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For Immediate Release:
January 5, 2003

Contacts:
Darrell Geist -- Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers 406-728-0867
Jim Coefield -- The Ecology Center Inc. 406-728-5733
Dan Brister -- Buffalo Field Campaign 406-646-0070
Brenda Lindlief Hall -- Reynolds, Motl & Sherwood 406-442-3261

Who:
Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers
Buffalo Field Campaign and The Ecology Center Inc.
vs.
Marc Bridges, Executive Officer of Montana Dept. of Livestock
Dale Bosworth, Chief of U.S. Forest Service
Ann Venneman, Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior
Fran Mainella, Director of National Park Service

What:
The environmental groups filed suit in May 2001 alleging that the state and federal agencies Yellowstone bison management operations are illegally impacting threatened bald eagles, sensitive trumpeter swans, and their habitats. The lawsuit implicates the government's on-going multimillion-dollar plan to haze, capture and slaughter Yellowstone's wild bison herd on public lands.

When:
10AM, Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Where:
U.S. District Court, Paul G. Hatfield Courthouse, Helena, MT
before Senior U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell
901 Front Street, Courtroom II, 3rd floor
Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers
Buffalo Field Campaign and The Ecology Center Inc.
v.
Montana Dept. of Livestock, et al
Case Number: CV 01-27-H-CCL

Count One - Endangered Species Act

* Defendants violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to protect threatened Bald Eagles and their habitat in Yellowstone.
* Defendants failed to adequately analyze the cumulative effects of hazing, capturing and slaughtering Yellowstone bison in occupied bald eagle territories.
* Defendants failed to establish an annual environmental baseline for bald eagle nesting and habitat use on Horse Butte Peninsula.
* Defendants failed to adhere to the non-discretionary terms of the Incidental Take Statement issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and failed to analyze the effects of the use of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft on threatened, endangered and sensitive species and their habitats.
* Defendants have consistently and systematically violated the terms of the Special Use Permit for the Horse Butte Bison Capture facility, and changed the terms of Annual Operation Plans in violation of federal law.
* Defendants have consistently and systematically used helicopters to haze bison in areas where they are specifically prohibited.
* Defendants have attempted to circumvent the helicopter hazing proscriptions by redefining the "no-fly" zone for helicopters in the 2000-2001 and subsequent Annual Operation Plans.
* Defendants have failed to consult regarding the effects of the project on the Canada Lynx, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2000.

Count Two - National Environmental Policy Act

* The Federal Defendants failed to take the requisite hard look at impacts on threatened species as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
* The environmental analysis is fundamentally flawed because it fails to address all of the impacts associated with the operation of the Horse Butte Bison Capture facility, including the direct and cumulative impacts of this project authorized for ten years.
* The use of helicopters or other aircraft for hazing bison was never addressed in the environmental analysis and the current extent and use of snowmobiles in bald eagle closure areas was not adequately analyzed. Further, there has been no analysis for Canada Lynx pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.

Count Three - Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the "taking" of migratory birds, including the Trumpeter Swan.

Defendants actions, particularly the use of helicopters in sensitive wildlife habitat, have directly and negatively impacted trumpeter swans and their habitat and resulted in the 'take" of trumpeter swans. (The Greater Yellowstone Tri-State trumpeter swan population was petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act by the Fund for Animals and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation in August 2000).

Count Four - Administrative Procedures Act

* In addition to, and in conjunction with, the statutory violations of the Endangered Species Act, the actions of the Montana Dept. of Livestock, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service are arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion and, therefore, violate the Administrative Procedures Act.
* Despite the Defendants' statements to Judge Charles C. Lovell (May 15 2000 order) that they had no intentions for future helicopter hazing on Horse Butte Peninsula, the Defendants have systematically, consistently, and intentionally hazed bison with helicopters on Horse Butte Peninsula and in bald eagle closure areas.
* The Montana Dept. of Livestock's Annual Operation Plan approved by the Gallatin National Forest on November 27, 2000 clearly contemplates helicopter hazing. Furthermore, the plan allows helicopter hazing on Horse Butte Peninsula where it is prohibited by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Biological Opinion and where the Defendants represented to the Court that they would not haze in the future.

Count Five - Special Use Permit Violations

The Gallatin National Forest issued a ten-year Special Use Permit to the Montana Dept. of Livestock to construct and operate the Horse Butte Bison Capture facility and conduct associated bison hazing activities. The Special Use Permit was issued by the Gallatin National Forest on the condition that the nondiscretionary terms of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Biological Opinion are strictly adhered to.

* The Defendants have continuously, systematically, and willfully violated the terms and conditions of the Horse Butte Bison Capture facility Special Use Permit.

Count Six - National Forest Management Act Violations

The Gallatin National Forest Plan requires the management of threatened, endangered and sensitive species to provide habitat sufficient for recovering populations. The National Forest Management Act provides for the implementation of Forest Plans.

* Bald Eagle management guidelines for the Gallatin National Forest have been bypassed through illegal bison hazing activities, in violation of the National Forest Management Act.

Prayer For Relief

Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers; Buffalo Field Campaign; and The Ecology Center Inc. respectfully requests that this Court:

* Void the Montana Dept. of Livestock's Special Use Permit to construct and operate the Horse Butte Bison Capture facility.
* Issue an injunction prohibiting operation of the Horse Butte Bison Capture Facility and all hazing of bison on Horse Butte Peninsula.

As non-preferred alternatives:

* Require that activities be limited to those analyzed in the Horse Butte Bison Capture facility Environmental Analysis and other NEPA and ESA analysis documents. Such activities do not include helicopter use, and require the Defendants to strictly adhere to all terms and conditions set forth in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Biological Opinion.
* Prohibit helicopter hazing of bison on Horse Butte Peninsula and use of aircraft over open waters of the Madison River, the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake, and Hebgen Lake.
* Require the Federal agencies to conduct the appropriate levels of analysis required by the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
* Issue such other relief as the Court deems just and proper.U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for Horse Butte Bison Capture Facility, December 18, 1998 File: M.19 Gallatin National Forest (Horse Butte Bald Eagle Nest)

Biological Opinion -- addresses the terms and conditions permitting the annual operation of the Horse Butte Bison Capture facility in occupied bald eagle territories from February 1 through April 30, and bison hazing activities from February 1 through August 15.

Bison Hazing Requirements -- conditions that apply to all three active bald eagle nest sites on Horse Butte. Includes time, place and manner restrictions on hazing bison and a prohibition on helicopter activities within bald eagle zones and on Horse Butte Peninsula. "Helicopter activities will not be permitted in the Horse Butte area." (B.O. page 10)

Reasonable and Prudent Measures -- legal measures designed to minimize take of threatened species includes minimizing human-caused disturbances to Horse Butte, Ridge and Narrows bald eagle nest sites and to foraging bald eagles along the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake and the Madison River.

Incidental Take -- Service anticipates that the incidental take of bald eagles will be limited to the Horse Butte bald eagle nest. The Service allows the Montana Dept. of Livestock to annually take one clutch, one brood, or two adult eagles from the Horse Butte bald eagle nest.

Horse Butte area -- contains approximately 15 square miles (9,600 acres) of private and public lands (Gallatin National Forest). Horse Butte lies north of the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake and the Madison River, east of Hebgen Lake, south of the Grayling Arm of Hebgen Lake and Cougar Creek, and west of Yellowstone National Park.

Status of Horse Butte Bald Eagle Nests
Compiled from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service records
1998 - Horse Butte failed to produce young.
Ridge fledged one chick.
Narrows failed to produce young.
1999 - Horse Butte (hatched two) fledged one chick.
Ridge failed to produce young.
Narrows fledged two chicks.
2000 - Horse Butte failed to produce young.
Ridge failed to produce young.
Narrows fledged two chicks.
2001 - Horse Butte failed to produce young.
Ridge fledged one chick.
Narrows fledged two chicks.
2002 - Horse Butte nest undetermined.
Ridge fledged one chick.
Narrows fledged two chicks.Yellowstone

Bison Kills
(2,264 shot in the field or shipped to slaughter)
1993-1994 5
1994-1995 427
1995-1996 433
1996-1997 1,084
1997-1998 11
1998-1999 92
1999-2000 0
2000-2001 6
2001-2002 202
2002-2003 4

Montana Dept. of Livestock 'Bison Management Budgets'
(Fiscal Year)
1996 $123,338
1997 $245,810
1998 $173,032
1999 $329,952
2000 $558,574
2001 $681,856
2002 $1,368,025

 
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