Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC)
News from the Field
February 17, 2005
NEW WEB SITE! http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org
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In this Issue:
* BFC Needs Your Financial Support
* Update from the Field
* Who is APHIS?
* A Volunteer's Experience
* Last Words
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* BFC Needs Your Financial Support
 
The Buffalo Field Campaign has been on the front-lines since 1997, documenting every action taken against the buffalo and fighting tirelessly against the unjustified harassment and slaughter of the last truly wild buffalo.  This first-hand experience has placed us at the forefront of legal, legislative, policy, and grassroots solutions that will lead to the buffalo's long-term protection.
 
BFC coordinators put in hundreds of hours every week, scouring agency documents, reviewing scientific studies, making phone calls, and writing letters to increase the numbers and power of the buffalo's constituency.  We fervently believe that when enough people are equipped with the facts and the proper tools to put those facts to use, public officials will have no choice but to enact laws and policies that will protect the buffalo for future generations.
 
We are an extremely efficient organization that gets more done on less money than any other group in existence, but our efforts do require money.  We are in the busiest time of our season, when our bare-bones expenses exceed $10,000 a month.  Unlike many of the larger, more corporate groups, the majority of our budget is covered by our network of individual supporters.  In other words, without individual contributions from people like you, there would be no BFC.
 
Our work has helped bring awareness of the buffalo slaughter to a national audience.  One unfortunate downside to this awareness is that many groups have now jumped on the bandwagon and claim to be "saving the buffalo."  As a result we find ourselves facing increasing competition for a diminishing pool of funds.  Although all environmental and animal rights groups working on this issue depend on BFC for up-to-date news and information, none of these groups make financial contributions to insure our continued existence.
 
If you value the Yellowstone buffalo and our work on their behalf, we need you to make a tax-deductible contribution to BFC today.  Our future--and the future of the buffalo--depends on it.
 
Already in 2005, we have made great strides for the buffalo.  Together with you, our thousands of supporters and family, we focused media attention on the ill-advised buffalo hunt which lead to its cancellation; organized a one-on-one meeting with Governor Brian Schweitzer; and have been vigilant in opposing legislative and policy efforts to quarantine, vaccinate, neuter, and otherwise erode the wildness of the Yellowstone buffalo. We've accomplished all this while feeding, housing, and equipping the more than 100 volunteers who have comprised the daily patrols we've been running since early November.
 
Hundreds of you have responded to our calls for action, contacting agency officials and lawmakers, and making a real difference for the buffalo.  In the midst of our eighth season we find ourselves in the difficult position of needing to ask for your financial support.  The truth is that everything we do depends on you.  Please, if you are able, make a donation today.  The easiest way to donate is by clicking the red "donate now" button on the bottom right hand side of our web site: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/.  Or send a check to the address listed at the bottom of this message.  We are a non-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.  Please be as generous as we are committed, and take a moment to make a donation to BFC today.
 
We envision a future gathering where buffalo supporters and allies can come together in celebration of the long-term protection of wild buffalo.  Together we are making a difference and together we will bring this vision to fruition.  Pass this on to others; our existence depends on it.
 
From all of us at BFC, thank you.
 
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* Update from the Field
 
It is so cold now that our freezers are dying.
 
It's no wonder there are no cattle around now - they'd never survive. This climate was given to the shaggy buffalo; they carry on no matter the weather, facing into a storm, grazing and sleeping in the wide open, bitter cold spaces like there's nothing to it, like they've been at it for millennia; and they have.  The cold crone bones of winter have a fierce grip on us right now; the past few days have been utterly frigid, as we've been experiencing an average of 25 below freezing each morning.  Waiting for the morning fire to give its blessed heat, as we lay snug under covers in the tipi, the strangely soothing and punctual sunrise caws of Raven grind through the chill in the air and wake us for hot coffee and breakfast.  Reports indicate that the cold is not going to let up any time soon.   But what else to expect when you live in one of the coldest climates in the lower 48?  And we can't complain too much; aside from the pipes freezing, things have been rather calm in the field.   The five bulls that were hazed last week have been peacefully grazing and simply being buffalo trying to make it through another winter.   Most of the activity has been in Helena, were lawmakers and lobbyists are trying their best to make this world a more "interesting" place, for better or for worse.
 
On Tuesday, Josh and I ventured to Helena to defend the buffalo against some insane ideas coming from lawmakers at the state capitol.  Joined by two other buffalo soldiers, Darrell and George, we stood before the Montana House Agricultural Committee to speak in opposition to recently introduced House Joint Resolution 22 which urges federal agencies to "expedite the elimination of brucellosis in the Yellowstone National Park bison and elk herds and urges the president.... to name the USDA as the lead agency in an elimination plan." Though the resolution isn't legislation that would become a state law, it would set a very scary precedent because it essentially states that agriculture takes precedence over wildlife no matter what.  If adopted, it would mean Montana agrees with removing the National Park Service as the lead agency in charge of wildlife within Yellowstone National Park, placing the USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in that position.  APHIS will do whatever it takes to protect livestock over wildlife (see below for a full description of APHIS) and allowing them to take charge *inside* the park opens the doors that nightmares are made of.  It was no surprise to hear DOL, the MT Cattlemen's Association, and the MT Farm Bureau speak in favor of it, but we were shocked and disheartened to hear Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks speak as a proponent of the resolution.  This is the agency we would have in charge of a buffalo hunt?  This is the agency in charge of protecting and managing Montana's wildlife?  The resolution was written by a cattleman, and it reflects this segment's ignorance and prejudice.  For the full text of the resolution go to http://data.opi.state.mt.us/bills/2005/billhtml/HJ0022.htm  Montana residents should contact their House Representatives (http://leg.state.mt.us/css/house/default.asp ); folks both in and out-of-state should contact Governor Schweitzer (governor@mt.gov).
While in Helena, we also got some pretty bad news from the Senate side:  Senate Bill 353 passed the House Resource Committee 5-4.  This is the the bill that would allow DOL to capture, neuter, quarantine and transport wild buffalo in an effort to start herds on tribal lands.  Even its sponsor, Senator Pease, spoke to the absurdity of starting herds with neutered buffalo and said his bill probably isn't the right answer.  Regardless, the Chairman of the committee said that he voted to pass it for two reasons:  1) 75% of the comments he received were from out-of-state; 2) he heard no opposition from any Montana tribal members.  The bill could go to the Senate floor at any time.  Inaction on our part will mean it's passage.    If you are a resident of Montana, it is *critical* that you contact your senator (http://leg.state.mt.us/css/senate/default.asp ) regarding the negative impacts of SB 353; please also contact Senator Pease and urge him to kill his own bill.  If you're from out-of-state, contact the Governor (governor@mt.gov) and tell him that these buffalo do not belong to Montana, and are not theirs to do with as they please.  Your voices count and must be heard.
 
It is a blessing that the west side is quiet right now; things are otherwise coming at us from all angles.  On the north side, near Gardiner, buffalo are on the move, and we are on stand-by, ready to set up camp there at a moment's notice.  We had been hopeful that the milder weather, which brought some early green-up, would check the buffalo's need to migrate out of the Park, but temperatures have dropped, and buffalo will be buffalo and will go where they need to be.  Unfortunately, we have only four working cameras, and our operating budget is growing thin.  In Helena, legislation and resolutions keep us trekking to the podium.  Times are hard, and we are only in the middle of the campaign season.  We need your continued support to keep our volunteers in the field and equipped, able to carry the buffalo's message to the ears of the world.  Without you, we are not able to be here, and that's the plain and simple truth.  Asking for money is one of our least favorite parts, but we are doing that now.  We need your financial support.  You make it possible for us to be in the field.  You make the difference.  We really need your help now.
 
For the Buffalo,
~Stephany

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* Who is APHIS?
 
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is one of five agencies involved in the Interagency Bison Management Plan.  APHIS is the federal agency responsible for the national brucellosis eradication program and is solely responsible for designating the brucellosis status of individual states.  All of the funds spent by the state of Montana to implement the Plan come from APHIS as part of their annual $9 million brucellosis eradication budget.  The DOL receives approximately $600,000 a year for the Plan and another $250,000 for the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee comes directly from APHIS.  Additionally, APHIS spends millions of dollars annually for research into brucellosis vaccination of buffalo and elk.  Recently, APHIS has taken the lead on quarantine research for Yellowstone buffalo.  APHIS also served in an advisory role to the Wyoming brucellosis coordinating committee that has recommended test and slaughter of elk on the Pinedale Feed Ground. 
 
But what is APHIS really all about?  The reality is that APHIS is the federal arm of the agricultural industries.  In addition to disease control, APHIS administers the grossly inappropriately named "Wildlife Services" division.  Formerly known as animal damage control, APHIS oversees and administers the shooting, poisoning, and trapping of millions of wild animals deemed to be pests to agriculture including prairie dogs, ravens, coyotes, beavers, foxes, opossums, and countless other species.  Ironically APHIS also administers the Animal Welfare Act designed to protect livestock from inhumane treatment.  This is akin to designating the Nazi SS as the watchdog for the treatment of Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz. Additionally, APHIS is the agency responsible for representing the United States in international trade regulatory talks related to the import and export of agriculture products including the provisions for livestock diseases such as brucellosis.  
 
Under the 2002 Animal Health Protection Act, APHIS claims to have gained authority over any "animal" (humans?) that might be considered a pest to the livestock industry.  APHIS has already claimed that this act allows them to assert primary authority in developing and carrying out management plans regardless of the other jurisdictions in place.  In other words, APHIS claims that if they choose to, they could come into Yellowstone National Park and capture, test and slaughter any potentially disease-infected buffalo, elk or any other species for that matter.  At a public meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in May 2003, APHIS unveiled their intentions to develop a brucellosis eradication plan for the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) and designate themselves as the lead agency.  Furthermore, APHIS admits that the only currently developed "tools" for eradicating brucellosis are test and slaughter in combination with vaccination.  However, given the relative ineffectiveness of the available vaccines in bison and elk, test and slaughter would be the primary means of eradication.  Montana resolution HJ22 requests that APHIS be named the lead agency for brucellosis eradication in the GYA with full knowledge of how APHIS would administer such a program.  
 
It is high time that APHIS be exposed for what they really are, the heavy hand of the agricultural industries.  APHIS has no real concern for wildlife or the ecosystems they inhabit except when agriculture is potentially affected in which case they aim to eliminate the "problem" (i.e. wildlife) to insure maximum profit for the industries they represent.  APHIS must hear from you and the message must be clear.  Tell APHIS to keep their hands off of our wildlife now and in the future.  Let APHIS know that Americans will not stand to see the agents of death destroy our last and only wild buffalo for the benefit of the livestock industry.  Email: APHIS.Web@aphis.usda.gov;  Web: http://www.aphis.usda.gov

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* A Volunteer's Experience

5:00 a.m. - wake up call for the first patrol.
 
We rise this morning long before dawn's first light to pick our spot and stand our ground.  Many of the veterans here are expecting a hazing soon, maybe today.  It is in the field, on the front lines where it all comes together.  We don't fight with guns or violence, instead we fight with our cameras and a belief in our hearts and souls compelling us to do what is right.
 
I am new here, and like many of you, I had my hesitations about coming out here.  I didn't know anyone, or what it would be like living here.  I must admit I didn't even know for sure that it would be right for me.  All I knew is what the DOL was doing to the bison and in turn to us all.
 
So here I am before the dawn getting ready to go into the field.  My job is simple, to document what the DOL is doing to destroy a tenacious symbol of freedom, spirit, and strength.
 
What about all my fears in coming here?  How did I overcome them?
Imagine a land where the bison shall never run free.

This is my answer.

~Kim
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* Last Words
 
The following is a brief transcript from the end of Tuesday's hearing on House Joint Resolution 22.  Representative Jonathan Windy Boy, a Chippewa-Cree, has a question for Tom Linfield, Montana's State Veternarian.  Linfield represents the Department of Livestock.
 
Representative Jonathan Windy Boy:  "Looking at this testimony here.... where did this brucellosis come from?
Linfield:  "It is unknown where it came from.... perhaps a milk cow in the early 1900's in Yellowstone Park..."
 
Rep. Windy Boy:  "So this came from a cow, why are we putting blame on the buffalo?"
 
Linfield: "Certainly we're not blaming the buffalo or the elk for the disease, our concern is the disease and unfortunately both the bison and the elk are infected... certainly we'd never blame the buffalo, it's just that unfortunately they're the reservoir for the disease right now."
 
Rep. Windy Boy:  "That's where my confusion is... my ancestors have been living on buffalo for centuries and centuries and centuries.  That's where my confusion is.  Why are we blaming the buffalo all of a sudden for the last 100 years?  Brucellosis wasn't an issue then, why all of a sudden in the last 100 years?"
 
Linfield:  "Essentially in this country, there's been a fairly intensive brucellosis eradication program in domestic livestock... The point is right now we have very few remaining reservoirs of this disease in the country... Wyoming and Texas are the only states that are not class-free and the only other exception is this reservoir in Yellowstone, in and around Yellowstone National Park in both the bison and elk.  I guess I don't know if I directly answered your question, maybe if you could rephrase it I could answer it better."

Representative Windy Boy waved his hand in frustration and had no further questions for Linfield.

 
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Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT  59758
406-646-0070
bfc-media@wildrockies.org
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org

BFC is the only group working in the field every day
to defend the last wild herd of buffalo in America.
-- 
Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT  59758
406-646-0070
bfc-media@wildrockies.org
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org