As summer starts to wane, times are becoming difficult and we are seeing coronavirus cases and mask mandates rise in my neck of the woods. On top of that, wildfires and extreme heat events have kept my family from gathering. Traditional gathering locations and huckleberry patches burned before they ripened. Tribal members had to roam a wider area and some even left the homelands in search of berries. Even now wildfires burn on my reservation and threaten entire communities. Recently, I traveled to the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. Salmon face extreme heat stressed from warm water in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and we are on the verge of a huge fish kill if temperature continues to increase throughout the connected River Systems of the West. I read a blog yesterday that detailed how wolf pups are being shot at the den by state-funded hunters. It seems futile, at times, when we witness the impacts of human-caused environmental degradation. I look at my kids, and I know I cannot give up the good fight. We must press on to protect critical wildlife species and the wild landscapes our unborn future generations will need more than ever.
In spite of dire environmental conditions, Montana lawmakers foolishly enact laws that harm wild Yellowstone bison. The state has left us no alternative but to pursue a remedy at the national level. It’s time for federal and tribal governments to spearhead the protection of wildlife and ecosystems necessary to cope with and prepare for climate change. We must be better stewards of the land that is borrowed from the generations that come after us. Corporations and politicians continue to negatively impact wildlife, water, and land, creating a future of even scarcer resources. We must do better.
Now is the time to expand the footprint of ecosystem protection to fully incorporate the role of law and science in the management of our natural resources. Managing wild bison as a public trust to promote their restorative role in the flourishing of the Yellowstone ecosystem must be done. The consistent advocacy and leadership of treaty tribes to expand year-round habitat for bison and re-populate wild buffalo herds is the example the federal government needs to follow. Treaty tribes have been consistent with Buffalo Field Campaign’s demands to increase bison populations and habitat.
Recent passage of the “deplorable” Montana laws, signed by Governor Gianforte, makes clear Montana’s anti wild buffalo stance. Federal agencies, along with the tribes, must now take the lead to protect wild Yellowstone bison under the public trust. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service must assume federal supremacy in wild bison management in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. The United States Forest Service must support wild bison habitat outside the Yellowstone National Park boundary. The Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) must change the way they address brucellosis eradication and management. The federal government has granted unilateral authority to states such as Montana to mismanage endangered species, including wild Yellowstone bison, threatening many species with human-caused extinction. The American People and our public trust resources are being dominated by special interests. Federal agencies must follow the rule of law and end this travesty of bison mismanagement before it’s too late.
Climate change is here. I know that we are decades out from witnessing the full effect of greenhouse gases on the world. All species of wildlife, ecosystems across the country, and lifegiving water must be protected. As a parent, I look into the wondrous eyes of my children and I worry about the sheer and gluttonous destruction humans are causing. With wild bison and many of our most dire environmental issues, we have common sense, science, and the invaluable perspectives of indigenous knowledge to help us soften the blow of climate change and begin the healing process for future generations. My heart is with wild bison, and our Mother Earth. With you by my side, I will continue on this path.
For the Bison,
James Holt Sr.
Executive Director, Buffalo Field Campaign