Dear Buffalo Supporters,
We did it! We made it to the Winter Solstice. It is time we celebrate the path you have shared with Buffalo Field Campaign as we stand with Yellowstone buffalo. For the Nimiipuu the winter solstice is a spiritual time for communing together in ceremony and celebrating life. It is no different for our family at Buffalo Field Campaign. This past year the Campaign overcame hardship and adversity to achieve good things for Brother and Sister Buffalo on your behalf. While my staff is busy with a field season in full swing, it is important that I reflect back on our productive year and offer words for the future.
If you can remember, last year’s field season ended much the same as previous years. That is to say, with profound sadness at the senseless death of hundreds of slaughtered wild buffalo. The bright spot during the hardships of the field season is the annual Rosalie Little Thunder Memorial Walk. My family took part in the walk for the first time this past year, and it was a powerful experience. We walked sacred steps, honoring Yellowstone Buffalo and the sacrifice of our late co-founder. My family carries the memories and power of that walk in our hearts. With covid-19 vaccinations slowly permeating the country, I hope we get to share this important event again this year. My fingers are crossed, and the sweetgrass has been offered. If the event can be safely held, I hope you can join us this year. If we cannot come together in person for this Walk, we will hold one virtually.
A female buffalo from the imperiled Central herd. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
The pandemic has impacted Americans in a myriad of ways. The processes that govern Yellowstone buffalo were no exception. Federal agencies adopted alternative methods to gather public comments, and provide access to their staff in limited capacities. The Campaign felt the pinch of those alternative federal processes. Federal quarantine protocols hindered communications, with unknown avenues, created by the alternative modes of access. Those alternative methods were difficult to maneuver through. However, that didn’t stop the Campaign or our supporters. We trudged through the quagmire and filed the necessary documents where we had to. Together, we submitted thousands of comments in support of listing Yellowstone buffalo as a Species of Conservation Concern in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. We loudly called for the continued vacancy of the East Paradise Grazing Allotments. Last but not least, we finalized our Freedom of Information Act complaint against the National Park Service with a huge victory. We uncovered communications that considered managing Yellowstone buffalo as domesticated cattle, which was critical in drawing attention to the misguided priorities of the Interagency Bison Management Plan. State and federal agencies can do better for our National Mammal, and together we will continue to hold them accountable.
Another great event for 2020 was the Room to Roam Project on Horse Butte. Restoring those acres to native grasses was an extremely meaningful experience. Working alongside my family for the benefit of the land and buffalo filled me with gratitude. I strengthened my connection to those people I hold dearest, the landscape, and wild buffalo. The Campaign looks forward to exploring more opportunities for regional habitat improvement projects.
The Visioning Retreat held in October was a momentous occasion for Buffalo Field Campaign. We opened our hearts and minds to each other for Brother and Sister Buffalo. We centered ourselves and our operations to adapt to the changing landscape that is Yellowstone buffalo management. Taking into consideration the legislative, policy, and management changes in the works, we know it is important to stay relevant in the tribal-state-federal buffalo nexus. With the elections behind us, we acknowledge the work that must be done to educate incoming legislators on the plight of the country’s last wild buffalo. The retreat facilitated the review and amendment of our policy and fundraising strategies. The retreat also created programming that provided for the “rut video” we have that went viral. Our retreat was crucial in maintaining morale and spirit for our important work.
A mama buffalo craters through snow to get to the life-giving grasses below. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
Now that our field season is in full swing we immediately realize the impacts of the infamous Interagency Bison Management Plan. In the Gardiner area, we will soon be witnessing the capture of wild buffalo via domesticated feedlot conditions outside Yellowstone National Park’s Stephens Creek Trap. These winter operations equate to wildlife baiting. Baiting buffalo is accomplished by placing hay feed near the quarantine facility as an easily accessible food source. Wild Yellowstone buffalo are then easily hazed into the Stephens Creek Trap at the National Park Service’s convenience. From there, and since there are no long-term quarantine facilities available this year, the captured buffalo will be shipped to slaughter. In West Yellowstone, hunting has already impacted the suppressed Central herd. With the state and tribes initiating hunts in the West Yellowstone area, we see yet another management tool hindering the Central herd’s ability to respond to climate change, build resilience against disease, and secure the herd’s genetic diversity. Until these atrocious management actions are halted and the buffalo are allowed to freely roam the ecosystem, our work is not done.
Because our work is incomplete, legislative and policy strategies must continue to be developed. Continuing our field presence is critical in fostering public awareness about the atrocities of existing buffalo management. Nurturing our relationships with allies and tribes is necessary in achieving critical mass, so we can all demand agencies adopt scientifically-grounded management for Brother and Sister Buffalo. Our National Mammal and keystone species for the Yellowstone Ecosystem continue to need our help! Rewilding the large landscape that is the Greater Yellowstone Area is imperative in accomplishing our mission. We will not stop until we realize this vision. Your voice and ongoing support are the only way we can achieve the goals we have set.
Humbly, I honor you for your sacrifices and support for Brother and Sister Buffalo and Buffalo Field Campaign. Respectfully, I am grateful that you have chosen to stand with Yellowstone buffalo in their plight to roam freely across the land. Boldly, I look forward, knowing you stand with me as I advocate for us all. I will use my heart and spirit, acting with the knowledge that you support the majestic being that is wild Yellowstone buffalo.
Qeciyewyew (thank you) my friends and relatives for all you do. We cannot do this without you, and together we will achieve success. I pray for good things for you, your loved ones, and all living things this coming year.
James Holt, Sr.
Executive Director, Buffalo Field Campaign
“The Earth and I are of One Mind.”- Chief Joseph, Nimiipuu (Nez Perce)