By Stephany Saey, Media Coordinator  

Last week’s Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) meeting did not bring good news for the national mammal.  

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State, federal, and tribal governments lamented over how they were unable to kill as many buffalo as they wanted to, blaming this on the fact that they delayed capturing until later in the winter, which they did to increase hunting opportunities.  

The hunters were racing against the trap, trying to kill as many buffalo as they could before it opened.  

This caused unethical and dangerous hunting practices, with hunters swarming Yellowstone’s northern boundary waiting for buffalo to take a step out of the Park, and making it impossible for buffalo to migrate through this bottleneck to access larger areas of habitat in the Gardiner Basin.  

Hunting and capture-for-slaughter are being used to destroy the world’s most important buffalo herds exclusively to cater to Montana's livestock industry and rancher intolerance.   

None of the IBMP representatives put forth recommendations to stop the destruction of our national mammal, the sacred buffalo, for the sake of invasive and destructive cattle. They didn't recommend more buffalo on a larger landscape. They didn't suggest that ranchers learn to co-exist with the native wildlife who were here thousands of years before them. What the IBMP agencies did recommend is opening Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek trap earlier this year, so they can kill more buffalo, sooner.

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Livestock interests are honing in on elk as well. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is putting forth a damning proposal to prevent elk from roaming freely in southwest Montana. This proposal was sparked by information gathered from collared elk migrating north into Montana from Wyoming’s elk feedlots — artificial feeding grounds set up for the sole benefit of livestock interests, which ironically, causes unnatural concentrations of elk and therefore increases brucellosis transmissions between elk. The proposal includes more fencing in migration corridors, increased hunting, hazing elk away from cattle, and even hazing elk herds away from other elk herds — an impossibly foolish idea.  

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission discussed this proposal today. BFC attended and documented the meeting, and we listened to the live stream. From what we heard, the only support for this proposal is from the Montana Department of Livestock and the cattle ranching industry. During the meeting, the Commission voted to remove the language about hazing elk away from other elk, and the amended proposal will be out for pubic comment soon. We will share more information when available.  
Aside from the proposal itself, the really frustrating thing is that numerous hunting and conservation groups spoke out against the proposal, using the exact same arguments we use against hazing and slaughtering of the buffalo — yet, except for a small few, most of these groups remain silent when it comes to the fate of wild bison.

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As we know, the problem is not brucellosis, wild elk, or wild buffalo. The problem is livestock. Yet all these wildlife “management” decisions are based on the premise that livestock grazing in the West is a given, that it trumps all else, and that wildlife must move over or pay the price.  

There are very few of us who challenge the hegemony of this destructive industry. Cattle are not native to the American West and, rather than continue down the dead-end, wasteful, destructive path of harassing and killing more migratory elk and buffalo (or wolves, grizzly bears, prairie dogs, etc.) to benefit livestock, we need to question the entitlement, intolerance, and power of the livestock industry.  

Remove the cattle, remove the problem.   

For the earth, it’s a good place to start.  
Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free! 
~ Stephany