Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
The snow is rapidly melting, exposing south-facing slopes, and the re-greening of the earth will soon commence. More buffalo have arrived from Yellowstone’s interior to their calving grounds on and around Horse Butte. So far, patrols estimate that there are upwards of about 150 buffalo who have made this spring migration, which is a fraction of the number we typically see here this time of year. Up until about three years ago, the Hebgen Basin would be teeming with 400-600 buffalo, all of who are from the imperiled Central herd. Over the past few springs, this number has significantly declined, and with the massive slaughter conducted by Yellowstone this winter, we don’t expect that we’ll see more than 200-300, and that’s being generous. Nevertheless, groups of buffalo continue to arrive nearly every day. This is keeping our rove patrols — especially night roves — very busy along the highways, helping to warn motorists and attempting to keep buffalo safe as they make this important journey.
Migratory birds have been making their return journey to the Hebgen Basin as well. Bluebirds, Sandhill cranes, osprey, and others have already started to arrive, and more will come soon. Once the ice melts from Hebgen Lake, we will see the return of white pelicans, loons, coots, and others. It is a joyful time of year, witnessing the return of all of these relatives after a long winter absence. Grizzly bears are also emerging from their long winter naps. Patrols found fresh tracks just a couple of weeks ago, but no other sightings as of yet, but if you pay attention, you can feel them there. Just as when the buffalo arrive, after everything they must endure in this industrialized culture, it always feels miraculous that they continue to come. In our hearts we sing them all welcoming songs and give thanks that they are still here.
There is one special friend who we still have not yet seen: the first buffalo calves. We anticipate the beginning of their arrival any day now. So many of the buffalo who are now in the Basin are huge with calf and look like they are quite ready to give birth. It’s also interesting the way buffalo families assist pregnant mothers: Often times, we will see small groups of pregnant adult females, no youngsters or other buffalo with them. This is because they will ask adult females — who are not pregnant -- to babysit, so that they may give birth without having to worry too much about other family members. As we see the pregnant groups, we also see groups that have a few adult females with lots of little ones in their care, nursery groups might be an appropriate term. Buffalo never cease to teach us about themselves and everything we learn is always fascinating, and as we say, every time we think we know all there is to know about buffalo, they teach us something new.
What we learn from the buffalo, we try to apply to our own lives, trying to become better human beings. We also apply what they teach us in our advocacy for them, sharing their stories with the decision-makers who currently control their lives, and usually make bad decisions. There are a few opportunities coming up to share the buffalo’s wisdom with decision-makers. Please join us if you can:
1. Custer Gallatin National Forest Plan Revision Meetings April 21 & 28 in Bozeman and Billings
The Custer Gallatin National Forest will be holding public workshops focussing on the alternatives they are considering for the Forest Plan Revision. The agenda states that the meeting focus will be "Land Allocations such as Recreation Emphasis Areas, Backcountry Areas & Recommended Wilderness Areas & their possible variations; along with uses in those areas. We will have electronic mapping tables and maps on hand.” They go on to say that "Meetings will focus on high-level alternatives and landing at a solid place to start analyzing these alternatives. We won’t be getting into every detail, but are looking to ensure the spectrum of comments we heard is incorporated and that people are able to help give critical feedback in the further development of these alternatives.
You can attend these meetings in person or online. Be sure to tell them that you want the U.S. Forest Service to list bison as a Species of Conservation Concern and that they should be allowed to use all U.S. Forest Service lands.
Agenda (subject to change)
- Welcome, Coffee & Mingle - 9:30 a.m. & Youth Artwork Poster Display - "What does you National Forest Mean to You?" - Vote here by 4/18.
- Workshop Starts - 10:00 a.m.
- Intro & Presentation - Virginia Kelly, Forest Plan Revision Team Leader
- Walk thru Alternatives 10:15 - 11:00
- Smaller breakouts, Focus - Alternatives 11:15 - 12:45/1
- with Place-based mapping tables (GIS specialists)
- Pre-work anticipated - please stay tuned *
Synthesis and Close-out - 1/1:30
Attend virtually if unable to travel: https://usfs.adobeconnect.com/cgpm-500/
2. Interagency Bison Management Plan Meeting, April 25, West Yellowstone, Montana
The state, federal, and tribal entities who currently make all the decisions about how buffalo will live and die, and where, will be gathering in West Yellowstone for an all-day meeting. There is opportunity for public comments, and these agencies really need to hear from us. Please join us if you are able, and if you know of others around southwest Montana, please encourage them to attend as well. BFC and others will be there to represent the buffalo! Meeting details and a draft agenda can be viewed here: http://ibmp.info/Library/20180425/IBMP_WorkingAgenda_for180425_ver180417.pdf
WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!