There were once millions of bison, the American buffalo,
roaming the plains of the West. By the beginning of this century that
number had been reduced to a few hundred by the railroads, the fur
dealers, the U.S. Army and "sportsmen." In the war against the Native
Americans, the U.S. Government promoted extermination of the buffalo to
deplete the food supply of the western tribes and to break their morale.
Our first National Park, Yellowstone, had 25 bison
eighty years ago. It is my agency's first and best success story, that
through careful management, the National Park Service increased the size
of America's last, free-roaming bison herd to over 3000 animals. Every
day that I go to work I wear a picture of a bison on my badge, a
reminder of that success story, and also a tragic reminder that over the
last decade 3000 bison have been slaughtered to protect the interests of
a handful of cattle ranchers in Montana.
When the bison wander out of the safety of Yellowstone
National Park in search of food they are shot by agents of the Montana
Board of Livestock, a group of cattle ranchers. They use the excuse that
they are afraid bison will transmit disease to their cattle, but the
real reason is a political power struggle to determine who will control
the wild and public lands.
In the winter of 1996/97 over a thousand bison were shot
or rounded up and taken to slaughterhouses, only half the herd survived.
Last winter was a mild one for the area and most bison remained in the
park. Thanks to the efforts of an animal protection group known as
Buffalo Nations, a coalition of Native Americans and other concerned
citizens who camped out in Yellowstone and literally placed themselves
between the guns of the Montana livestock agents and the bison, only 11
bison were killed.
This Christmas Eve I am flying to Yellowstone for two
weeks to join Buffalo Nations. I will do what I can to help them protect
the buffalo. I will speak with rangers who work at Yellowstone in my
attempt to gain a greater understanding of this situation. I want to
give Yellowstone Superintendent Mike Finley the benefit of the doubt.
But I wonder why it has taken most of this decade for the National Park
Service to address this problem. And I wonder why it has taken the last
8 years for them to come up with a bison management plan. And I wonder
why in that plan the fate of the last free-roaming bison herd has been
placed in the hands of the Montana Department of Livestock, a group of
unelected officials who are cattle ranchers. I wonder why 2000 head of
cattle that are allowed to graze on federal land are given precedent
over 2000 bison who belong to all the people.
And I hope to find a few answers in the northern
The slaughter must end.
----the Park Stranger
Visit Buffalo Nations' website at http://www.wildrockies.org/buffalo to
learn more about the situation. You might like to send a Christmas
donation to help them help the bison……
PO BOX 957
WEST YELLOWSTONE, MT 59758
Go on to Doggie
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