YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, GARDINER BASIN, MT: This morning, Comfrey Jacobs, a twenty-year old citizen concerned for wild bison, placed life, limb and freedom on the line by blocking the access road to Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek bison trap in hopes of preventing more of America's last wild, migratory bison -- the most important bison populations in the world -- from being shipped to slaughter.
To date, approximately 450 wild buffalo have been captured in Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek bison trap, located in the Gardiner Basin. Most of the buffalo have been and will be shipped to slaughter, while some are going to government research facilities. To date, more than 200 bison have been shipped to slaughter and 250 more have been killed by hunters.
Mr. Jacobs spent a number of weeks in the Gardiner Basin, where bison capture and slaughter operations and intense hunting have been taking place.
"During my time in Gardiner," said Jacobs, "I was feeling helpless as I watched wild buffalo lured and trapped, fed hay like livestock, tortured with sorting and testing, and eventually crammed into livestock trailers headed for slaughter facilities, while simultaneously bison were being hunted just outside the Park boundary."
Jacobs blocked the road to prevent livestock trailers from accessing the trap before more wild bison could be loaded onto trailers destined for slaughter facilities. He handcuffed himself to a hunter orange 55-gallon barrel filled with concrete, and wire-mesh webbing spanning the entrance to the roadway, which is closed to public access.
"My goal is to stop these trailers from getting to the trap so they cannot load more bison and transport them to slaughter," Jacobs said. "My intent is to not unduly cause these buffalo any more stress or harm than they are currently being subjected to in the trap, and to ultimately get Yellowstone to set them free."
This is the first time a citizen has exercised civil disobedience at Yellowstone's Stephens Creek bison trap. Yellowstone National Park initiates a 7-mile public access closure surrounding their Stephens Creek bison trap while highly controversial bison management activities are underway.
Jacobs state that, "Yellowstone National Park's public access closure around the Stephens Creek facility is an obscene and blatantly unconstitutional limitation of public oversight and accountability of our government agencies during bison management actions."
Mr. Jacobs, Buffalo Field Campaign, other organizations and media outlets have requested numerous times that Yellowstone conduct media tours of the facility, but these requests have been ignored. Thousands of people have written and called Yellowstone urging them to cease capture and slaughter operations. Yellowstone National Park has also been extremely secretive: Superintendent Dan Wenk is the first Yellowstone superintendent to prevent his staff from disclosing information to the public. Yellowstone has not issued a single press release during this year's capture and slaughter operations, and they are refusing to tell the public how many wild bison they have captured so far, and are only giving delayed information on the number, age and sex of bison that have already been transported to slaughter.
Jacobs said he is aware of the repercussions of his actions, bur felt strongly that he needed to draw attention to what Yellowstone National Park is doing so that they are held accountable for their direct participation in bison mismanagement, which has lead to the decimation of America's last wild bison populations.
"I have taken these drastic actions because I feel it is my civil duty as an American citizen to protect this national treasure," Jacobs said. "The National Park Service has neglected their duty as stewards, to respect public interests and preserve and protect the entirety of the Yellowstone ecosystem. I'm giving up some of my freedoms in hopes of re-establishing a free-roaming heard of bufflo in their traditional habitat."
Comfrey Jacobs's blockade included banners with the messages "Hunters for Bison Habitat," and "Road Closed." Jacobs also included a list of demands for Yellowstone National Park:
1. The immediate halt to all current and future capture and slaughter management actions and the release of all currently captive buffalo.
2. Yellowstone National Park's withdrawal from the Interagency Bison Management Plan, due to its ineffectiveness in maintaining a wild, free-roaming bison population and not meeting the public's, or the buffalo's best interests.
3. So long as the Stephens Creek facility continues to be used to capture, torture and ship wild bison to slaughter and research facilities, there needs to be public oversight and media access at all times, to keep the Park Service accountable for its actions.
Wild bison are currently managed under the highly controversial state, federal and tribal Interagency Bison Management Plan, which is heavily influenced by Montana's livestock industry. The IBMP allows for hazing (chasing) of bison out for their native Montana, a lengthy late-season harvest, and capture for slaughter and research. American citizens and others world-wide have have largely opposed all the actions carried out under the IBMP. IBMP-affiliated tribal partners, including the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC), and the Nez Perce tribe have signed slaughter agreements with Yellowstone. The CKST and ITBC have been actively shipping wild bison from Yellowstone to tribal slaughter facilities. USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service is taking wild bison from Yellowstone's trap to research facilities to use them in experiments with the chemical pesticide birth control GonaCon. Under the IBMP, more than 4,650 wild bison have been senselessly killed or otherwise eliminated from these last wild populations.
The wild bison of Yellowstone are the most significant bison populations in the world, the last continuously wild bison to exist in their native habitat since prehistoric times. They are the direct descendants to the tens of millions that once thundered across North America. Currently, wild, migratory bison are ecologically extinct throughout their historic range with fewer than 4,200 existing in and around Yellowstone and, temporarily, in Montana. They are free of cattle genes and the only bison to hold their identity as a wildlife species. North America's largest land mammal, wild bison are a keystone species critical to the health and integrity of grasslands and prairie ecosystems.
The zero-tolerance bison politics of Montana's livestock industry are driving the policies that are pushing these significant herds back to the brink of extinction.
Yellowstone and its IBMP partners have set an arbitrary population target of 3,000-3,500 bison, yet a Yellowstone bison carrying capacity study has determined that the Park can sustain upwards of 6,200 wild bison. Additionally, there are tens of thousands of acres of public lands surrounding Yellowstone that could sustain thousands more.
"I belive year-round habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Montana is the solution for wild bison population management, not genetically damaging and limiting the herds through slaughter or constant harassment and abuse through hazing operations," Jacobs said.
"We would like to thank Comfrey Jacobs for taking an action that our organization cannot," said Stephany Seay, a spokesperson for Buffalo Field Campaign. "We have always strongly opposed the slaughter and abuse of wild buffalo and applaud non-violent civil disobedience when other means of public participation have been exhausted and ignored. BFC shares Mr. Jacobs' goals for wild, migratory buffalo populations that are respected and valued as native wildlife and free to roam and flourish beyond Yellowstone's borders, in Montana, and beyond. We hope his courageous actions inspire other patriotic Americans to stand up tor this iconic and important National Treasure."
Video and still footage available upon request.
Buffalo Field Campaign is a non-profit public interest organization founded in 1997 to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild bison, protect the natural habitat of wild free-roaming bison and other native wildlife, and to work with people of all Nations to honor the sacredness of wild bison. BFC has its headquarters in West Yellowstone, Montana, and is supported by volunteers and participants around the world who value America’s native wildlife and the ecosystems upon which they depend.