We're at about the halfway point here in BFC's field season, and we thought it would be a good time to give a cheer to the tens of thousands of supporters like you who receive our weekly updates, follow us on social media, and help us to move the needle for Yellowstone Buffalo. It's been a challenging season for us, with an early migration of wild bison resulting in thousands outside the Park, telling us in their own determined way that they're ready to re-inhabit the entire Yellowstone ecosystem. This week, rather than focusing on the continuing problems associated with mismanagement by Montana's livestock industry, we want to rejoice over some of the more positive developments that we are making, together.
Jeremiah sending out some peace, love and light to all of BFC's supporters.
Last week, we asked you to contact Superintendent Sholly's office and demand transparency. Proving once again that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, we received a full and fair disclosure from the Superintendent's office late the same day that many of you began contacting him. We were informed that a total of 88 bison, mostly females and yearlings, were shipped off to slaughter last week, but that no more shipments are being planned. In fact, from their response, it is evident that they heard you, and are sympathetic to our demands:
We have shipped a small number of non-eligible animals to slaughter, in agreement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) for dissemination of hides and meat to Tribal members. These shipments will continue however we are committed to keeping these numbers as low as possible and continuing to decrease this method of population management in future years.
While we do have many bison in the capture facility now, that doesn’t mean all will be shipped to slaughter. We will do our best to fill the BCTP capacity, continue supporting Tribal/state harvest efforts and decide on what to do with the remaining non-eligible bison in the facility. Like we have in past years, we may just hold them until spring and release them back into the park. We do not plan on shipping all ineligible bison to slaughter.
We greatly appreciate the BFC’s advocacy for Yellowstone bison. While we share your frustration with bison being shipped to slaughter, we encourage you to also focus on the external factors that continue to constrain bison generally to the Yellowstone boundary.
That response reflects the power that we collectively possess, and we should never hesitate to exercise it. Perhaps more so than any previous administration, this Superintendent and his staff biologists seem genuinely concerned with doing right by both bison and the tribes. We can leverage that good will for fundamental change, though it will take some patience and a lot of hard work on our part.
We also asked all of you to sign and share the petition to our federal land stewards for a Buffalo Wildlife Bridge to be built across U.S. Highway 191 near West Yellowstone, and boy did you respond! We are nearing 50,000 signatures now! Change.org has decided to promote it even further, so expect that number to continue to rise. And yes, it is making a real difference -
Superintendent Sholly has reached out to BFC for a sit-down meeting at this office to explore what he and the Park Service can do to make sure this bridge is built. We will let you know what comes of that.
As you probably know, the reason that a Buffalo Wildlife Bridge is needed there is to ensure safe passage of Yellowstone's imperiled central herd to their year-round habitat and traditional calving grounds on Horse Butte in Montana. That habitat would not even exist but for the years of struggle over the annual hazing that used to occur there. And we have more good news on that front ~ the population of the central herd seems to have stabilized for the time being. The most recent arial survey by the Park found about 1200 central herd bison, which is right about where they were the last time they took a census. We will continue to do our best to avoid bison-vehicle collisions around West Yellowstone, especially when they begin coming out in the Spring. You can help, of course, by scheduling some time here yourself to assist us in these critical efforts. And if you can't be here, you can still show your support by joining the Buffalo Backbone program (scroll down) -- and thanks to all of you who've already done so this season! Your consistent support means the world to us.
We have much more exciting news to share with you in the coming weeks, beginning with the addition of a new staff person we know you're going to love. But we'll save that for next week. We don't want to overload you with good news!
Thanks to all of you, BFC is stronger than ever - and that's saying a LOT!
For the Buffalo,
Tom Woodbury, BFC Director of Communications