecting certain value judgments about that social order. Does that social order, whether we are talking about the livestock industry or whether we are talking about the Department of Livestock or about the National Park Service make any sense at all? In other places, I have argued that it does not. The burden, though, is still to show why the rationale for government-sponsored killing of buffalo is justified. We are talking about our actions here, and to the extent that our actions don't make sense, it is evident that we are harming ourselves (that's an argument one can find in Plato). And, in harming ourselves, we are also prematurely hurting buffalo, and we are not living up to our potential.

That's how I would answer eric.

And, that really also suggests how I would begin to answer the Anonymous comment that follows it. In Anonymous's piece, there is a criticism of Buffalo Field Campaign for going after the National Park Service instead of the beef industry. While that's not even true - Buffalo Field Campaign in fact has called for a boycott of beef - on the face of it, the criticism is merely one of strategy and not principle. However, looking deeper, the person here suggests that the livestock industry is the only real enemy of the buffalo and that the Park Service is merely a victim of circumstances. That's ludicrous. As the people actually carrying out and participating in the process of policy making, the National Park Service has absolutely no mandate to kill buffalo, and the people who wear the uniforms of the Park Service - as individuals - have even less so. If the real target is the livestock industry, then one way you go about pressuring a change is to pressure those who are in partnership with that industry to make that partnership less palatable. The National Park Service has always been seen as something of a bad partner in brucellosis management; they are therefore the lowest hanging fruit in the corrupt partnership to go after. And, it's all the more outrageous when they find themselves in league with these people. In fact, it's groups like the National Park Service which are giving the policy teeth whenever they kill a buffalo. One wouldn't expect USDA or the livestock industry to change their stance after so many decades of zealous efforts to rid brucellosis from cattle. They would be the hardest group to move; they can only be moved by pressure. However, the National Park Service has a mandate to protect wildlife.

And, on that note, though what I say may not be popular, eating beef is also enabling the slaughter of buffalo. While I doubt any boycott of beef will work (unless there are a lot more episodes like we have seen in the news over the past couple of days), it does make it easier for the livestock industry to press their case so long as their coffers are being fed by those who eat beef (at least beef from those tied to the industry). But, I think many of our agricultural practices have been tied to the same sense of entitlement that people take for granted (just as they take for granted the notion that everything on earth is here for humans to "manage.") As Gandhi said, the cow is also sacred. By that, I mean that the animals stuck in our agricultural system are just as much victims as are the wildlife in Yellowstone. It's very hard to call for free-ranging bison without at the same time recognizing the fundamental problem within the industry. That doesn't mean that we should be quick to throw farmers out on their ass; in fact, if anything I said should be clear, we shouldn't be trying to figure everything out. We cannot possibly do that. What we can do is in a situation that presents itself to us, recognize when there is no justification for our actions. And, there is no justification for the National Park Service slaughter of buffalo.

Strategically, there may be a reason to direct more action against the livestock industry. Certainly, the connections are necessary. The National Park Service, however, is culpable. That they are stuck in a bureaucracy does not make it less so; it does suggest that there are fundamental problems with the systems of "management" with public lands. The only way I know to take that on is in the local context; for me, free roaming buffalo is part of that context.

There's so much more to say; this has opened a pandora's box. But, eric is essentially right about one thing, as I interpret the context of his questions. There are radical implications in criticizing the slaughter of buffalo. At a basic level, most people recognize the contradiction in what the NPS is doing in killing animals they are supposed to be protecting. But, when we see the full context of the contradiction, what it calls for is something much more than simply stopping the slaughter. Are we willing to embrace where reason leads us? Are we ready to roam?

In any event, stopping the slaughter would be a nice start.

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

Good Lord. Is NPT now an advocacy rag? Jim, regardless of your semantic take on the word "slaughter" it still smacks of not only a breach of the shaky objectivity achieved on NPT, it's also sensationalistic and I feel strongly this is like something i might see on FOX or CNN.

Slaughter means slaughter but you didn't even bother to mention the concept of carrying capacity in the first post, only touching it later in your response to comments. I highly doubt that the public, when presented with the oversimplified fact that BISON ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED STOP THE SLAUGHTER this is an objective question when you don't even bother to discuss carrying capacity in the park, the impact the larger herds may/may not have on the overall ecosystem and what the broader role of the Park Service is in maintaining ecosystem integrity. This is the type of thing that I would like to read on this site, balanced articles. Had I wanted to know that simply BISON ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED I'd just read the BFC's website. While I might agree with your premise please post something more balanced next time.

Geesh.

Anon,

Methinks you got a bad cup of coffee this morning. As the subdeck under the Traveler logo stats, the site is open to news AND commentary and life in the parks. Frankly, the initial post on Sunday was pretty straightforward and not an advocacy piece by any stretch. It pointed out the Park Service's position and even provided a link to the IBMP so folks could read up on their own and drawn their own conclusions.

Did it cover the entire history of the subject, that livestock more than likely brought brucellosis to the park's wildlife, the carrying capacity issue, the conundrum that Montana officials are so worried about bison and yet elk, which also carry brucellosis, are seemingly overlooked?

No. Perhaps it should have, but every post is not going to be a term paper on the issue at hand. The overriding intent of the Traveler is to raise or point out issues across the park system and, hopefully, spur a dialog into those issues.

Indeed, follow-up comments touched on some of the other points in the bison debate.

The reason for the slaughter of bison officially has nothing to do with carrying capacity, though the IBMP sets an arbitrary number of 3,000 bison for the park, and rules regarding testing and slaughter change at that point. When I mentioned carrying capacity - which is not a reason for slaughter nor would it by mentioning it make an article more balanced - in my editorial response above, I actually used it to suggest the need for expansion of bison range. I have never read the National Park Service mention the word "carrying capacity"; that's a phrase associated with critics of park policies, (and especially the use of science to describe that policy) in respect to the Northern Range, not the Park Service itself. The National Park Service slaughters bison ostensibly because it's a partner in the IBMP, which has to do with transmission of brucellosis.

There is nothing shaky about the use of the word "slaughter"; as I said, that's in fact a word you'll find used by both sides. It is objectively true (which is actually a somewhat redundant adverb). However, if your complaint is that I did not adequately give the point of view of the partners in the IBMP for why they carry it out, and that that amounts to objectivity, I don't think you have shown how my own particular bias has made the story any less true. I pointed people to the NPS press release as well as the IBMP and quoted the major reason given for supporting the slaughter.

And, "regardless of my semantic take" is a flippant wave of the hand for your further charge that the word is "sensational." Again, I'd argue that it's no more sensational than the use of the word "landslide" or "rout" to express a political election; in fact, it's more accurate. While I certainly am an advocate sympathetic with Buffalo Field Campaign, nothing you have said suggests that the article itself is an advocacy piece. It's hardly different from the articles that have appeared in the local mainstream media in Montana, with the exception that it mentions the event, which is newsworthy (it's newsworthy on a national parks site when a group of people are out actively protesting the policy). The frustrating thing for me writing it, in all honesty, was that it wasn't an advocacy piece and that I took pains to make sure that it was not. If it were, I would have posted it on my own blog or in the comments section here (as I have - when I told Kurt and Jeremy that I would write articles from time to time, I made it clear that I was not likely to send them the opinionated pieces I reserve for my own Web site; they for their part set no limits on the sort of pieces I might write, as they put both kinds up, and I often have to decide whether an essay here - relevant to Yellowstone - belongs in the article or opinion section of my newspaper).

Bias always comes out in reporting based on what someone chooses to write about and how one chooses to focus an article. That bias does not make something in and of itself any less objective. And, I would be the last person to ever want to use the emotional response people get from the use of certain language to convince them to follow a cause. In this case, I'm confident that I'm on firm ground with my word choice.

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

Jim, how about the word massacre instead of slaughter...sounds more effective! Good input but much like a "term paper"!

According to the Billings Gazette, there are now 230 bison that have been shipped to slaughter with another 60 now waiting in the Stephens Creek facility. Apparently, the hunt total (according to BFC's Web site) rose to 130 (possibly from the Nez Perce hunt). That means, the total dead is now 360 bison with another 60 awaiting slaughter. At 420 bison, that would be approximately 9% of the entire herd, and the bison hazing and killing season is still quite young.

In other news, the government may de-list the wolf next week.

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

Jim,

"The question shouldn't be how many bison should there be but rather why we think we are right to control the number of bison within a certain number. And, more than control that number, why we think we are right to control the movements of these animals."

The point you raise is philosophical and National Parks management is not a philosophical debating club. They manage the little piece of the North American eco system that is left. The romantic vision we hold of a buffalo herd of hundreds of thousands roaming an endless sea of grass is sadly gone.
Lobbying for a National Park dedicated to a large buffalo herd would certainly be interesting. My dealings with National Parks people always has resluted in the ' two hat speach'. One hat agrees with the environmental side but the other defers to the states ecnonomic plan. In reality governments and their employees are interested in jobs and tax revenues (economic development). A roaming buffalo herd isn't an alternative for them. Maybe a rich Indian Tribe would want to combine the concept with a casino?

Yeah..I know.

Joe

Objections to the notion of a "philosophical debating club" aside (I think philosophy has nothing to do with debate), the National Park Service has in fact changed management policies over the years based on a prevailing management ideology.

As people, our only concern should be what is right and justified and whether the actions are. If NPS is incapable of making decisions based on anything rational, then it's imperative that people organize against their absurd behavior until it changes. If that seems unrealistic, then they've lost all meaningful hope. And, all this discussion really is just a debating match, just pissing in the wind. But, then, there are no winners; we all lose.

I don't know whether the world can ever or should ever have 30 million bison roaming again - who can possibly answer that question - the question really is what we are justified in doing now. And, if NPS is incapable, is impotent to act (and they may well be, but on the particular issue of bison slaughter, they probably can do something), then it only makes the call stronger for people to take more radical action, such as that carried out and called for by Buffalo Field Campaign.

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

Jim,

Might be time to take a deep breath, enjoy a nice juicy Montana rib eye, and then consider heading back to Washington. Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and YNP have been dealing with these issues long before you left the Washington "anarchy activist" scene to head the wilds of Montana. The BFC pushes enough of the emotionally based, fact minimizing media releases on the local and regional media.

It's not 1872 when the Park was founded, and the bison will never again roam freely at their whim across the regional ecosystem. Railing at the "Bush administration" and all of government from the top down won't really address a solution - unless you're an Obama supporter - he's all for changing the way all life works in America (though I don't think he's clarified his bison position).

Seriously, you'll last a lot longer in Bozeman (I'm from Bozeman too) if you work to find solutions (that indeed means an element of compromise will be in order - on all sides - of this and the wolf issue). Riding into town on a white horse and telling everybody who's been living, working, and recreating out here for years how the "cow ate the cabbage" (sorry, a bit of old Montana humor) won't make many friends, and most importantly won't fix the things that need fixing.

Randy O.,

You'll probably need to do more than brushing my arguments aside with ad hominem attacks to speak to what I wrote. It's easy enough to brush me aside, however many years I have spent actually caring about and learning about Yellowstone (and even living and working there seasonally over five summers in the 1990s). It's much harder to brush aside the force of argument.

When you and others can give arguments that actually justify the policy (besides that they've been working on it a long time, and the perennial favorite vacuous common sense claim - "compromise is needed" (you should probably work for Gov. Schweitzer), then we can have a discussion.

And, FYI, I do not support Obama in part because he doesn't really believe in the power and necessity of grassroots activism. If he did, I don't know how anyone like that would ever consider running for President. He can have the white horse. What we need is a serious discussion of the absurdities of policy. And, yes, they've been absurd for a long time, long before 1872, long before John Bozeman came riding into town and started an Indian war, one that in part has brought us to talking about Yellowstone bison. We cannot remake the world as it was in 1872 (why would we want to - the 19th century was no dreamworld), but we can begin to undo the rationale that uses 1872 as a reason for doing stupid things in 2008.

So, I'd urge you to speak to argument rather than about me and my circumstance. I can assure you I have a lot more skeletons in my closet than being an Eastern carpetbagger, and there's a lot more fun to be had at my expense. But, the beauty is that you and I can have serious discussion no matter who we are if we take the time to look seriously at the root of what we are saying.

Cheers,

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

Jim-

Your reply is much appreciated, and quite expected from one who espouses the beliefs that you've articulated in the past. You yourself have identified yourself indeed as an "anarchy activist", and I am not the only one who has commented upon the sensationalistic approach that you and others (perhaps most notably the BFC) have used in describing the plight of the bison. Call those ad hominem attacks if you will (very nice use of vocabulary by the way), however as you say, looking at the "root of what we're saying", that descriptor might not be true.

My argument with your commentary is perhaps most specifically based upon your position which you articulated on the 18th in this thread -

I do not think it is up to us to determine how big of a herd that we want, and the key to my answer to your question is that we have to rid ourselves of the belief that we are here to "manage" wildlife. The idea that the role of human society is to manage resources is I think a mistaken one. I don't think we have the knowledge to know how to do this while at the same time grasping all the consequences of our actions. The "management" ethics is based on an atomistic understanding of the world. It doesn't matter whether the atom is managing a particular animal, a particular disease, or even a particular ecosystem, the attempt to make moral decisions regarding what to do about buffalo and other animals is not a closed system. It is not possible to know the variables. So, we cannot really answer how many buffalo absolutely we would want, and we shouldn't even try. The question shouldn't be how many bison should there be but rather why we think we are right to control the number of bison within a certain number. And, more than control that number, why we think we are right to control the movements of these animals.

Your argument is simply specious to suggest that the wild bison are somehow to be carved out of a very complex regional ecosystem and left "unmanaged" at this point in time. Every aspect of our lives in our regional ecosystem is "managed" in one way or another. The rule of law of in civilized society is a form of "management"; I would suppose that with your "anarchy activism" background you probably don't accept that concept; if that be the case, you'll be eternally frustrated in this world. I'll readily admit my bias, I'm a retired federal judge (30 years), and though I lean to the progressive / liberal side of the current politcal spectrum, I do firmly believe in the rule of law as the glue that binds a society together. Is American society perfect - absolutely not; however, there are societies around the world that are in states of true anarchy - and it breeds savage, inhuman, lawless behavior that is nothing but reprehensible and an unmitigated disaster for those unfortunate souls living in the tumult.

Here's the crux of my critical commentary - If you frame your entire argument upon the premise that the bison cannot indeed be managed in any way, shape, or form, there could / will never be a solution to the issue.

I'm particulary intrigued by your assignment of the descriptor "vacuous" to my call for working toward solutions to the issue; btw in doing so you seem to have articulated an "ad hominem" attack yourself. My abridged dictionary defines "vacuous" as "without content; empty; expressing or characterized by lack of intelligence; inane; stupid". (By the way, I'm not a Schweitzer supporter, I truly find his commentary and behavior vacuous).

Jim, a call for working together to craft a solution is not "vacuous" - and for a guy that seems reasonably bright by your writings, you critically damage and cheapen your credibility by making such a charge. I'm well aware that there are those in the "anarchy movement" who find that anything short of the total destruction of our democracy and the rule of law is "unacceptable compromise", and if that be your position, so be it, though with that approach you'll never find an acceptable solution to the issue of the bison, much less live a purposeful, contented life. I would certainly hope that not be the case for your sake. You seem to be particularly contemptuous of the word "compromise" - I use the term quite honestly and hopefully, defined as such - "a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands." Rational compromise is not an inappropriate or unobtainable objective.

Finally, my comments to you about life in Bozeman were sincerely proffered. The bulk of the fine residents of Bozeman, and of Montana and the region, are hard working folk who treasure their ability to live in this area. They are most often vehemently opposed to being told there is only way to do things, or only one solution to an issue, or in fact as you might be saying, there is no solution to an issue (back to your quote above). We don't really need a serious discussion about the absurdities of policy as you've called for, we need rational solutions. For the record, I find the current bison management policies antiquated and irrational, and am putting my time and resources toward finding some sort of rational solution (opps - there's that implication for compromise again). Bottom line - the overwhelming majority of us in Bozeman and the region are not looking for anarchy, we're looking for living the best life we can in this day and age, and the overwhelming majority of us want to live in optimal harmony with our environment. Those of us who are long time "westerners" view with great caution those who spout constant criticism of our way of life, even though admittedly that way of life might be grossly flawed in many ways. You don't have to be an "eastern carpetbagger" (your term); it's in fact entirely up to you.

I realize you'll probably find my comments to be a bucket of horsesh*t; that's fine, and you certainly have every right in our great nation to do so. I've been called every name in the book, had my life threatened by strip mining and ranching companies over the years - though I've never been called vacuous - that's a first, and has engendered quite a laugh among family and friends; a genuine thanks for the chuckle. I'm just finishing a book about my judicial experiences in Montana that's scheduled for publication early this summer, and I've sent an email to my editor suggesting we include your descriptor of my "vacuous commentary" - she thinks it's a great idea.

There seems to be a spark of intelligence and potential in you (per your writings) that is so often absent in the venimous, partison inhabitants of these online boards. Best of luck to you, and may you shift your energies toward finding solutions to issues at hand. There is good in the world out there.

Warmly,
Randy O., The Vacuous Judge

Randy O. wrote "For the record, I find the current bison management policies antiquated and irrational, and am putting my time and resources toward finding some sort of rational solution..."

Will you describe your efforts, or, at least, can you share what you think would have to happen in order to obtain some sort of rational solution?

I've maintained, for years, that it will take some sharp legal minds(s) to get the IBMP back into court and substantially modified.

Jim, I support Buffalo Field Campaign in most of their efforts - except for one: because Yellowstone is bound by the IBMP, it is grossly unfair to paint the involved rangers and others in the manner BFC has done. Those men and women do NOT like what they're doing, I assure you. The subject of the photograph at the top of this page is despicable.

--

Mack P. Bray
My opinions are my own

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

Mack,

At what point do we hold people culpable who do what they do even though they hate it? Isn't it a horribly cynical world where we will have to depend on lawyers to make things right? And, then, will it? What's really changed? I think all it does is change the playing field, but it's still the same game.

Randy O.,

When I said that the "need for compromise" is vacuous what I was getting at is that it doesn't really say anything about the situation at hand. If you are a serial rapist, and I am the person you wish to rape, is there any way to compromise in that situation? Not from my point of view. If you are a person lacking civil rights, and a society says you must get that civil rights inch by inch compromise by compromise, is there really room for compromise if you are wrongly being treated as less than equal? On the other hand, if you want to go to the lake today, but I'd rather go to the movies, we probably can work something out. The point is that the call for compromise on the bison situation says nothing to the principles involved, whether something is right, or whether compromise really is an option.

Secondly, on bison, no doubt it's not enough to stop managing buffalo while people keep on with the pretenses that they can manage everything else. I agree with you entirely on that. And, yet, that's exactly the human vanity that must be resisted. And, maybe you find yourself on the bright side of the world's management decisions, but others - whether they be bison, those suffering on homeless benches, dying of AIDS in Africa, dying in wars overseas, people of color, people with different sexual orientations, different genders, they are not necessarily doing so well in a world where everything is controlled and managed arbitrarily. And, as a lover of compromise, someone who wants to work with other people, it should be frustrating for you that the world has these unnecessary barriers that actually keep people from working together.

Thanks for your concern for me getting by in Bozeman. I have had little trouble making friends here. I have no interest in telling people how they should live their lives, but being an anarchist, I'm not a relativist or a libertarian. There are some behavior that none of us should tolerate, not because it's the rule of law, but because it's the rule of reason. One of those things is the purposeless slaughter of Yellowstone bison no matter who is doing it. There are many things - in fact most things - where reason doesn't give us a guide one way or the other. One reason people aren't living as freely as they ought to be is because we have made too many compromises to those would enforce their will (call it the rule of law if you will) over others. It's hard to find actual compromise in a world so divided when it should be relatively easy. However, since we often decide to enforce intolerable boundaries, we make actual compromise and plurality and self expression impossible.

I have no doubt that most people in the world aren't looking to break down all the hierarchies (that is, anarchy) in the world, certainly not in Bozeman. That's hardly an excuse for me not to look for those here who are willing to stand together, work together, speak together, and take action. If most of the people are okay with the barriers that separate people, that still doesn't mean it's okay.

As for your dichotomy between dialogue and solutions, that's a false distinction. There is no solution that doesn't involve the process of discussion and interaction - the roaming around and within a topic and between people. If the solution actually is to get people on some sort of the same page, to reach consensus, that consensus is dialogue par excellence. And, dialogue and respect then is the solution. Those things that tend to break that down - those borders again - ruin dialogue and any solution to the problem. What's happening with bison in national parks - the inherent contradiction in the policy, the inherent contradiction that exists between the different groups feuding on the issue is irresolvable unless certain barriers are broken. That's a principle that goes far beyond the buffalo. And, you're right, it cannot be broken down simply by telling people it needs to be this way; in the case of the bison, it's broken down in part by making it happen, by forcing a change in behavior - i.e., direct action. But, ultimately, it's only broken down by a sincere commitment to dialogue and all that dialogue actually entails. That really is the solution, but without context, dialogue is no doubt just as vacuous as compromise.

I'm under no delusions of having a commonplace point of view. However, your point of view ultimately is self contradictory, and I cannot go down that route.

If we met in person, we no doubt would like each other. Trust me; this is not how I talk. I'm quite sincere and waxing a bit poetic - because it's my own perverse sense of humor - but I fit in here a lot better than you think. That's not to say that I agree with you or that what I have said isn't sincere, but it has a whiff of a bison chip to it. But, that's part of the point - we should allow that kind of world. And, we have to recognize that even the most open, pluralistic society is built on certain principles of which there cannot rationally be compromise - since compromise depends first on them being true. I honestly believe that the plight of our friends, the buffalo, are indicative of all of that.

the vulgar talker.
Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Sorry for the delay Jim in responding to your well versed response to my comments, my head was spinning for several days. I just have to revisit my original thoughts about the beef industry being responsible and the park service being caught in the middle of it all. I'd like to ask you a few questions. In your opinion why did the park service begin killing bison? Why exactly in your opinion, did they decide this was to be their new mandate? What reason did they give for changing their management practice concerning shipping bison to harvest. I can't help but wonder why it's up to the park service to stop their practices but you say it's ok for the USDA to not change theirs just because their principles have been set in stone for decades, and therefore are resistant to pressure from outside sources pushing for change. I'm a bit confused. You let the USDA and Livestock Dept. off the hook when they are the ones I think putting pressure on the park to keep beef brucelosis free. I admit you lost me in your poetic, epic responses, but after all the words the basic questions remain. Who started it? Did the park service suddenly start worrying that wandering bison were going to taint the beef herds? Did they make the first move? Or did someone somewhere else start making noise about their beef herds being tainted by sick bison. Ok so I'm being slightly sarcastic and simple here but I think you get my drift. It all had to start somewhere and I doubt it STARTED in the back offices of YNP or NPS. So the source of the beginning of it all is responsible. Period. I think I can remember back when this all started and the first thing I saw were articles in the paper about the beef industry complaining about sick bison, and "what is the park service going to do to keep their wildlife away from our beef so we won't lose millions of dollars worth of livestock..." No that's not a direct quote, more like a summary in my own words of the general theme of all those articles. Why can't we just hold responsible parties accountable...period? I have to admit, I looked at the BFC with humor when I saw them parked in front of tower falls many years ago, sitting with their posters and speeches and props. I wondered what they thought they would accomplish that day, and wondered if they were getting tired of people walking by them and not paying them any attention. What do they accomplish by holding court in the park they are attacking, trying to talk to a public that just wants to see an elk or moose or bear or waterfall? What do these transient tourists have to offer the BFC in terms of any power to change anything? This is why I think BFC will have greater success camping out in the halls of beefdom. I have to agree with some of our other responders who think it'll take legal wrangling with the likes of our retired judge to get anything done on this front. If what you say is true, and there is no way for change to occur on its own, then we need someone to step in and make the change, to make the "new law" in town. To tell the beef industry to find it's own answer for brucelosis, and tell the park service to close down the likes of the Stevens Facility and let bison be bison. Am I missing some thing? I'm sure you'll let me know if I am, and that's exactly why I love this site....

Jim MacDonald wrote: "At what point do we hold people culpable who do what they do even though they hate it? Isn't it a horribly cynical world where we will have to depend on lawyers to make things right? And, then, will it? What's really changed? I think all it does is change the playing field, but it's still the same game."

It seems to me, Jim, that we do not hold culpable the Yellowstone personnel in the field; rather we hold culpable their superiors that signed onto the IBMP.

Again, the subject of the photograph at the top of this page is despicable.

I don't think it's a "horribly cynical world where we will have to depend on lawyers to make things right." Our court system is not perfect, but it's among the best in the world. You can be cynical or you can be realistic or you can be realistically cynical.

--

Mack P. Bray
My opinions are my own

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

First of all, eric, you asked:

In your opinion why did the park service begin killing bison?

I assume you mean, why did the Park Service begin killing bison under the current management plan? The reason I have to clarify that is that bison were killed by the Park Service for awhile in the 20th century based on the size of the herds until the so called natural regulation policy at the end of the 1960s.

Since a settlement of a lawsuit involving Montana in the 1990s and the subsequent IBMP, the National Park Service has been a partner in the management plan for bison in the Greater Yellowstone region. The goal of the IBMP is the prevention of the spread of brucellosis from bison to cattle populations. As I understand it, the Montana Department of Livestock is the lead manager of the program.

This winter, I've personally witnessed the negligent hazing of buffalo by snow plows well inside the park boundaries - between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower. I could not tell you the reason why the snow plows forced the bison off the roads. According to the National Park Service, bison were first captured and then sent to slaughter because they had either approached or had crossed the park boundary near private grazing allotments. All bison captured (now 290) were shipped to slaughter, including some calves originally intended for quarantine (who were shipped to slaughter because NPS had failed to get a permit for the quarantine facility).

But, why bison were shipped to slaughter from the capture facility inside the park is not at all clear. The bison were not tested for exposure to brucellosis (which itself is not a positive test for having brucellosis) - under management plans, testing is not required for the herd if it is over 3,000. It's not clear why bison were not re-released inside the park.

And, yet, even then, it's not clear why the National Park Service is a partner in the IBMP since it goes squarely against the mission of the National Park Service.

Why exactly in your opinion, did they decide this was to be their new mandate?

Application of the IBMP is arbitrary and hard to understand. Some winters, few bison are killed. Other winters, many are. Why this happens is not something I can opine about? I can opine, though, on the notion of the mandate. I suspect that when any regulatory body comes to an agreement, they believe it is their mandate because they are after all part of the executive branch of the United States government. Whether this actually constitutes a rational mandate - whether it ever did - is something I would strongly dispute. Bureaucracies often govern on the expediency of the moment rather than based on any consistency with principles of justice - or much less demanding than that - consistency with their own mission.

What reason did they give for changing their management practice concerning shipping bison to harvest.

This winter they said nothing except that bison were either approaching or had moved across the park boundary near private allotments. Each winter, it's different.

I can't help but wonder why it's up to the park service to stop their practices but you say it's ok for the USDA to not change theirs just because their principles have been set in stone for decades, and therefore are resistant to pressure from outside sources pushing for change. I'm a bit confused. You let the USDA and Livestock Dept. off the hook when they are the ones I think putting pressure on the park to keep beef brucelosis free. I admit you lost me in your poetic, epic responses, but after all the words the basic questions remain. Who started it?

No one should be let off the hook. The partners of the IBMP are the United States Forest Service (Gallatin National Forest) - USDA -, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - USDA -, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Montana Department of Livestock, and the National Park Service (Yellowstone National Park) - DOI -. All of these agencies have been the target of protest. The question of protesting the National Park Service and singling it out in a specific protest is no doubt one arising from the greatest bewilderment since its membership in the partnership is the most obviously contradictory. In actuality, most of the direct protest - and what you'll see in coming months because of the Horse Butte facility - is action aimed against Montana, especially the Department of Livestock. During the hunting season, there would have been more directed at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, who manages the bison "hunts" (the vast majority of bison get gunned down very close to the Yellowstone boundary). And, you see a lot of complaints directed at Gov. Schweitzer (and before him, Governor Martz and Governor Racicot).

Yet, if the National Park Service is going to be a partner in this, they are making it that much easier. If wildlife advocates are supposed to have one friend, it's supposed to be the Park Service. However, it has not happened that way. And, it's really not a surprise. Personally, I never would have bothered. All of these bureaucracies, whatever their competing interests, are still bound to the state or federal government. Their levers are only controlled by the most powerful forces in the country; and unless you have the money and connections to put your hands on one of those levers, nothing happens. It really is up to grassroots activists to hold all of these groups accountable and to pressure them to change policy.

As to taking on the beef industry, which was the actual gist of what you were suggesting, I think that's a fine idea. It doesn't make the NPS any less culpable, but it's an interesting strategic move. But, at that point, we aren't arguing whether the beef industry or the NPS is to blame; we are arguing about the best means to make change.

In my case, I found the action effective not because tourists had their eyes opened but because those who participated were able to connect, network, and begin planning anew. In fact, that's exactly what happened to me. I went down there not really knowing anyone; now some of us who met only on account of this action are planning and organizing.

But, strategically, the beef industry itself is an inviting target. If one takes away the incentive of the industry to control the levers of policy, then you take away one part of the problem. There are many ways to go after the industry. Do you go after those who are propping up the support of the industry? Do you go directly after the industry? Do you use a multi-pronged approach? These are all very interesting questions. I think all approaches can work toward the same ends, and criticizing the Park Service - one of the unwitting partners of the beef industry - is part of the process. For people local to Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin National Forest, it's probably easier to go after the governmental pillars of support and yet show solidarity with the many groups going directly after the industry. Can't that all be part of the same struggle?

***

Finally, Mack,

I know people aren't supposed to bring things up like this, but what is your opinion of the Nuremberg trials? There, the main defense for doing nothing in the face of gross injustice was that they were merely trying to survive and that their superiors were really to blame for all the crimes they carried out. The same has been said by soldiers who participated in the torture at Abu Ghraib. In each case, courts found even those who carried out crimes called for by their superiors to hold part of the blame. Do you think this was right? Is this analogous to criticizing Park Service personnel?

If Park Service personnel are not able to act against their superiors - surely, few signed up for bison hazing and killing duty and are no doubt revolted to be caught up in and associated with it - they should definitely have our sympathy. They are as much victims as everyone else and getting out is easier said than done. But, if there were a way out, if there were something they could be doing, should they be doing it? If there isn't a way out, one way that activists can help is by providing that way out - much as activists in the anti-war movement help soldiers who wish to be conscientious objectors or who otherwise want to escape the evils of war.

And, as for the photograph of the puppet, I take it you think it's despicable because it depicts the Park Service as an executioner. Unfortunately, when it comes to Yellowstone's buffalo, the despicable image is the truth - whoever is culpable - because whoever in the Park Service is to blame - wherever that buck stops - then it's they who personify the Park Service and it is they who are accurately if still despicably pictured in the photograph.

Cheers,

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

Jim, bringing up the Nuremberg trials and the torture at Abu Ghraib is *not* analogous to criticizing Park Service personnel. Why? Because, besides the fact that you're attempting to compare the murder and torture of humans to the killing of bison, the Nazi committed crimes against humanity and the torture at Abu Ghraib was illegal. What YNP personnel is doing is legal and authorized by the IBMP - this is tragic, but true.

I think your issue should be with the IBMP and not YNP or the personnel thereof.

I hate this situation as much as anybody; I've worked with BFC; I've been up Duck and Cougar Creeks and the Madison. I've insisted for years that we need a sharp legal mind or minds to get this thing back into court.

And no, I don't think the picture at the top of this page is despicable because it "depicts the Park Service as an executioner." And you claim "...the despicable image is the truth..." The image is NOT the truth; it doesn't convey the whole truth nor the whole story of this insane situation brought about by a totally political and absolutely unscientific agreement between Montana, Department of Interior, YNP, etc. In other words, it's a one-sided slur of YNP and it's rangers in the field and that's why I think it's despicable and unfair.

--

Mack P. Bray
My opinions are my own

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

Another 180 bison have been captured and will be probably shipped to slaughter. That brings that total to 470 for the winter; 602 total dead. The slaughter total alone is 1/10 of the buffalo; the overall total is 1/8 of all buffalo counted in the fall. Unlike 1996/7, there isn't expected to be the same amount of dead bison from the harsh winter because buffalo are still able to reach the grass.

***

And, Mack, at some point what's legal and what's right are sometimes in conflict. Do you think it's never right to hold someone morally culpable for what was legal? And, even if we don't pass moral judgment, what difference does it make? If people should still do what is right rather than what is legal, then they have an obligation to do what they can to stop the situation. That's why workers go on strike, why they refuse to perform certain duties on the job, why people quit and walk off. When workers do things simply because that's what they were told to do or because there is material pressure for them to do this, then our sympathy should be with them to the extent that they can't get out of the situation. Where they put themselves in the situation and don't get out of it, then it's a problem, and it's worthy of criticism. I think it might be a very good idea for outlets for rangers who want out of bison slaughter to be developed; however, it's not enough to do nothing, shrug one's shoulders, and mourn for being stuck in a tragic situation while continuing to take actions that perpetuate it. That simply is not good enough anymore.

Secondly, as to truth, the picture displayed does not exonerate other groups simply because the protest was directed at one of them. We cannot be such generalists about truth so that it only encompasses the all and not also the particular. For instance, my name is Jim. It is also true that I'm a male, used to be a track star in high school, and ate some bread this morning. No one would be expected to speak truly of me to say everything about me, only what's relevant to the particular claim. And, I see nothing in the implication of the picture that's untrue. It's also true that other partners in the IBMP are culpable; so what? This was a protest at the West Entrance of Yellowstone during a week when the National Park Service had just killed a whole lot of buffalo. However true it is that there are other agencies involved, it's not relevant to that point and that claim in that time in that context. So, it's not despicable in respect to the truth. That there are other executioners out there is just that much more horrible.

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

Jim wrote: "When workers do things simply because that's what they were told to do or because there is material pressure for them to do this, then our sympathy should be with them to the extent that they can't get out of the situation."

Therein lies the hypocrisy of your position: YNP rangers in the field have had to bust their butts to become permanent rangers and, more than likely, were employed as seasonals before becoming permanent - in other words, it ain't easy becoming a ranger with Yellowstone National Park and those men and women are NOT exactly able to react as you suggest they do in your model, which I view as unrealistically idealistic.

Where's your sympathy for those rangers in the field? You have none.

If you think politics aren't at play within the bureaucracy of YNP, you're sadly mistaken.

Yellowstone National Park and all it's employees deserve more respect than having some black puppet, as you describe it, hanging in effigy near the west entrance.

You and Buffalo Field Campaign owe Yellowstone National Park a sincere apology, in my opinion.

--

Don't get me wrong; I fully support public protest and civil disobedience. If you want to be effective and FAIR, get the names of all the signers of the IBMP, single them out, target them and not everybody that works for YNP. Secretary of Interior's lost his appointment? Doesn't matter; NAME HIM. Get the idea?

--

Mack P. Bray
My opinions are my own

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

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), 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? I'm serious about this. One way to stop people in power from abusing people is to create means to undercut their ability to control others to do their bidding. 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. So, what can be done? Is it enough simply to change the heads of these organizations? Or, is it intrinsic to the beauracracy?

Rather than single out particular people, we should all own up to our part of the blame. In some ways, we probably all contribute to the problem and could be doing more. Is the Park Service culpable or not? Who has the power to make the Park Service change their policy?

Because, right now, buffalo are still being killed. People are going to jail trying to stop them. And, you're offended by a stinking picture of a puppet at a rally? The puppet was provocative and spoke to a truth about Park Service involvement in the slaughter; that it was uncomfortable and disturbing was in fact part of the point, and an appropriate point to make. People should be made to feel uncomfortable by the contradiction in policy and that the Park Service has put their name and their actions to this policy. And, it should draw people out in questioning the policy and Park Service involvement and all the other cogs in the machine (especially the role of the livestock industry). And, it should draw people out in talking about strategy in dealing with it. But, to defend the Park Service as a victim and outraged that they've been called out is to defend the indefensible. That there are good people stuck in this system, trapped, and horrified by what they are being forced and pressured into doing is true enough, but instead of that calling into question the image, it should call into question what we can be doing to alleviate the situation. The picture holds; it's a ghastly truth, and many people are often trapped by it, and just as importantly, buffalo family units are being destroyed here. What can we do to change this? Calling bureaucracies out seems to be the tamest thing one can do to take action, and yet, apparently, it's proven to be more provocative than I imagined. Where I come from, such puppets are derided not for being despicable but for being toothless - they don't actually change anything. But, if this puppet has actually arisen such an emotional response and the discussion that has ensued, then it has more than achieved it's purpose, and for it, we should be thankful (rather than apologetic).

As for hypocritical, while I don't see it here in this instance, we are all hypocrites one way or the other. We are all culpable and all responsible. Instead of trying to figure out how we are not responsible, we should be trying to figure out how we can all do better. And, we should be thankful for anyone who correctly points out where we fall short, even if it hurts.

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/

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

"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,

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

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/

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

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..

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