|Yellowstone Bison Slaughter
Butte neighbors support bison preservation
By Karrie Taggart
Op Ed- Bozeman Daily Chronicle
January, 31 2004
(Find out more Why Horse
Butte is so important or Check out a map
of Horse Butte)
Jan. 27 the Bozeman Chronicle ran an opinion piece about
the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act. The Chronicle
believes the bill "muddies" the issue and "illustrates
how out of touch things can get inside of the beltway."
I'd like to offer a different perspective.
I'm coordinator of a group of Montana residents called
Horse Butte Neighbors Of Buffalo (HOBNOB). Our group has
more than 60 supporters, representing a majority of our
community. Horse Butte, near West Yellowstone, is mostly
public land, plus our residential area and one ranch that
trucks cattle in for pasturing, only in summer. Horse
Butte has long been one of two flashpoints in the ongoing
Yellowstone buffalo controversy, the other being the Gardiner
area north of the park.
Every winter and spring my neighbors and I endure highly
disruptive hazing operations by the Montana Department
of Livestock. Far too often we witness exhausted buffalo
chased through deep snow by helicopters and agency personnel
on snow machines scaring the animals with "cracker
guns," to say nothing of killing them for reasons
we do not believe are credible. That's why we formed HOBNOB
a year ago, certain that state and federal agencies can
do better by these animals and their neighbors.
We do not support the current Interagency Bison Management
plan. Spending some $3 million annually employing often
deadly force to keep buffalo confined behind the park
boundary, when there's not a single cow present for many
miles around, makes no sense. Since there are no cattle
for the Department of Livestock to supposedly safeguard
from brucellosis, perhaps the agency believes it's hazing
buffalo on our behalf. Not so. HOBNOB members, local private
property homeowners, consider it a privilege to live amidst
wildlife. To watch buffalo treated as they are is heartbreaking.
In short, we're as local to the buffalo issue as you can
get, and we support the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation
Act. It was indeed crafted in Washington, as legislation
affecting a national park and adjacent national forest
should be, but with more than 50 cosponsors, including
westerners and Democrats and Republicans alike, this congressional
approach does have local Montana support.
A few clarifications about the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation
Act are in order. The Chronicle called the legislation
"a total ban on killing bison on non-park federal
lands." First, it's not a total ban, but rather a
three-year moratorium. There's a big difference, and that
should alleviate fears of "unlimited numbers on federal
lands outside the park," to again quote the Chronicle
Second, the land affected by the bill would include the
national park itself and two small portions of the Gallatin
National Forest (zones 2 and 3 of the current Interagency
Management Plan), not "any federal lands" as
stated in the Chronicle column.
Third, while the bill prohibits state or federal agencies
from hazing and killing Yellowstone buffalo, again only
for three years and only on federal land within or immediately
adjacent to the park in two places, it does not prohibit
sport hunting by citizens, if such a hunt is instituted.
It would however stop the wasteful, knee-jerk harassing
and killing of buffalo, at taxpayer expense, at least
The current plan may be "the best the agencies have
been able to hammer out so far," but with hundreds
more dead buffalo (3,700 killed in the last two decades),
millions of dollars down the drain, and a continued black
eye for Montana since its inception, we're not satisfied.
The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act calls upon agencies
to address the management of just a handful of cattle
in a few places adjacent to the park -- presently only
on the north side -- where they could conflict with wildlife.
It asks them to approach the matter in a proactive, common
sense fashion, looking at livestock vaccination, fencing,
and equitable alternative grazing opportunities, if necessary,
rather than hysteria based slaughter.
Finally, the Chronicle said "animal rights groups"
argue that wild buffalo should not have to compete with
livestock on publicly owned lands. That's how we feel
too with regard to Horse Butte and America's only truly
wild, genetically pure buffalo. And as the press has reported,
many conservation organizations, not just animal rights
groups, also back the bill.
From our view in West Yellowstone, it's the Chronicle
that seems a little "out of touch" regarding
the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act. Please take
a closer look at HR 3466. There's good reason support
for it is growing. We've seen enough blood in the snow.
Karrie Taggart is coordinator for Horse Butte Neighbors