BFC's and our supporters' determination to turn the Hwy 191 tragedy of Dec. 28-29 into effective action is resonating with people everywhere. The petition was posted last Wednesday, garnered over 1000 signatures in its first 24 hours, and has more than doubled since then (over 2500 now). More to the point, it generated two sympathetic stories in the Bozeman Chronicle and the Helena Independent Record, reflecting real momentum towards a proposal to build the world's first wildlife bridge dedicated to buffalo migration in the world.
Here is just a sampling from those news stories, reflecting the support that our petition is already galvanizing behind the proposal:
[BFC Spokesperson Tom] Woodbury said that while Yellowstone National Park’s bison population has been increasing overall, the number of animals in its central herd — the one that migrates out of the park toward West Yellowstone — has been declining.
Animals from the central herd are the descendants of the last 23 wild bison that remained in Pelican Valley at the turn of the 20th century, when the species had nearly been slaughtered to extinction. Of the bison in the park, they are the most genetically intact, according to Woodbury.
“This is why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is presently conducting a threats analysis,” he said. “The genetic diversity of having two herds is important, and if we lost the central herd, then we would have reduced genetic diversity in bison. It’s a long-term threat.”
On Tuesday, the Gallatin Wildlife Association submitted comments to the West Yellowstone Town Council in support of using wildlife infrastructure to minimize conflicts where animal migration patterns intersect with transportation systems.
“We are advocating for this for wildlife, but obviously it has social benefits as well — saving human lives and hopefully reducing insurance costs,” Nagel said. “We’re trying to basically restore and protect those wildlife connections, as certain species have a tendency to migrate from winter to summer feeding grounds.”
There are few places in the United States where you can be motoring down the highway at 70 mph and literally run into a bison — the national mammal of the United States. Montana’s Highway 191, just north of West Yellowstone, is one of those places. Last month, 13 Yellowstone National Park bison were killed while attempting to cross Highway 191 when a semi tractor-trailer truck struck the animals.
"This sad incident underscores the urgency and importance of creating ways for migrating wildlife to access necessary habitat while also ensuring people can travel safely throughout the region," said Shana Drimal, senior wildlife conservation associate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
Unlike other wildlife, however, when bison leave Yellowstone National Park and migrate into Montana they are not welcomed by some state officials and the Department of Livestock. While other wildlife are allowed to roam, including elk infected with brucellosis that can cause pregnant cattle to abort, bison are largely confined within Yellowstone because they carry the same disease. There are a few exceptions allowing bison onto federal lands just outside the park's North and West entrances, including near where the December collision occurred.
The Yellowstone bison are also unique in that they are being reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for consideration as a “Distinct Population Segment” worthy of protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Petitioners who requested the review “presented credible information to indicate potential threats to the (bison) from reductions of its range due to loss of migration routes, lack of tolerance for bison outside Yellowstone National Park, and habitat loss,” the agency stated in its findings last summer.
“Wildlife crossing structures — overpasses and underpasses — with adequate lengths of fencing are highly effective, and proven to not only reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, but also to provide for safe wildlife movement/habitat connectivity across the road,” Rob Ament, Road Ecology Program manager for the Western Transportation Institute, wrote in an email.
In Wyoming where several highway under- and overpasses have recently been installed, along with fencing to funnel animals to the crossing, wildlife-vehicle collisions have been reduced 80-90% in three areas, according to WTI.
“The Madison River is the main migration corridor for Yellowstone’s Central bison herd to calving grounds on Horse Butte,” Woodbury said.
That herd’s population decline is in part what prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review threats to the animals under the Endangered Species Act.
“We have to help that herd recover.”
If you haven't already, please sign the Bison Wildlife Bridge Petition
The Thing is Dead: Long Live The Thing!
After more than seven years of running patrols for BFC and over 300,000 miles through unbelievable harsh conditions, our 2006 Subaru Forester, affectionately named Thing, has gone silent. His 'carma' has run out. Deceased. An ex-thing.
This leaves the Campaign in dire need of a new Subaru. We've found one that will cost us $15,000, and every dollar that our supporters donate for this special need will now be matched, until we reach the amount needed, thanks to the generosity of Kate Dworman and the Raven Fund. If you can chip in, please click on the "Thing Memorial Fund" icon below, and note in the "Dedication" box that you are dedicating to "Thing"!
Thanks to everyone that have always been there for the Buffalo and BFC. We would never exist without the never ending support of our great generosity of BFC supporting Family.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
~ Mike Mease, Campaign Coordinator
Calling all you talented wildlife photographers!
BFC's Calendar has been a popular item for years now, and next year we are scaling up by working with our friends at Small Changes Distributors to get into every co-op and independent bookseller in the country! If you'd like to support Buffalo and BFC while getting your work out there where it will be seen, please submit your photo entries for consideration to be included in BFC's 2024 Calendar.
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: Valentines Day, Tuesday, February 14.