Dear Wild Buffalo Supporters,

A few big events have happened since I wrote a few weeks ago. Most notable among recent events is our legal victory against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Another significant event is the news of tribal opposition to the status quo management of wild Yellowstone bison and Yellowstone National Park’s announcement that a new long-term plan will be available for public comment January 28. Current bison management priorities are failing the public trust, and are seemingly balking at their treaty obligations without scientific merit. These scenarios showcase the conflict caused by neglecting science-based objectives for this critically-important keystone species, and Montana forcing the status quo upon all the parties to the bitter end.

2022 01 31 01 001 yellowstone bison close up snout

Our recent legal victory alongside our allies at Western Watersheds Project and Friends of Animals, focused on the lack of scientific standards impacting the genetic viability of Yellowstone bison. The ramifications of the status quo management increase the chance environmental stressors can lead to a sick, homogenized landscape bereft of keystone species such as bison, grizzlies, and wolves. The Campaign refuses to accept an ecosystem dominated by invasive species, domesticated livestock, diseased wildlife, and lacking resilience against environmental degradation. The current management scheme is failing the Central Herd of Yellowstone bison and the ecosystem as a whole. Our legal advocacy is a powerful tool in holding the federal government accountable to their public trust obligations.

In an article recently published by Montana Public Radio, the Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe) as a signatory to the Interagency Bison Management Plan, came out in opposition to taking 600-900 or more buffalo this winter. Instead, the Tribe has requested the number of buffalo taken remain the same as last year. The Tribe’s request to minimize the number of buffalo removed is being objected to by four other managing agencies.

2022 01 31 01 002 yellowstone bison family moving

I made an inquiry to Nez Perce tribal leadership requesting comment, I was told they are still considering the issue and no policy decision has been made. In numerous previous IBMP meetings, the Tribe has been vocal in their opposition to existing population suppression policies. As an alternative, tribal delegates have consistently advocated for science-based population objectives commensurate with the viable habitat throughout the Yellowstone Ecosystem. A robust population of wild bison provides meaningful opportunities to practice cultural lifeways associated with their treaty reserved rights. Just as importantly, wild bison conservation honors their sacred obligations to protect those populations. Tribal delegates have been vocal about protecting the genetic viability of those distinct bison populations, and fostering ecosystem resilience necessary to protect this treasured landscape.

With our recent court victory over the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and their lack of scientific rigor regarding wild bison genetics in the Yellowstone, it is irresponsible for managing agencies to ignore the ramifications of their annual killing proposals, mainly by trapping buffalo for slaughter.

2022 01 31 01 003 yellowstone buffalo two cows

The heavy-handed management being protected by the agencies opposing the Nez Perce Tribe’s recommendations have lost their conservation focus. The insistence of those agencies to take such a large percentage of these wild bison herds, regardless of the impacts on bison ecology, is extremely shortsighted. Further, the arrogance of managing agencies to treat their bison suppression policies as a zero-sum game is contrary to the will of the American people and exacerbates the decline in ecosystem health and well being in the long term.

This is why our legal efforts are so important. We’re fighting to stop these agencies from treating the only-continuously wild herd of bison as a commodity to be suppressed, controlled and exploited.

We have our work to do, but it is heartening to know that our collective efforts are upholding the public trust for our nation’s wildlife and wild places. I appreciate your support as we continue our work in the trenches and on the frontlines of wild bison conservation. As our winter field season continues to progress, I humbly appreciate all of your donations and warm regards. Thank you for your staunch support for our National Mammal, the Yellowstone Ecosystem, and Buffalo Field Campaign.

For the Buffalo,

James Holt Sr.

Executive Director, Buffalo Field Campaign

“The Earth and I are of One Mind.”- Chief Joseph, Nimiipuu (Nez Perce)