For immediate release:
January 15, 2015
Stephany Seay, Media Coordinator, Buffalo Field Campaign, 406-646-0071
Mike Harris, Director, Wildlife Law Program, Friends of Animals; 720.949.7791
Gardiner, Basin, Montana - At least 145 of America's last wild, migratory bison have already been captured inside Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek bison trap this week as a result of the park and other entities working under the controversial Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). They intend to kill upwards of 900 of the gentle giants under the guise of population control and "disease risk management," even though there has never been a documented case of a wild bison transmitting brucellosis-a bacterial disease that affects livestock and wildlife-to cattle.
In response, Friends of Animals (FoA) Wildlife Law Program and the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) filed a lawsuit Jan. 15 against the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for allowing the horrific roundup to proceed and failing to respond to an emergency rulemaking petition filed Sept. 15 by the two groups to protect the genetic diversity and viability of the bison of Yellowstone National Park.
FoA and BFC requested that the NPS and USFS undertake a population study and revise the IBMP to correct scientific deficiencies, make the plan consistent with the best available science and follow the legal mandates the U.S. Congress has set. Until then, the groups requested that the capture, removal or killing of bison at the Stephens Creek area of Yellowstone National Park and the Horse Butte area of the Gallatin National Forest be prohibited.
"This is a profoundly tragic event," said Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign spokeswoman. "These buffalo are a national treasure, a native keystone species beloved the world over, and are the most important bison population in the world. Yellowstone should be preventing harm to the buffalo, not bending over backwards for cattle interests by participating in their destruction."
"We want to make sure that each herd has a viable population number so that we are not starting to degrade the species," said Mike Harris, director of Friends of Animals' Wildlife Law Program. "Right now they are managing the numbers based largely upon misinformation regarding the genetic viability of the herds. They are using data that doesn't match up with what is the actual status of the herd populations in the park. The petition asked that the federal agencies responsible for protecting these animals make an effort to establish stronger scientific criteria to protect the viability of the remaining Yellowstone herds, and to stop slaughtering the last 4,000 genetically pure bison left in the United States."
The IBMP was designed to be an adaptive management plan allowing for greater tolerance for bison as new information becomes available and conditions on the ground change, but no such tolerance has been afforded to the bison.
Every winter and spring, snow and ice cover the bison's food and hunger pushes them to lower elevations across the park boundary in Montana. When they cross this arbitrary line, the buffalo enter a zone of violent conflict with ranchers. Last winter 653 bison were slaughtered, and back in the winter of 2007/2008, the largest scale wild buffalo slaughter, claimed the lives of 1,631 animals. At the turn of the 20th century, similar reckless behavior nearly drove bison to extinction.
"The IBMP currently is heavily weighted in favor of protecting the profits of the livestock industry at the expense and peril of our nation's only continuously wild bison population," Brister said. "Slaughtering wild bison is the livestock industry's way of eliminating competition and maintaining control of grazing lands surrounding Yellowstone National Park and across the west."
And the livestock industry wants to keep the public in the dark about it. Yellowstone, for the second year under Superintendent Dan Wenk's leadership, is shrouding its current bison capture operations in secrecy. During a recent phone call with the park's public information officer Al Nash, BFC was told that the number of bison captured would not be given, and that the park would send out reports every other week, rather than openly disclose their activities to the public and media on a daily basis as was the practice prior to Wenk holding his position.
"Obviously they don't want the public to see or know what they are doing," said Brister. "They know what they are doing is wrong and they know the public would rise up in outrage if they were able to see the horrors that happen to the buffalo inside the Stephens Creek trap."
West Yellowstone, Montana-based Buffalo Field Campaign is a non-profit public interest organization founded in 1997 to protect the natural habitat of wild migratory buffalo and native wildlife, stop the slaughter of America's last wild buffalo and advocate for their lasting protection, and work with people of all nations to honor the sacredness of wild bison.
Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals, an international animal protection organization founded in 1957, advocates for the rights of animals, free-living and domestic around the world. www.friendsofanimals.org