For Immediate Release:
October 10, 2002
Mike Mease (406) 646-0070
Montana - While budget cuts hit hard across Montana, Department of Livestock (DoL) employees, frustrated by recent court defeats, wasted tax dollars on hazing a lone buffalo. State employees spent the day on ATVs, a horse and four wheel drive trucks running a lone bull buffalo miles back to the state border. "The operation today was unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers dollars that could have been spent better elsewhere," Mike Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign stated.
The DoL has been reprimanded several times recently for ignoring Montana constitutional rights. The first incident was when a State District Court judge had to remind them that their records are open to the public since they are a public agency (Right to Know Lawsuit.)
Then, on Tuesday October 8, Joshua Osher had his day in court and was found not guilty by a six person jury in the Gallatin County Justice Court. Department of Livestock agent, Shane Grube, arrested Joshua on May 9, 2002, during a buffalo hazing operation charging that Joshua interfered with the operation. Joshua's trial consisted of testimony from two DoL agents, Shane Grube and Spike Twohy, and two BFC volunteers, Joshua and Laura Babcock. A video of the arrest was also presented at the trial. The same tape had been illegally confiscated by Grube previously.
The trial included Grube and Twohy's denial of the presence of a helicopter over Horse Butte on May 9 that both Joshua and Laura testified was there that day. After examining the evidence, the jury found unanimously that Joshua did not interfere with the operation.
"I couldn't believe that I was arrested. I was exercising my rights to document agency hazing operations and was arrested in an effort to suppress that right. I defended my rights in court and the jury saw the truth. These unlawful violations of our civil rights must stop," Osher said. "It is absurd that a rogue agency can act outside the law and arrest citizens without having any law enforcement training and the jury recognized that."
Another BFC volunteer recently had his case dismissed because of similar shady circumstances. Other trials are still pending for similarly ridiculous arrests.
"Wild buffalo are a symbol of America and yet, the Department of Livestock continues to treat them like domestic cattle. Folks with no wildlife management skills should not be managing these animals. Management activities are costly in more ways than one - they could have unknown impacts on this genetically unique herd," Mease added.
Even the Buffalo Management Plan formulated by public agencies state:
"Repeated hazing in early winter may produce weight loss and poor body condition, which decreases the animals ability to endure the remaining winter." (Volume I, page 762)