For Immediate Release:
May 9, 2007
Exclusive BFC Video & Photos Available Upon Request
Stephany Seay (406) 646-0070
West Yellowstone - Two members of the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) were arrested today by Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers. One BFC volunteer was taken to the hospital due to injuries caused by the arrest.
The volunteers were arrested for exercising their civil rights attempting to document today's Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) bison hazing operations.
The first volunteer arrested had witnessed the DOL and other agents hazing wild bison across U.S. Highway 191. Highway patrols failed to warn motorists or shut down traffic. Chased by agents on horseback and a helicopter, another group of bison was close to crossing the road and the BFC volunteer urged a Montana Highway Patrolman to shut down the highway and warn traffic. The MHP responded to the volunteer's request by arresting him in the heated exchange.
The second BFC volunteer was arrested after attempting to document the first volunteer's arrest. The MHP attempted to take the camera away, and tackled him to the ground, injuring his face and head. An officer with the U.S. Forest Service assisted the MHP officer with the arrests. The arresting officers confiscated two Buffalo Field Campaign video cameras.
Last week, the same MHP officer was filmed being hostile and aggressive to BFC volunteers documenting a bison hazing operation along Hwy. 287.
"Today's arrests were completely without warrant," said BFC volunteer Jessie Patterson who witnessed the arrests of both volunteers. "These officers acted in a violent way when the volunteers were well within their rights to document government actions on public lands."
Government officials, including law enforcement, routinely attempt to prevent BFC from filming bison hazing operations.
Freelance photographer Barbara Michelman was on the scene of the arrests. One of her photographs can be viewed below.
Last night, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks held a public meeting in West Yellowstone regarding Montana's infamous bison hunt and the agency's involvement in the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Many BFC members and residents of the community were present to voice their opposition to the current mismanagement of wild bison.
"The rights of American citizens are being infringed upon and today's behavior is utterly unacceptable and will be challenged," said BFC spokeswoman Stephany Seay.
"Government agencies are ignoring the voice of the American people and acting as rogue entities who answer to no law but their own."
The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S.D.A. Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Gallatin County Sheriffs, and Montana Highway Patrols all participated in today's bison hazing operation.
The government agents harassed approximately 400 members of the United State's last wild herd of bison within the Gallatin National Forest today using horses and a helicopter. This is the bison's calving season, a very sensitive time for the species. Pregnant bison and day-old newborns, as well as other bison, were run off of public land in an aggressive manner by agents on horseback and a DOL helicopter. Wild bison were forced for over eight miles from the northern tip of the Horse Butte Peninsula along the Madison River back towards Yellowstone National Park.
One baby bison fell injured and exhausted from the aggressive and relentless nature of today's hazing operation. The protective mother was forced to charge a NPS hazer while he aggressively approached them as her baby buffalo was attempting to nurse. The bison, with numerous calves, were run for over 8 miles without rest, food or water.
Hazing bison off of public lands runs contrary to a November 2006 agreement signed by all Interagency Bison Management Plan officials, which is supposed to allow native wild bison access to public lands though May 15. This is the third time in three weeks that the IBMP agencies have ignored their agreement.
The purported reason for the government's aggressive management of wild bison is the perceived threat of the cattle-born disease, brucellosis. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting the European livestock disease brucellosis to livestock, even prior to implementation of Interagency Bison Management Plan.
American Bison once spanned the continent, numbering between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are genetically unique and are America's only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 3,600 animals, .01 percent of the bison's former population.
1,912 bison have been killed since 2000 under the Interagency Bison Management Plan.
Last winter Federal and State agencies killed or authorized the killing of more than 1,010 bison. So far this winter two bison were captured and sent to slaughter by Montana Department of Livestock agents and hunters have killed 58.
Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their native habitat and advocate for their lasting protection.