Update from the Field: Lockdown at Stephens Creek as Yellowstone Sends Buffalo to Slaughter

Source: BuffaloFieldCampaign.org

“Sadly, ignoring public opinion and strong statements made with direct action, Yellowstone insists on catering only to Montana livestock interests and is still sending buffalo to slaughter.”

A yearling buffalo struggles to free herself from the the Silencer, as a Yellowstone bison biologist stands by, waiting to conduct invasive procedures. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Last Wednesday morning, two people with the direct action collective Wild Buffalo Defense locked down to the “Silencer,” the squeeze chute located inside Yellowstone National Park’s infamous Stephens Creek buffalo trap. Cody Cyson, an Ojibwa man, and Thom Brown, a former volunteer with BFC, risked life, limb, and freedom to halt buffalo slaughter operations facilitated by Yellowstone, and draw attention to the trap that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of the country’s last wild, migratory buffalo. The trap’s squeeze chute has been a vehicle for terrifying and torturing countless wild buffalo who have been captured inside Yellowstone’s trap. Read the full press release about yesterday’s heroic actions.

Another member of Wild Buffalo Defense, Hannah Ponder, was later arrested, allegedly, for violating Yellowstone’s extensive closure surrounding the trap. All three of these good people have been charged with misdemeanors, including “interfering with a government operation,” and are currently in jail in Gallatin Count, Montana. As Wild Buffalo Defense put it in a Wednesday press release, “The fact that Cody and Thomas were charged with interference with a government function assumes that one of the functions of the Yellowstone National Parks Service is to capture and slaughter endangered buffalo. These individuals sought to do what the parks service should be doing, which is protecting the wild buffalo and expanding their habitat in cooperation with the other agencies that are a part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan.” We couldn’t agree more. Read the latest here.

There is a hearing scheduled for Monday morning at 10:30am, at Yellowstone National Parks Justice Center, Mammoth, Wyoming. Because Cody and Thom allegedly occupied the squeeze chute, shipments to slaughter were halted for hours. While, as an organization, BFC can’t take these kinds of actions, we are deeply grateful to these brave souls. We are in solidarity with anyone who is working to liberate wild buffalo and protect them from slaughter, quarantine, and domestication. Ironically, this action marked the four-year anniversary of when Comfrey locked down to the access road that leads to this very trap, stalling trucks that would take buffalo to slaughter.

Cody, Thom, and Hannah would love your support! If there’s any chance you can be present in solidarity on Monday, March 12, when they have their next hearing, that would be wonderful. You can also send them letters for the next few days c/o Gallatin County Detention Center, 605 South 16th Avenue, Bozeman, MT 59715.

2018 03 08 02 002 Update2 Buffalo Field Campaign Stephany Seay photo 800

A two-year old bull drink’s mama’s milk. Young buffalo may still attempt — and be allowed — to nurse long after they are no longer calves. These patient, incredible buffalo mothers only want the best for their children, at the end of a long and trying winter, that good, rich milk might be just the thing to see a young buffalo through, especially if they can keep their distance from Yellowstone’s trap or the killing fields of Beattie Gulch. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Sadly, ignoring public opinion and strong statements made with direct action, Yellowstone insists on catering only to Montana livestock interests and is still sending buffalo to slaughter. An estimated 200 buffalo have already been moved through the park’s trap and sent to slaughter facilities. An estimated 300 or more buffalo are still inside Yellowstone’s trap, awaiting the same fate.

We can only estimate the number of buffalo who are suffering these “management” actions because Yellowstone is not disclosing the information in a timely manner, and, more importantly, because of the extensive public closure that Yellowstone places around the trap. A whopping seven miles in diameter, it is impossible to see anything happening there with the naked eye, ridiculous to try even with binoculars, so spotting scopes are the only tools available to us to even make educated guesses about how many buffalo are in that monstrous contraption. This closure is overly broad and designed to limit the ability of the public to document publicly funded government activities carried out by the National Park Service to systematically destroy the sacred buffalo. From the pubic’s perspective, we are the ones who are violated by the existence of not only the trap itself, but Yellowstone’s extensive and unnecessary public land closure, which is only in place because Yellowstone doesn’t want the people to see what they are doing to our national mammal — the country’s last wild buffalo. In fact, this year, Yellowstone has even cancelled the token media tours that they have held for the past couple of years.

With combined hunting and capture-for-slaughter and unapproved quarantine, bison managers have already met and are likely to exceed the lower end of their 600-900 kill quota. Nearly 450 are already dead and at least 300 more are still imprisoned inside Yellowstone’s trap.

2018 03 08 02 003 Update3 Buffalo Field Campaign Stephany Seay photo 800

A yearling buffalo jumps and runs for the pure feeling of joy. It is always an incredible pleasure to see buffalo celebrating life. Many times, these actions are infections, and a single buffalo can get the whole family going in an incredible buffalo dance. Maybe this buffalo is feeling the positive changes that are coming. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Like the news of the Wild Buffalo Defense heroes who took direct action, not all of our updates are bad news. We are fighting for the buffalo on every possible level, including in places they agencies can understand: the courts and the policy arena. We recently had a huge victory with our petition to list the ‘Yellowstone’ buffalo under the Endangered Species Act when Judge Cooper ruled in our favor when we challenged the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s negative finding.

We’ve also gained thousands of signatories on our Report: Bison as a Species of Conservation Concern, including giant representation from the Piikani Nation, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Western Watersheds Project, Patagonia Clothing Company, and so many more. We think it will offer you inspiration to read the letters the Piikani Nation of the Blackfeet Confederacy and the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe sent to the US Forest Service. Powerful, powerful stuff with very sharp teeth.

The buffalo have many champions and we are all doing our best to fight for their freedom on every level. Each and every one of these efforts are possible because you enable us to be on the ground, in the field with the buffalo, seeing things from their perspective, being in the face of these agencies and knowing first-hand what is actually taking place. This is a centuries-old range war and there are many battles to fight. And you know what? We’re going to win. The buffalo are going to win.

Yellowstone & Montana Can Stop the Bison Slaughter Today

Source: The Buffalo Field Campaign

“Most people who reach these decision-makers are meeting with frustration; being told lies in condescending tones by the governor’s office that Yellowstone is responsible for the slaughter while Yellowstone officials say that it’s all Montana’s fault and there is nothing they can do to stop it.”

This winter’s Yellowstone buffalo death toll has breached one thousand, and continues to climb. Counting the few hundred still trapped inside Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek capture facility and the continued hunting pressures just outside the park, the government agencies will likely surpass their goal of killing 1,300 ecologically extinct wild, migratory buffalo. This does not even include the significant number of buffalo deaths due natural causes from the severe winter. Hundreds of thousands of people are seeing and sharing BFC’s stories and images of Yellowstone’s shameful crimes against wild buffalo. These actions are being conducted with your tax dollars on behalf of Montana’s livestock industry.

This morning BFC will be attending a second “media tour” inside the trap. The atrocious actions we’re witnessing and documenting continue despite thousands, if not tens of thousands, of calls, emails, and letters to Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk and Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Most people who reach these decision-makers are meeting with frustration; being told lies in condescending tones by the governor’s office that Yellowstone is responsible for the slaughter while Yellowstone officials say that it’s all Montana’s fault and there is nothing they can do to stop it. As the number of slaughtered buffalo climbs due to their actions, these same decision-makers toss up their hands in mock helplessness. However, they are both responsible and they can both take immediate and necessary actions today to end this senseless war against wild buffalo. These decision-makers work collaboratively within the Interagency Bison Management Plan to devise and carry out agreed upon management schemes, and their deceptive, pass-the-buck strategy of shirking of responsibility is pushing the country’s last continuously wild buffalo herds towards the brink of extinction.

Please continue to make these calls! If you are outside of the U.S., send letters and emails. Be relentless and don’t accept their excuses.
Phone calls are the most effective because they cannot be ignored.

  • Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk, #307-344-2002
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock #406-444-3111

Here are some important points to consider – No agency’s hands are tied!

  • The Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) is an *adaptive* plan that allows for change, and part of its goal is to “maintain a wild, free-ranging population of bison.” Capture-for-slaughter is not set in stone. Each agency consents (agrees) to any management strategy set forth in the IBMP, meaning that Yellowstone could object to capture-for-slaughter. Any agency, at any time, can pull out of the IBMP.
  • The Interagency Bison Management Plan has expired, and a new plan is now being considered. Yellowstone and Montana need to endorse a plan that respects wild bison like wild elk in Montana.
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock can issue an executive order to stop Yellowstone’s slaughter. He has done so in the past, as recently as this winter, and can do it again at any time.
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock can take action to repeal state law MCA 81-2-120 to remove the authority of the Montana Department of Livestock over wild bison when they migrate into Montana.
  • Montana’s livestock industry is a vocal minority. Nearly 75% of Montanans have repeatedly expressed that they want wild, migratory buffalo to be restored in their native Montana.
  • Wild bison are not overpopulated. In fact, they are ecologically extinct throughout their native range. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature have classified the American buffalo as “threatened with near extinction” while the state of Montana recognizes wild, migratory bison as “vulnerable to global extinction.”
  • Wild bison have never transmitted the cattle bacteria brucellosis back to cattle. Only under human-manipulated conditions have any such transmissions occurred. Elk, who are free to roam as they please, have been implicated numerous times in brucellosis transmissions to livestock in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

The one thing — the most important thing — that is never considered by decision-makers is the buffalo’s perspective. This failure enables the human managers responsible for the slaughter to make the decisions they make and carry out the abuses that they do. Wild buffalo have walked the earth for tens of thousands of years. The planet chose them, through millions of years of evolution, to be the creators and caretakers of the grasslands and prairies. The buffalo are our elders, our relatives on this earth. They are not some presence who has suddenly appeared and become a “problem” that humans must manage to death. They do not make mistakes. Humans do. Buffalo were chosen for the job that they do: walking the earth, gently eating the grass, tilling the soil, carrying the seeds, fertilizing the earth, creating habitats for other species, awakening water underground in the aquifers to help bring the rains, and to offer their abundant bodies as food and nourishment for not just humans, but for other predators and scavengers alike–for the land herself. They possess ancient wisdom that has been carried through their memories and blood lines since buffalo time began. They adopt orphans. They mourn the dead. They carry their young in their wombs for nine months. They teach the young. They care for the elderly. They play. They become frightened. They find comfort. They tend to each other. They teach us to be family. They want to live. Once upon a time we listened to them. We have forgotten to listen. The people who cause the buffalo so much suffering have become deaf and blind to their teachings. They have to, or they could not do what they do. But the buffalo are still here, still sharing their wisdom, still offering themselves. But the buffalo have that kind of patience, if they can survive this human culture, they will be there waiting for us to catch up.