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Yellowstone park bison

Bison graze in snow in Yellowstone Park in November. Montana law effectively prohibits transporting wild park bison in this state unless they are being shipped to slaughter.

In the last two years the Interagency Bison Management Plan has killed almost 1,200 bison in 2018 and 1,300 in 2017. That is about a quarter of the entire Yellowstone herd each year.

All agencies involved in the slaughter know full well how unique and genetically important these bison are to the world. The impact of these killings of a quarter of all the bison in Yellowstone, two years in a row will only be known by our children.

Of the two herds in Yellowstone, the central herd is now less than 1,000 (down from 3,500 in 2005) and that is a direct result of this management plan. The central herd are the survivors of the millions slaughtered and are our last remnant of this country’s truly wild buffalo.

The bison that are being killed are the ones leaving the park, fulfilling their ancestral memory, which is being lost with every death. Bison have to migrated to lower elevations during winter for their survival. The bison being killed are the ones that dare to be bison and migrate out of the park. This is mad science and shows no concern for the long-term impact of the government’s actions.

Buffalo Field Campaign is so concerned that in November of 2014 we filed for an Endangered Species Listing for the Yellowstone herds. Last year we won our first round in the courts. We hope that gaining ESA status will finally give these mighty, sacred creators the protection they need and deserve.

What would Montanans do if we did this to elk? All concern is focused on the bison, who have never transmitted the disease brucellosis, yet the elk roam free and continue to be blamed for spreading the disease to cattle out of the Yellowstone ecosystem. This disease was brought here and transmitted to our wildlife by cattle.

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It is time to do what is right for bison and treat them like we treat all other wildlife in Montana. Millions of acres of habitat have been opened up for elk in what the IBMP calls the designated surveillance area for the disease. This land is open to elk only, why not bison?

Is this a violation of all the treaty tribes’ right to hunt the bison on land that is unclaimed (unclaimed land is state, Forest Service and Burueau of Land Management land)? Is it time for the treaty tribe to sue this management plan as a violation of their treaty rights by not allowing bison to migrate to these lands?

It is time Montana wakes up and stops this insane practice towards bison. The world is watching and is fed up with Montana’s use of tax dollars to kill our national mammal, a keystone species and an American icon.

Mike Mease is the co-founder of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

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Mike Mease is campaign coordinator for Buffalo Field Campaign in West Yellowstone.

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