Bi-Partisan Effort Seeks Ban on Slaughtering American Icon
WASHINGTON (January 16, 2004) – As members of Congress
return to Washington, one of the issues on their agenda will be
legislation that would end a senseless practice – the slaughter of the
wild buffalo in and around Yellowstone National Park.
With more than 40 co-sponsors, the Yellowstone Buffalo
Preservation Act is quickly gaining bi-partisan support in the House of
Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Charles Bass
(R-NH) introduced the legislation, H.R. 3446, calling for a moratorium
on the hazing, capturing, and killing of Yellowstone buffalo on all
federal public lands until certain conditions are met.
The bill is also backed by a coalition of conservation,
environmental and animal welfare organizations, including the Bear Creek
Council, Buffalo Field Campaign, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered
Species Coalition, The Fund for Animals, Greater Yellowstone Coalition,
The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation
Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources
Defense Council and The Wilderness Society. Together the organizations
represent more than nine million members and supporters.
“The buffalo has long been an important symbol of our
country,” said Representative Hinchey. “So much so that in the early
part of the 20th century, the designer of the nickel said he could think
of no image more emblematic of America. To fail to protect this American
icon is unthinkable in my view.”
A vote on an amendment to last year’s House Interior
Appropriations bill to protect the Yellowstone buffalo herd mustered 199
votes, demonstrating strong Congressional support for the buffalo and
growing concern over the current, hysteria-based management of the
Yellowstone National Park is home to America’s last
truly wild, genetically pure buffalo, descendants of the tens of
millions of buffalo once roaming the western plains. The American
buffalo was virtually wiped out in the 19th century. The animals were
nearly extinct at the beginning of the 20th century, when only a few
hundred remained in the U.S., including fewer than 30 in the park. “This
Congress should openly debate whether or not to allow government
officials to kill these animals while on public lands,” added
Representative Bass. “We have already set space aside for protection and
spent taxpayer dollars pursuing this goal. Slaughtering these animals
without scientific rationale seems wasteful and contrary to stated
aims,” he concluded.
Under the Hinchey-Bass Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation
Act, state and federal government agency officials are prohibited from
hazing, capturing, or killing Yellowstone buffalo on federal lands
(except in cases of threatened personal safety or private property
damage) until the following conditions have been met:
• Yellowstone buffalo must be allowed to range freely on
federal lands to the immediate north and west of the park.
• Management authority of buffalo within Yellowstone
must be under the sole jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
• A land exchange and grazing rights transfer on the
north side of the park must be finalized so that a small, private cattle
herd no longer grazes near key wildlife habitat.
• The buffalo capture facility within the park must be
• Agency officials must make reasonable efforts to allow
Yellowstone buffalo, like other wildlife, to roam freely on public lands
through incentives and cooperative efforts with ranchers and other
The current population of wild buffalo in Yellowstone
National Park is estimated at 4,100. During the winter, some of the
animals leave the park boundaries in search of food, hypothetically
putting the buffalo in conflict with several local cattle ranchers, who
fear the buffalo could transmit brucellosis to their cattle. Under an
agreement between the federal government and the state of Montana, state
and federal agents are permitted to haze the buffalo back into the park,
which includes chasing the animals through deep snow with snowmobiles,
all-terrain vehicles, and even helicopters.
The current buffalo management scheme also allows state
and federal agents to capture buffalo in capture facilities and ship
them to a Montana slaughter facility, or to shoot the buffalo outright.
Last year, state and federal officials captured 231 buffalo in the
capture facility inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park and
sent them to slaughter, without testing them for brucellosis.
Also, despite the fact that only pregnant, infectious
female buffalo can potentially transmit brucellosis, bull buffalo and
buffalo too young to give birth are routinely captured and killed. In
the winter of 1996-97, 1,100 buffalo were slaughtered. There is fear
that similar weather conditions this winter could bring similar results.
Cattle ranchers and the Montana Department of Livestock
fear that any buffalo carrying brucellosis would pose a risk to the
cattle industry. However, there has never been a documented case of
brucellosis transmission between free-roaming buffalo and cattle, and
science does not support the brutal management practices currently in
use. The Hinchey-Bass bill acknowledges that the American buffalo has
profound ecological, cultural, historical, and symbolic significance to
the United States.
The bill mandates efforts to allow Yellowstone buffalo
to roam freely and directs the government to work with ranchers and
other private landowners to provide common-sense solutions to perceived
conflicts between the few hundred cattle grazed in the Yellowstone
ecosystem and Yellowstone’s fragile buffalo herd.
For more information on the legislation and the buffalo
of Yellowstone National Park, visit
NOTE: B-roll footage of the Yellowstone buffalo is
For More Information Contact:
Michael Markarian/The Fund for Animals: 301-585-2591
Rachel Querry/The Humane Society of the United States:
Elise Russell/National Parks Conservation Association:
Eric Dyson/The Wilderness Society: 202-429-2675
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