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News Article - 8/11/03

For Immediate Release: August 11, 2003    
CONTACT: Karrie Taggart
Horse Butte Neighbors Of Buffalo
P.O. Box 1417 West Yellowstone, MT 59758 (406) 646-5140

West Yellowstone, MT - Montana Governor Judy Martz received a letter today from Horse Butte Neighbors Of Buffalo (HBNOB) calling for an end to the hazing, capture, and killing of wild Yellowstone buffalo on Horse Butte for the foreseeable future. The letter is signed by 59 adult residents of Horse Butte, the majority of the community, which is located just north of West Yellowstone Montana on a peninsula of Hebgen Lake.

The letter also asks for the closing of buffalo capture facilities and the transfer of buffalo management from the Montana Department of Livestock back to wildlife specialists. It also formally requests the Governor to meet with HBNOB to discuss common sense approaches to living with buffalo tailored to the sentiment of the community.

"We welcome the buffalo out here," said Karrie Taggart, co-founder of HBNOB. "We don't bother them and they don't bother us. In fact, we love to see them. What other community in America can boast of having wild buffalo in its midst? Living with wildlife, as we do, is an extraordinary privilege."

Buffalo are naturally drawn from Yellowstone's deep snows in winter and spring to the lower elevation forage and sunny south facing slopes of Horse Butte, but they are never allowed to stay for long. Despite local support for buffalo, year after year the Montana Department of Livestock conducts hazing, capture, and killing operations on Horse Butte.

"Horse Butte is mostly public land and it's a peninsula," resident Jeannette Therien pointed out. "Surrounded on three sides by water, it's not like buffalo are going to go anywhere else. But Montana isn't even willing to give them access to this bit of our state."

Brucellosis, a disease that can cause cattle to abort calves, is carried by some buffalo, and it's the stated reason for Montana's intolerance for wild Yellowstone buffalo.

But as Horse Butte resident Liz Kearney noted, "There's never been a recorded instance of brucellosis being transmitted from buffalo to livestock in the wild. In Wyoming, buffalo with brucellosis and cattle have grazed together for decades without problems. What's more, elk carry brucellosis too, yet they are ignored by livestock officials. Brucellosis is nothing but an excuse to keep wild buffalo out of even this little corner of Montana."

According to the letter, HBNOB formed to promote coexistence with buffalo and to let it be known residents do not support DOL's "cruel, expensive, and unnecessary hazing and killing of buffalo."

"It is not in our best interests, nor Montana's," Taggart declared, "and, as our name suggests, we favor a different way to treat America's only genetically pure, truly wild buffalo."

Cattle used to graze on a public allotment on Horse Butte, but this past spring a deal was negotiated between the Forest Service and the Munns family of Idaho who held that lease. The Munns now graze most of their herd on national forest land in Idaho, closer to their home operation. In the letter, HBNOB members thank the Munns, as "neighbors and friends," for their willingness to transfer their public grazing lease.

The letter points out that the Munns still graze a small cattle herd on Horse Butte on their private fenced pasture. However these vaccinated cows are trucked in only in summer after buffalo are back in the Park, miles away.

Property owner Jim Eneboe commented, "It is simply irrational and disingenuous to suggest that livestock is endangered and that yearly hazing and killing, and the expense of millions of dollars, plus untold strife brought to this community, is in any way necessary."

The letter formally requests a visit by Governor Martz to open a dialog toward common sense solutions that will be good for buffalo, good for the cattle industry, and good for Montana's image. Paraphrasing the letter, instead of being the state that slaughters buffalo, Montana could be the state that touts a few wild buffalo.

"It's what we want here at Horse Butte," said Karrie Taggart, "and we're willing to work, in a collaborative fashion, to make it happen. But the senseless, knee jerk hazing and killing of buffalo must stop."

The letter was sent to the Governor a month after the slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo was debated on the floor of United States House of Representatives. On an Appropriations amendment vote, 199 Representatives called for an end to the killing.

Copies of the letter were also sent to Montana's congressional delegation, the Supervisor of the Gallatin National Forest, the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, the Director of the National Park Service, and the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park.

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