BREAKING: Bison in Yellowstone National Park have been granted a little more time before facing a controversial fifty-year quarantine. The period for public comments on their behalf has been extended from February 15th to Feb. 29th, as indicated in a notice from the National Park Service yesterday. Taking advantage of this opportunity to advocate for the bison, Buffalo Field Campaign has planned a ‘Week of Action’ to represent the interests of this iconic and important herd, by “planning events in southwest Montana towns, including one event that everyone, everywhere can participate in. The Week of Action will kick-off on Monday, February 15 and last through Sunday, February 21.”
Earlier in the week, Buffalo Field Campaign, revealed that Yellowstone National park “has released an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a fifty-year quarantine program which seriously threatens America’s last wild, migratory bison. There is nothing in this EA for bison advocates to support, as even the “no action” alternative maintains the Park’s ongoing capture-for-slaughter program.” Without public comment supporting the most important, continuously wild, free-roaming, migratory herd of bison in the US, the genetically imperiled animals will face a future of domestication, commercialization and slaughter.
“The wild buffalo of Yellowstone are being sorely mismanaged under a highly controversial plan designed to cater to livestock interests,” said Buffalo Field Campaign media coordinator Stephany Seay. “Nearly seventy-five percent of Montanans have expressed their strong desire for wild, migratory bison in this state, yet, without any justification, current management actions disrespect the majority of citizens while causing irreparable damage to the world’s most important bison population. We are going to be heard for the last wild herds!”
The many reasons why it’s important to speak out against the quarantine are outlined in an action-plan from BFC. The organization works tirelessly to defend bison from hazing, harassment, slaughter and other heavy-handed ‘management’ by the park. “Quarantine domesticates wild bison, subjecting them to artificial selection and commercial management practices and treating them like livestock.” This is contrary to the intent of Yellowstone National Park, going against the best interests of bison, wilderness, and the Native Americans who are historically so closely connected to the wild herds. “Quarantine is an insult to First Nations buffalo cultures with strong cultural, spiritual, and traditional ties to wild, migratory buffalo in and around Yellowstone. Quarantining wild, migratory bison and dooming them to a life behind fences ignores the critical keystone relationship between wild bison and their natural prairie and grassland communities. Migration is one of the buffalo’s strongest, most significant gifts to a healthy landscape. Quarantine reduces buffalo to a domesticated state, and is not appropriate for wildlife. Quarantine, which imposes a state of control and surveillance over wild bison, is the direct result of the livestock industry’s intolerance. Quarantine is a toxic mimic of natural restoration, a program in which humans manipulate the wild and free to suit their own selfish agendas.” The alert goes on to explain,
“Quarantine does not end slaughter, it begins with it, ripping buffalo families apart and orphaning calves who spend the rest of their lives behind fences.”
In Yellowstone’s call for public comment, the NPS (National Park Service) cites concerns for the spread of brucellosis (which in fact was introduced to bison from imported domesticated cattle, not the other way around). This move is, in fact, a means of appeasing the livestock industry by offering a benign-sounding plan that seems, at first blush, to promote the welfare of Yellowstone bison and Native American tribes. In their words, “The purpose of a quarantine program for Yellowstone bison would be to establish or augment new conservation and cultural herds of plains bison; conserve a viable, wild population of Yellowstone bison; maintain the low risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle; reduce the need for shipment of bison to meat processing facilities to limit population growth; and provide cultural and nutritional opportunities for Native Americans.”
Bison advocates fear that cumulative impact of another quarantine will further erode the genetic integrity and future of America’s only continually free-roaming, migratory bison herd. “Recent history has already shown us that quarantine does not work for wild bison. The Quarantine Feasibility Study that began in 2005 resulted in wild Yellowstone buffalo being commercially owned for profit, while some of the buffalo who went to Ft. Peck died in a horrible fire because they could not escape their enclosure, and half of the herd that was transferred to Ft. Belknap died because they could not escape their enclosure to find fresh water. Wild bison do not belong behind fences, they are a nation unto themselves who evolved to migrate, wild and free!”
The park is accepting public comments. Buffalo Field Campaign has provided a sample letter but encourages bison advocates to use their own words and speak from the heart, as the service may discard any comments that resemble a mass-mailing. The comment period will now close on February 29, 2016