Buffalo Field Campaign Legislative
Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act (HR 2428)
| Buffalo Preservation Act Text (PDF)
Rep. Rahall letter to National Park Service (PDF
out for the Buffalo!
May 18, 2005, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) introduced HR 2428,
the “Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act”. The
bill is designed to protect Yellowstone bison from unnecessary
management practices including hazing (chasing bison with
helicopters, snowmobiles, horses and ATV's), capturing, and
killing. Under the bill, bison would be allowed to range in
Montana up to the edge of zone 3 of the Interagency
Bison Management Plan (IBMP). This area constitutes a
relatively small portion of lands on the west and north sides
of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) where bison currently migrate
in winter and spring with fatal consequences. The bill further
establishes that the National Park Service (NPS) has sole
jurisdiction over bison inside YNP. Under the IBMP, the Montana
Department of Livestock (MDOL) has authority to haze bison
inside YNP near the western boundary. MDOL agents commonly
haze bison near the border using horses and helicopters as
many as seven miles into the park. The bill calls for the
dismantling of the Stephen's Creek capture facility located
inside YNP near Gardiner, Montana where NPS sent 267 bison
to slaughter last Spring.
The bill also directs the Park
Service and Forest Service to acquire additional habitat for
bison in Montana using such methods as conservation easements
and acquisition.H.R. 2428 is essentially based on three precepts.
First, bison have the right
range on federal public lands both inside and outside of YNP.
Bison are a native wildlife species in Montana and the West.
They are an American icon and the symbol of United States
Department of the Interior. They deserve to be treated with
respect and managed as native wildlife.
Second, the current management scheme
under the Interagencey
Bison Management Plan (IBMP) is flawed and unnecessarily
expends federal taxpayer dollars. The continuation of this
plan will result in perpetual hazing, capturing and slaughtering
of Yellowstone bison at tremendous and rising cost to taxpayers.
The bison management budget for FY2004 will likely exceed
3.5 million all coming from federal funds. The IBMP's arbitrary
3000-population cap for bison endangers the survival of the
herd and limits the genetic variability of this unique herd.
Third, there are a number of common
sense solutions that could be employed that will effectively
address the concerns of Montana's livestock industry while
allowing wild bison to freely range outside of YNP. The IBMP
is not based on simple common sense solutions but rather expensive
wildlife vaccination programs and massive population reductions,
neither of which has proven effective.Opponents of the bill,
led by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), contend that free-ranging
Yellowstone bison pose a significant threat to Montana’s
livestock industry. They claim that bison infected with the
will infect domestic cattle thus threatening the state’s
brucellosis free status. They believe that the only way to
deal with the threat of brucellosis infected bison is to keep
them within the borders of YNP using whatever means necessary.We
believe, however, that the threat of brucellosis transmission
to domestic cattle from wild Yellowstone bison is vastly overstated.
First, studies indicate that less than 10 percent of the Yellowstone
bison are presently infected with brucellosis. Of these animals,
only pregnant female bison have the biological capability
to transmit the disease. Transmission can only occur if livestock
ingest a significant quantity of infected birthing material.
There has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission
from wild bison to domestic cattle.
Second, domestic livestock
grazing in the Greater Yellowstone Area are vaccinated for
brucellosis. The vaccine is at least 75 percent effective.
Vaccinated cattle and brucellosis infected bison have commingled
in Grand Teton National Park for over 45 years without a single
documented case of brucellosis transmission. Third, wild bison
and domestic cattle do not inhabit the same range at the same
time. Bison migrate from YNP to lower elevations in Montana
in the winter and spring months. They return to YNP in the
late spring when forage is accessible in the Park. Domestic
cattle do not graze these areas during this period because
the climate is too harsh to support them.
Third, many other wildlife species
including elk, deer, moose, wolf, coyote, bear and numerous
others have also been exposed to brucellosis and may carry
the disease. If Montana is so deeply concerned about brucellosis,
why are bison the only species targeted by the state livestock
The truth is that the Montana
livestock industry is using brucellosis as a front for the
real reasons they wish to exclude wild bison from Montana.
What it all boils down to is access to grass. Livestock producers,
particularly those grazing on public land, are concerned that
the addition of a large ungulate species would lessen the
amount of grass available for their cattle. They also claim
that wild bison will damage fences and injure their animals.
In seven years of observation near the western boundary of
YNP, we have not seen damage to fences caused by bison except
when they are being chased by MDOL agents. What we have observed,
however, is that bison walk around fence lines or simply jump
fences. It may be hard to imagine a 2000-pound bison jumping
a fence, but we can assure you that it is possible and does
Further, livestock producers
already have to deal with fence damage done by elk and deer.
There is no indication from our observations that bison will
significantly add to this unavoidable aspect of ranching operations
in native wildlife habitat. Other concerns that have been
raised about wild bison ranging in Montana include the presence
of bison on roads and private property. Both of these issues
can be adequately addressed by employing sound wildlife management
practices. There are currently several projects underway in
Canada and northern Montana to create wildlife overpass/underpass
migration corridors. This technique could be employed in affected
areas near Yellowstone. Private property owners who wish to
exclude bison from their land can install larger bison proof
fences. Both of these practices will cost taxpayers significantly
less in the long run than continuing the current policy of
keeping bison out of the state.
In summary, we believe that
H.R. 2428 sends a message to the Montana livestock industry
that their current management practices are not solution oriented
and are out of touch with the vast majority of Americans.
The bill advocates common sense alternatives that protect
Yellowstone bison as a native wildlife species and would cost
taxpayers significantly less than the current program of hazing,
capturing and killing bison at Yellowstone’s border.
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co-sponsors who supported the bill
in 109th Congress
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John M., Jr.
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about the Bill contact: