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Stopping The Senseless Slaughter

Of America's Last Wild Bison

“The issue in the bison controversy is not brucellosis, but whether bison should be kept off rangeland that livestock producers want for their cattle.”

--Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commissioner Vic Workman, quoted in 12/13/08 AP Article by Susan Gallagher.


A Joint Effort By:

Western Watersheds Project

Buffalo Field Campaign


The Yellowstone National Park Ecosystem is home to the last wild and “free roaming” buffalo in the world, a universally cherished and unnecessarily imperiled remnant of a species that once dominated the North American landscape. Between 1870 and 1880 more than 10 million buffalo were slaughtered in a final push to force Native Americans onto reservations. A person could walk a hundred miles along the Santa Fe Railway west of Fort Dodge, Kansas hopscotching the dead carcasses at that time, prompting U.S. Army Colonel Richard Dodge to write in 1873 that "the air was foul with sickening stench, and the vast plain, which only a short twelvemonth before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary, putrid desert.”1

Given this regrettable legacy, Americans have a special obligation to ensure that the American Buffalo not only survives, but thrives, to inspire and sustain future generations -- in much the same way that we are currently restoring grizzly bears and wolves to their rightful place in the natural order of our shared landscape. After all, it is the vast expanse of western wildlands that set our nation apart from the rest of the civilized world. And it is the wild American buffalo that remains missing from this landscape. Unfortunately, we as a people, and our representatives in government in particular, are not currently coming close to honoring this inviolable obligation. Nowhere is this unprincipled conduct more evident than in Montana, where bison naturally migrate every spring to calve and graze in lowland areas. Montana’s legislature refuses to even acknowledge bison as “wildlife”, choosing instead to label and treat them as diseased livestock. Without leadership from federal lands managers, which will require clear direction from D.C., this entrenched bigotry against an iconic creature may very well result in the unintended extinction of genetically distinct wild buffalo.
While scientists debate the minimum size and range necessary to insure the survival of wild buffalo in perpetuity, the remnant bison population in Yellowstone has become a target of constant government abuse and harassment -- perpetrated almost entirely for political reasons. Approximately 3,000 bison were slaughtered by government agents prior to adoption of the Inter-Agency Bison Management Plan (“IBMP”) in 2000, and more than that number have been slaughtered pursuant to the IBMP itself. During this same timeframe any pretext of scientific support for such a heavy-handed approach has been completely undermined – without effect. Thus, a political solution must be found at this time, a practical solution based on science and reason, not fear and ignorance.

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