Buffalo Advocate Prevents the Capture of 50 Buffalo

For Immediate Release:
April 7, 2004

Dan Brister (406) 646-0070

West Yellowstone, Montana - 24 year-old Akiva Silver disrupted the Montana Department of Livestock's (DOL) plans to capture buffalo today by perching himself upon a platform suspended from a 45-foot pole (monopod) erected in the Horse Butte buffalo trap. The monopod is supported by ropes anchored to the outer walls and gates of the trap, making it impossible for agents to capture buffalo. A large banner hanging from the platform reads, "Bison Trap Closed to Protect Wildlife."

Silver, who witnessed the capture of hundreds of buffalo by the Park Service near Gardiner last month, said, "I refuse to stand by and watch my government destroy the last vestige of wilderness left in North America. These are public lands belonging to all Americans and the DOL has no right to slaughter buffalo here or anywhere else." He went on to add, "Since buffalo are being killed by the very agencies entrusted with their protection, it has become the responsibility of American citizens to protect them on our own. This is why I am here today."

A group of 50 buffalo migrated past the trap this morning, eliciting cheers from the Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers who had gathered to support Silver. "It was as if the buffalo were celebrating the trap's closure," said BFC spokesperson Dan Brister, "Had Akiva not been up there, those fifty buffalo now grazing peacefully along the Madison River would be in the trap awaiting slaughter."

The trap is located on the Gallatin National Forest in an area that provides crucial habitat for the Yellowstone buffalo and myriad other species. The Department of Livestock has operated a buffalo trap here since 1999 under a Special Use Permit from the Forest Service. The agency has used the Horse Butte trap to capture and slaughter hundreds of Yellowstone buffalo.

While the livestock disease brucellosis is the stated reason for the slaughter, there has never been a documented case of wild buffalo transmitting the disease to livestock. Since the Horse Butte grazing allotment was closed in 2002, there have been no cattle grazing on National Forest lands on the Butte, making any transmission of brucellosis absolutely impossible.

Since November the Department of Livestock and Park Service have slaughtered 277 buffalo, the most killed in a single year since 1996-'97, when the agencies killed nearly 1,100. In the past ten years the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and NPS have slaughtered 2,778 buffalo in and around Yellowstone National Park. Buffalo slaughter is costing federal taxpayers more than $3 million a year.

Agents from the Department of Livestock, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, Gallatin County Sheriff's Department, and the West Yellowstone Police Department arrived on the scene before noon, but were unable to remove Silver or his structure.

The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter of Yellowstone's wild buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo on their traditional winter habitat and advocate for their protection. Daily patrols stand with the buffalo on the ground they choose to be on and document every move made against them.

The following statement was written by Akiva Silver:

I refuse to stand by and watch my government freely destroy what wildlife there is left.

Once it was illegal to hide a runaway slave, it was illegal for women to vote. Nations have been colonized, and holocausts have been committed. In all these situations people have fought back. They refused to accept what they knew to be wrong.

I am doing my best by non-violent means to stop this assault on the buffalo. I believe that as long as I can remain inside the Hose butte trap, no buffalo will be captured here. This is why I am here.

I have broken our laws. I am sacrificing my freedom and safety because my beliefs demand it. I have stood with these buffalo so many times, on so many days to the point where I recognize some as individuals. I've watched them fall asleep on river beds, in open fields and in forests. I've seen them run and play. I've been within a few feet of live buffalo, and been humbled as they looked into my eyes. I have seen hundreds of buffalo chased, captured, tortured, and sent to slaughterhouses.

The things I have seen my government do to these buffalo has made me cry. The things I saw made me stay up at night and think about what I could do for the buffalo migrating to Horse Butte this spring.

So here I am. Maybe you think my actions are extreme. I feel that the slaughter and harassment of the last wild herd of bison is more extreme. This is my way of helping people understand what is happening to the buffalo.

National forests should provide sanctuary for wildlife. Instead, they are being managed to appease livestock producers, whose hands are bloody with the buffalo slaughter.

The Department of Livestock has no business managing buffalo. The Department of Livestock should stick to managing livestock. Why on Earth is the Department of Livestock managing the last herd of wild buffalo in America?

Akiva Silver