2018 11 29 02 001 IBMP1 BFC Stephany Seay photo
Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign

Buffalo Field Campaign attended the winter Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) meeting at Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Montana on November 28th, 2018. We are sad to report that the news from this meeting was bad for the future of the precious Yellowstone buffalo. Much work is needed to defend these sacred animals from the misguided and dangerous actions of the IBMP, the body that is tasked with their “management."

We were very disheartened to hear that the US. Forest Service has decided not to list buffalo as a Species of Conservation Concern (Report American Bison A Species of Conservation Concern 02-04-2018, PDF) on the Gallatin National fForest in their Forest plan revision. The US Forest Service (USFS) has determined that there is not substantial concern for the future of wild buffalo on National Forest lands even though wild buffalo are currently ecologically extinct and can no longer fulfill their keystone ecological roles in the wild.

Representatives from the USFS stated they will designate wild buffalo as having a “distinctive role and contribution” on the National Forest even though there are no actual buffalo currently living on the National Forest. This designation actually allows for hunting and other uses of wild buffalo on the National Forest while giving no protection to these imperiled herds.

Yellowstone National Park again recommended a total kill goal of 600-900 wild buffalo this winter. This is the same kill goal that YNP announced last winter, then exceeded it by 200 animals, resulting in the killing of close to 25% of the total buffalo population.

In order to meet their kill goals Yellowstone National Park proposes to capture buffalo and ship them to slaughter throughout the winter. Capture operations will commence as soon as 200 buffalo are seen past Mammoth and continue mercilessly until kill goals are met or exceeded.

In addition to announcing plans for the annual buffalo slaughter, YNP bison biologists reported some disturbing trends in the current populations. They reported an increasingly dramatic change in the proportion of males to females the Yellowstone herds. Females and young are killed in greater numbers than males in capture for slaughter operations. This is disturbing the natural balance of the Yellowstone herds and currently males are outnumbering females in alarming numbers. Shockingly, this information has not in anyway impacted YNP’s plans to kill buffalo this winter.

2018 11 29 02 002 IBMP2 BFC Stephany Seay photo
Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign

Tribal representatives were the only voices heard in opposition to the ongoing slaughter being conducted by YNP. Multiple tribal representatives stated their serious concerns that large culls every winter are not sustainable and could eventually seriously impact their ability to exercise their treaty hunting rights.

Marty Zeluski, state veterinarian representing the Montana Department of Livestock, was quick to point out that treaty hunting rights are only a “tool” for the IMPB to meet their population reduction goals. Buffalo Field Campaign supports treaty rights and is committed to wild free roaming buffalo to fulfill treaty obligations and to ensure that wild buffalo persist for generations to come.

The dangers of large culls are very clear to BFC as the Yellowstone buffalo herds, the last hope for wild free roaming buffalo in the United States, are pushed ever closer to extinction by misguided and dangerous management on the part of Yellowstone National Park and the State of Montana. The very entities entrusted to protect these precious animals.

In another piece of shocking and terrible news for the future of wild bison, Montana’s Department of Livestock announced that they have applied to the US Forest Service for a renewal of their permit to operate a buffalo trap on Horse Butte, the traditional calving grounds of the endangered central herd. The Horse Butte trap has not been put up since 2008, and Horse Butte is now part of the buffalo’s year-round habitat, where hazing no longer takes place. The DOL asked that language in the operating plan that indicated trapping buffalo on Horse Butte was a thing of the past be removed, leaving an opening for such trapping to again occur. There was no opposition heard at the meeting to removal of language that would preclude this action on the part of DOL and no further discussion was held on this shocking development. Buffalo Field Campaign will be following this story closely and we stand ready to defend wild buffalo on Horse Butte with every legal avenue available to us, and with our bodies if necessary.

In face of all of this, Buffalo Field Campaign remains committed to the defense of sacred wild buffalo. We will never give up and we will continue to love the buffalo and work hard for their protection and long term safety. We are working hard and have high hopes for the success of our Endangered Species Act petition, to gain strong protections for the Yellowstone Buffalo.

Please help us by spreading the word about the plight of these gentle giants. Consider coming to our headquarters to volunteer in field. Thank you so much to all of our supporters and friends. We could not do this work without you.

For The Buffalo,
The BFC Family