The award for Most Ridiculous Spin of the Century goes collectively to Kit Fischer, sportsmen’s outreach coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation (what the hell kind of environmental/wildlife advocacy group hires an outreach coordinator to attract sport hunters?); Dave Chadwick, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation; Jim Posewitz, board member of Helena Hunters and Anglers; Casey Hackathorn, president of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers; Chris Marchion, board member of Anaconda Sportsmen and Glenn Hockett, president of Gallatin Wildlife Association. These revisionists recently had the insolent audacity to try to boast that “hunter-conservationists saved bison from extinction a century ago” in their article, Enlist Montana Hunters to Manage Bison Numbers.
Let’s not forget that the vast herds that once blackened the plains for hundreds of miles on end were almost completely killed off by hide-hunters, market meat-hunters or by sport-hunters shooting from trains just for a bit of fun.
The only reason hunters stopped the insanity was that the bison were all but completely wiped out. By the time they ended their killing spree, only 18 wild bison remained, holed up like wrongfully-accused outlaws in the upper reaches of the Yellowstone caldera.
Although Yellowstone National Park is now synonymous with the shaggy bovines, bison would prefer to spend their winters much further downriver, on lands now usurped and fenced-in by cowboys to fatten-up their cattle before shipping them off to slaughter.
If today’s ranchers and hunters had their way, bison, along with wolves and grizzly bears, would be forever restricted to the confines of the park. Rancher-hunters already have such a death-grip on Montana’s wildlife that bison are essentially marooned and forced to stay within park borders, battling snow drifts no matter how harsh the winter, despite an instinctual urge to migrate out of the high country during heavy snow winters.
Instead of making amends for the historic mistreatment of these sociable, benevolent souls, twenty-first-century sport hunters want their chance to lay waste to them again–this time in the name of “tradition.”
Parts of this post were excerpted from my book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport
(West Yellowstone MT)— Did you know that Yellowstone National Park and other government agencies behind the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) are planning to slaughter 900 buffalo this coming winter under the guise of “disease risk management” even though there has never been a documented case of a wild bison transmitting brucellosis—a bacterial disease that affects livestock and wildlife—to cattle?
In an effort to avert the bloodshed, Friends of Animals (FoA) and the Buffalo Field Campaign filed an emergency rulemaking petition Sept. 15 with the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to protect the genetic diversity and viability of the bison of Yellowstone National Park. They are requesting that the NPS and USFS undertake a population study and revise the IBMP to correct scientific deficiencies, make the plan consistent with the best available science, and follow the legal mandates the U.S. Congress has set. Until then, the groups are also requesting that the capture, removal or killing of bison at the Stephens Creek area of Yellowstone National Park and the Horse Butte area of the Gallatin National Forest be prohibited.
“Yellowstone National Park and other federal agencies are required to follow the best available science and not the latest political whims of Montana,” said Daniel Brister, executive director of Buffalo Field Campaign. “Our joint petition seeks redress to ensure the buffalo are protected for future generations. The IBMP currently is heavily weighted in favor of protecting the profits of the livestock industry at the expense and peril of our nation’s only continuously wild bison population.”
Every winter and spring, snow and ice cover the bison’s food and hunger pushes them to lower elevations across the park boundary in Montana. When they cross this arbitrary line, the buffalo enter a zone of violent conflict with ranchers. Last winter 653 bison were slaughtered, and back in the winter of 2007/2008, the largest scale wild buffalo slaughter, claimed the lives of 1,631 animals. At the turn of the 20th century, similar reckless behavior nearly drove bison to extinction.
“Slaughtering wild bison is the livestock industry’s way of eliminating competition and maintaining control of grazing lands surrounding Yellowstone National Park and across the west,” Brister said. “Montana’s livestock industry continues to use brucellosis to frighten and mislead the public into supporting its discrimination against bison. There has never been a single case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock.”
The IBMP was designed to be an adaptive management plan allowing for greater tolerance for bison as new information becomes available and conditions on the ground change, but no such tolerance has been afforded to the bison. Despite new scientific research showing that the Yellowstone population is comprised of distinct herds with unique genetics and behaviors, the agencies continue to treat Yellowstone bison as though they comprise a single homogeneous herd, Brister said.
“We want to make sure that each herd has a viable population number so that we are not starting to degrade the species,” said Mike Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “Right now they are managing the numbers based largely upon misinformation regarding the genetic viability of the herds. The data they are using is not the best available data right now. They are using data that doesn’t match up with what is the actual status of the herd populations in the park. The petition is asking the federal agencies responsible for protecting these animals make an effort to establish stronger scientific criteria to protect the viability of the remaining Yellowstone herds, and to stop slaughtering the last 4,000 genetically pure bison left in the United States.”
by LAURA LUNDQUIST, Chronicle Staff Writer The Bozeman Daily Chronicle | 0 Comments
BILLINGS – The group charged with exploring the possibility of a free-roaming bison herd in Montana has hard work ahead, according to many eastern Montana ranchers attending a Fish, Wildlife & Parks meeting.
“This is a pipe dream of somebody’s,” said Greg Oxarart of the South Phillips County Grazing District. “You as a panel — do you want bison in your backyard? Not many people do. I hope you take that into consideration. You have a tough job ahead of you.”
FWP Director Jeff Hagener created the group to brainstorm where and how a free-roaming bison herd could be created in Montana.
Several of the 50 people in the audience carried signs stating “No free-roaming bison” and wore buttons bearing red X’s over a bison. Most were from Phillips and Valley counties, which contain the C.M. Russell Wildlife Refuge and the American Prairie Reserve.
Some had attended the first meeting of the discussion group in Lewistown in September. That meeting produced a list of guiding principles for any future plan, including respecting private property rights and managing bison as “wildlife” through a FWP management plan.
The group was scheduled to have its second meeting in Lewistown in April. But after receiving a number of heated emails and phone calls, Hagener canceled the Lewistown meeting at the last minute.
Some people were concerned by a series of events involving Yellowstone bison, including a court ruling that bison in quarantine remain wildlife, but a main complaint was that no time had been scheduled during the meeting for public comment.
On Monday, Hagener said no comment had been scheduled because the informal group was created for discussion and would not make any decisions. He also emphasized that the group had nothing to do with the management of Yellowstone bison.
“We are allowing public comment because a lot of the members of the group thought it was appropriate to have that,’” Hagener said. “Hopefully, we’ll come to a result that’s gone through a process with a lot of public opportunity, and we’ve allowed the public to be involved all the way along.”
Facilitator Ginny Tribe opened the public comment session with the reminder that any resulting plan would have a “no action” alternative where the state would not create a free-roaming herd.
“This group has already agreed on some of these principles so keep that in mind when you make your comments,” Tribe said.
Even so, comment ranged from vehement opposition to any bison to a proposal of the exact location on the CMR Wildlife Refuge where FWP should put 1,200 bison.
Dyrck Van Hyning displayed maps of the Southerland Bay region along the northern shore of the Fort Peck Reservoir in the CMR Refuge and said the 33,000 acres could house up to 1,200 bison, based upon the Bureau of Land Management’s grazing guide of 24 acres per cow.
“There’s no private land. There’s natural boundaries. This would be a good place for a pilot project that could start small,” Van Hyning said.
A Department of the Interior report on U.S. bison herds, released a few weeks ago, named the CMR Refuge as a good site for the transplant of bison but categorized future management as highly complex because of the resistance from nearby ranchers.
Hagener said the DOI would not move to put bison on the CMR Refuge without coordinating with the state of Montana.
That assurance didn’t assuage Phillips County ranchers, who cited concerns about property and fence damage, competition for grazing resources, the loss of livelihood and brucellosis. Some were worried about losing grazing allotments on the refuge.
Craig French of Phillips County said the meeting might not be about Yellowstone bison but ranchers can’t ignore the Yellowstone situation.
“If it was in my power to do so, I would hold these people responsible and throw them in jail for cruelty to the animals and mismanagement of the land,” French said. “At least we agree that things need to be grazed. We’re arguing over what should graze.”
Jim Posewitz of Helena also argued for the animals but said people have a moral responsibility to recover a species that they almost eliminated in the late 1880s.
“What happened in Montana is shameful. We have become the bone yard of a continent,” Posewitz said. “Will this be the point in Montana history where we become committed to finishing the wildlife restoration legacy?”
Sheep rancher Becky Weed of Belgrade said that bison and Montana cattle ranchers shared one trait that could serve as common ground for resolution: both need natural functioning ecosystems.
“It’s up to this group to try and explain to each other why the bison issue and the long-term cattle ranching issues are really one and the same,” Weed said. “This is a plea to the ranchers and to the environmentalists to understand why we all have a vested interest in seeking some kind of resolution to this.”
Following public comment, the group started problem-solving exercises to develop some recommendations by the end of Tuesday.
For wild bison, the idyllic images of Montana being splashed across Seattle ads does not match reality, according to guest columnists Bonnie Rice and Glenn Hockett.
THE state of Montana has been spending big bucks in Seattle and other cities across the U.S. to entice people to visit its great state. You’ve probably seen the billboards, bus ads and store banners across town with beautiful, scenic images of Yellowstone National Park and its wildlife. Unfortunately, for one of Montana’s most recognizable animals, wild bison, this idyllic image doesn’t match reality.
Bison have been at the center of controversy this spring as they leave Yellowstone National Park in search of grass and calving grounds in Montana adjacent to the park. Instead of being allowed to roam outside the park year-round like other wildlife, bison are hazed back into the park, or captured and shipped to slaughter. Hundreds of bison were killed this year.
This policy stems from a disease called brucellosis, which can cause infected pregnant animals to miscarry. Cattle introduced brucellosis into the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem about a century ago, and some wild bison and elk still carry it. The livestock industry is concerned about wild bison transmitting the disease back to livestock. Such a transmission has never been documented, but the potential, although incredibly small, exists.
Over the last decade, several changes have opened the door for better management of wild bison in Montana. With retired grazing allotments and fewer cows on the landscape, there are tens of thousands of acres of public land where there are no potential conflicts with cattle, ever. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also made sweeping changes to brucellosis regulations a few years ago, and they are now more reasonable and livestock-producer-friendly.
It’s clear that the old ways of bison management need to be updated. Working together, a broad set of conservationists, wildlife experts, ranchers, hunters and interested citizens came to consensus in support of significantly expanding year-round habitat for bison in Montana. Last summer, the state issued a formal proposal based on that recommendation. Ninety-nine percent of the more than 100,000 public comments on the proposal supported increased year-round habitat.
But in late May, the Montana Board of Livestock voted to indefinitely delay any decision on year-round habitat for Yellowstone bison, even though the Department of Livestock was a co-lead in formulating the state’s proposal. It’s now up to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and it’s unclear how he will proceed.
Science, economics, public opinion and common sense make clear that opening up significant year-round bison habitat in areas without livestock conflicts is the logical path forward. Doing so would give the state more management options and flexibility. More fair-chase hunting opportunities would be created. Fewer taxpayer dollars would be wasted on unnecessary hazing, capture and slaughter. Wild bison would finally be allowed to roam portions of Montana, bringing ecological and economic benefits and sharing the landscape with all of the other wild animals that call Montana home.
Of course, negative publicity for the state of Montana would be reduced, too. Tourism is responsible for a huge portion of the state’s economy, and many of the tourists that visit Montana in response to the state’s tourism campaigns come to see wild bison and Yellowstone National Park.
The proposal for significant year-round habitat is not a choice between wildlife or livestock that would benefit one at the expense of the other; it would be a step forward for both Montana residents and visitors alike. No compelling reasons have been advanced for not moving forward with significant year-round habitat in Montana. In fact, to not move forward — given all of the major recent changes — would be a great setback and failure for the state.
It’s time for Gov. Bullock to do what science and the public have demanded: allow for year-round habitat for wild bison in Montana. It’s time to make the picture-perfect advertisements a reality.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Laura Lundquist, Bozeman Chronicle
Gardiner-area resident Bill Hoppe last week killed a bull bison outside his home in Jardine.
Riders with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Department of Livestock had hazed bison away from Hoppe’s residence several times prior to the shooting, said FWP spokeswoman Andrea Jones.
Bison are allowed to wander outside of Yellowstone National Park until May 1, but riders haze the animals away from private property where owners don’t want them.
On Friday, Hoppe’s wife saw three bison in the yard and was worried for the safety of her dog, which was chained to the side of the house.
She called Hoppe, who came home and tried to disperse the bison, Jones said.
Hoppe said one of the bison charged him so he shot it, Jones said.
Hoppe then killed the bison and called FWP wardens, who surveyed the scene. They hazed the other two bison back into the park.
The bison was field-dressed and the meat was sent to be processed for local food banks. The gut pile was left in the yard.
Jones said the bison might have been more on edge because they’ve been repeatedly hazed. Bison aren’t normally aggressive except when protecting young.
FWP encourages landowners to request help when dealing with bison. But bison are not protected as an endangered species, and people can shoot bison to protect themselves.
Last spring, Hoppe shot one of two wolves that were suspected of killing sheep that he placed on a pasture he leased a few weeks before near Corwin Springs.
The Nez Perce tribe once hunted bison in what is now Yellowstone National Park, and some tribal leaders want to revive the practice, which ended with Western settlement and the near total extermination of the once-vast U.S. bison herds.
Today, remnants of the bison, or buffalo, herds still roam the grasslands and river valleys of Yellowstone, a huge park that covers parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The park lands, in which hunting is illegal, once made up a key segment of the Idaho tribe’s traditional hunting grounds, and some Nez Perce leaders say they should again be able to hunt buffalo inside the park.
“Before there was a park, there was a tribe,” Nez Perce Chairman Silas Whitman said. [but for 100,000 years before there were tribes, bison roamed free of human hunting.] “Some of our members already feel we have the right to hunt in the park, but it hasn’t been exercised because we feel it would be remiss in going forward that way.”
After asserting hunting rights tied to historic treaties in recent years, the Nez Perce and three other tribes already hunt those bison that follow ancient migration routes outside the park and into Montana in search of winter range.
The Nez Perce have not yet formally requested hunting rights inside the park. Such a request would require extensive federal review, major changes to Yellowstone policies, and congressional action to modify a founding law that banned hunting or killing of buffalo and other wildlife there.
The prospect of hunting any of the 4,000 buffalo within Yellowstone boundaries is strongly opposed by animal advocates, who decry an existing culling program that allows hundreds of bison to be hunted and shipped to slaughter annually.
“Yellowstone is against any proposal to hunt in the park,” said David Hallac, chief of the Yellowstone Center for Resources, the park’s science and research branch.
BISON MANAGEMENT CONTROVERSY
Whitman said the tribe would not force the issue by violating any of the park’s regulations but may seek to broach the topic with the U.S. Interior Department, which oversees the national park system, or perhaps lobby Congress “to request those changes be made”.
Management of Yellowstone bison has stirred controversy for decades. Killing of animals that wander into Montana in winter in search of food aims to keep in check a herd population whose size is determined by social tolerance rather than the ecosystem’s carrying capacity, Yellowstone officials said.
That could put into jeopardy Montana’s brucellosis-free status, which allows ranchers to ship livestock across state lines without testing.
Marty Zaluski, Montana state veterinarian and member of a state, federal and tribal team that manages bison in and around Yellowstone, is a proponent of hunting in the park and told Reuters in February it needed to be “looked at more seriously as a possible solution”.
He said it would bring the herd closer to a population target of 3,000 to 3,500 and lessen the public outcry tied to slaughter of wayward buffalo.
But Yellowstone’s Hallac contends that hunting in the park, which draws 3 million visitors a year because of tourist attractions such as the Old Faithful geyser and the bison, would further complicate matters.
“Even a proposal to hunt in the park causes more problems than the dilemma it intends to solve,” he said. “These are America’s wildlife and a crucial part of our national heritage. To propose to hunt in a place established specifically to prevent animals from being hunted is bizarre.”
Bison calves are normally born in the spring or early summer. For the first few months of their lives they’re coat is an orange color, turning progressively darker through the warm summertime, until by late August they are as dark as their parents and the other adult and sub-adult members of their herd.
Winters can be harsh for a young calf in Yellowstone, which is precisely the reason bison have evolved, as a rule, to being receptive to breeding exclusively in August. The ensuing gestation period assures that newborn calves are greeted with a full summer ahead of them.
Nearly every animal species living above or below the equatorial belt has adapted to Earth’s changing seasons by only ovulating during a brief window of opportunity, thereby naturally limiting their populations.
The exception to that rule is Homo sapiens, who can impregnate one another year-round.
Our species has had it easy for so long—starting fires for warmth and skinning animals for clothes and shelter—that now human babies are brought forth continuously, 24-7. At last report, 490,000 new humans per day are born to add to the 7 billion mostly carnivorous hominids already here.
Meanwhile, whenever bison herds in Yellowstone thrive enough to reach the arbitrary number of 3,000 total “head,” the park service and the Montana Department of Livestock implement a longer “hunting” (read: walk up and blast the benign, grazing, half-tame bison) season on them, or truck them off to the slaughterhouse—those nightmarish death camps where so many of the bison’s bovine cousins meet their ghastly ends in the name of human hedonism.
And people think we need to control their population?
March 12, 2014
Helena, MT — The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the decision of a lower court today, allowing wild bison room to roam outside the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park. The ruling upholds a February 2012 decision by state agencies to allow bison seasonal access to important winter and early spring habitat outside the north boundary of the park in the Gardiner Basin area until May 1 of each year.
The ruling rebuffs demands by some livestock producers and their allies to require aggressive hazing and slaughtering of bison that enter the Gardiner Basin area from Yellowstone National Park in the winter and early spring in search of the forage they need to survive.
“Today’s state Supreme Court ruling represents a victory for all those who want to see wild bison as a living part of the Montana landscape,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who defended the bison policy in the case on behalf of the Bear Creek Council (BCC), Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Now that the Court has rejected claims requiring bison to be slaughtered at the park’s boundaries, we can move forward to secure room for wild bison to roam outside of Yellowstone National Park over the long term.”
In two lawsuits filed in May 2011, the Park County Stockgrowers Association, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and Park County, Montana, sought to block implementation of the new policy and require state officials to adhere to outdated plans for bison hazing and slaughter. Although the plaintiffs in the cases raised concerns about the potential for bison to infect cattle with brucellosis, the only two cattle ranchers operating year-round in the Gardiner Basin did not join the legal challenge.
Bison are the only native wildlife species still unnaturally confined to the political boundaries of Yellowstone National Park for any part of the year. As recently as 2008, more than 1,400 bison—about one-third of the current size of Yellowstone’s bison population—were captured and slaughtered by government agencies while leaving Yellowstone in search of food.
Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699 , ext. 1923
Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098