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From 21 September 2003 Issue

Killing Bison for Sport and Pleasure
By Greg Lawson - ParkStRanger@aol.com

For those who need confirmation of their manliness, there must be some special kind of satisfaction in that climatic moment when they discharge their guns, shooting a full load of hot metal into a wild furry creature. Apparently it is so satisfying that the sportsmen of Montana will risk negative public opinion and will even violate federal law to seek such pleasure.

Last spring, the Montana legislature passed the Bison Sports Hunting Bill. In May it was signed into law by Governor Judy Martz. The current Montana government doesn't seem to have learned from the mistakes of the past. Bison hunting was allowed in the late 1980s, but was discontinued in 1991 after massive national protest. The hunting of bison around Yellowstone Park had hurt the state's image and their tourism industry.

The current bill was pushed through by the cattle ranchers of Montana, the Department of Livestock. For more than the last decade, the Montana DOL has been rounding up and killing Yellowstone Park bison because ranchers have the unreasonable and unproven fear that bison will spread disease to their cattle. The ranchers apparently felt that if they could get hunters involved in the annual slaughter, it would take some of the heat off of them.

When the Bison Sports Hunting Bill was debated last spring, there was not one hunting organization that supported the bill. Even hunters recognize that there is nothing sporting about "hunting" bison. Bison have little fear of humans and will just stand there while a "hunter" walks up to them and shoots them.

A few years ago, the state of Montana forced the federal government to agree to the Interagency Bison Management Plan to control the bison population of Yellowstone Park. According to the provisions of this plan, hunting is not to be used as a method of managing the bison herd. When Montana starts issuing bison hunting permits, the state will be in violation of federal law.

A week ago, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission gave tentative approval to the plan to allow bison hunting around Yellowstone National Park. The Bison Sports Hunting bill passed last spring allows bison hunting, but the plans must first approved by state wildlife regulators of the FWPC.

An environmental impact study and a public comment period must take place. This means that the first hunts will not happen until the fall of 2004. Pat Flowers, regional supervisor for the Montana FWPC, stated that he knows that bison hunting will be controversial. "I'm anticipating 10,000 comment letters in the environmental review," he said in an interview last week with a Montana newspaper.

It is likely that the majority of letters will be against hunting this majestic symbol of the American West. It is also likely that the state of Montana will disregard public comments as they have done in the past. The public comment period is just a formality required by law.

Buffalo Field Campaign is a grassroots activist group working in the field everyday to protect the bison. BFC is headquartered in the town of West Yellowstone and is currently gearing up for the winter season, a time when the Yellowstone bison face the greatest danger from the cattle ranchers of the Montana Department of Livestock.

On August 25, Yellowstone Park officials, members of the public and the media met in Gardiner, Montana, in a ceremony to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the Roosevelt Arch. The arch is a large stone gateway at the north entrance to Yellowstone. Members of the Buffalo Field Campaign were there as well.

As Yellowstone Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis approached the podium, BFC volunteers unfurled a large banner on a hillside behind her. The banner read, "Buffalo Slaughter, an American Tradition." The BFC called attention to the hypocrisy of Yellowstone officials celebrating their commitment to wildlife when just last March, Yellowstone rangers captured and sent to slaughterhouses 231 buffalo. Park officials said they were acting under provisions of the Interagency Bison Management Plan.

To learn more about this issue, to find out how the BFC works to stop the annual slaughter of the bison and to learn how you can help the BFC, please visit their website at wildrockies.org/buffalo

Go on to Hunting Statistics and Examples 1977-2001
Return to 21 September 2003 Issue
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