Citizens Plead "Guilty" for Attempt to Protect Yellowstone Buffalo from Slaughter

For Immediate Release:
March 12, 2018

Ken Cole, Buffalo Field Campaign, 208-890-3666

Yellowstone National Park, Mammoth, WY: This morning, after spending six days in the custody of law enforcement, a detention hearing was held for three individuals with the collective Wild Buffalo Defense, after they were arrested for risking life, limb, and liberty in an attempt to block Yellowstone National Park from facilitating wild buffalo slaughter last Tuesday. Federal judge Mark Carman preceded via a teleconference screen.

As a show of support and solidarity, members of Buffalo Field Campaign, as well as locals and park visitors, attended today's hearing.


2018 03 12 01 001 Yellowstone National Park Justice Center Buffalo Dorothy Wilson 2014 800
Photo credit is Dorothy Wilson, BFC supporter. 

Cody Cyson and Thom Brown were both charged with a closure violation and interference with an agency function. Hannah Ponder was charged with a closure violation. Both charges are misdemeanors. All three plead guilty.

During the hearing, Judge Carman said that he “would not have sentenced [them] to six days in jail,” calling the incarceration “extensive.”

“The ‘government operation’ Cyson and Brown were charged for interfering with was Yellowstone National Park shipping wild buffalo to slaughter, an operation that is strongly opposed by the vast majority of Montanans, Americans, and people world-wide who hold the last wild buffalo in high regard,” said Buffalo Field Campaign media coordinator Stephany Seay. “The public closure that Yellowstone put in place is overly broad and designed to limit the ability of the public to document publicly funded government activities carried out by Yellowstone National Park to systematically destroy our national mammal — we are the ones who are violated by the existence of Yellowstone’s extensive and unnecessary public land closure, while the slaughter of the buffalo is the real interference which manipulates and causes cumulative harm to their ecological integrity, evolutionary potential, and also interferes with treaty rights.”

When Ponder was asked if she accepted her charge with the closure violation, she agreed that while she was guilty, she was also “fulfilling my constitutional rights to observe law enforcement actions.”

Represented by Chris Lumbar of Spitzer Law, PLLC, Brown, Cyson, and Ponder’s plea agreement terms and conditions included being placed on five years of unsupervised probation, a five-year ban from Yellowstone National Park, monetary fines, and community service. Brown and Cyson face a total penalty of $1,050, while Ponder faces a total of $1,040. The community service is to be “paid” to Yellowstone Forever’s Wildlife Protection Fund.

When allowed to comment, Brown stated the irony of having to contribute to the Fund, stating,”Our act was in defense of wild buffalo, beings who have no protection, so I just find it pretty ironic that part of our fine is to pay a wildlife fund that serves the very agency facilitating the buffalo slaughter.”

There is a Wild Buffalo Defense Legal Fund set up to help with legal fees.

Judge Carman made some closing statements referencing the Defenders’ actions as “misguided,” saying that “there are a lot of people who share your goals and are working very hard to achieve them, but they are not chaining themselves to gates.” He went on to say that he learned what he felt was good advice when a colleague said to him that “the individual chipmunk is not important — it’s the population that’s important.”

In response, Seay said, “Twenty percent of this population is being destroyed. To assume that the loss of an individual buffalo’s life does not impact the population, or to assume that their lives are not as important to them as yours is to you is preposterous and right in line with the colonial culture’s assumption of human supremacy,” said Seay. “The senseless, indiscriminate killing of buffalo mothers, children, and other family members is most certainly important to those individuals and to the population as a whole, which once existed in the tens of millions but now hovers at barely 4,000 individuals. With each individual buffalo Yellowstone runs through the squeeze chute, they are systematically destroying matrilineal wisdom, ancient instincts, social dynamics, and genetics. The loss of those individuals negatively impacts the entire population of the country’s last wild, migratory buffalo.”

Yellowstone National Park recently told the media that they have captured 750 wild buffalo to date, and more than 350 have already been shipped to slaughter, and nearly 100 more are currently being held for “potential quarantine purposes.” Contrary to popular belief, quarantine does not end slaughter, but it does result in the domestication and commercialization of the last remnant population of wild, migratory buffalo. Nearly 250 buffalo have also been killed by hunters. Natural winter-kill mortalities have not been considered by bison managers.

“We expected the so-called justice system would punish these brave people this way, and it’s clear that the system is in place to only serve the system that is converting the living into the dead for profit,” said Seay. "These individuals should be celebrated for doing the job that Yellowstone National Park should be doing.”

“While Buffalo Field Campaign as an organization cannot take these actions, we are thankful these courageous people took them,” said Ken Cole, BFC’s executive director. “We have shared values and we are in solidarity with anyone who is working to liberate wild buffalo and protect them from slaughter, quarantine, and domestication.”

Learn more about Wild Buffalo Defense.