From 1985 up to the winter of 2007-08, more than 6,300 buffalo have been killed outside Yellowstone National Park (YNP) in the Gardiner and West Yellowstone areas. In these two areas are fewer cattle and ranches and more publicly owned land than in any other area in Montana and in the last 60 years, sportsmen have spent millions of dollars purchasing wildlife winter ranges in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA).
Because of deep snow the buffalo walk across YNP boundaries to forage on winter ranges, but there they are condemned to certain slaughter by Montana stock growers and USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). In 1999, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) gave $13 million to the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) to accommodate buffalo, but buffalo received no benefit from this expenditure. Since 2000 $16 million in taxpayers’ dollars have been squandered on killing buffalo after the questionable Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) was approved. In the 2003 Legislature, Senator Gary Perry introduced Senate Bill 395 which reestablished the buffalo hunt, but “only when authorized by Department of Livestock and the Livestock Veterinarian.” SB 395 gave wide authority to DOL and the Livestock Veterinarian, resulting in the accelerated slaughter of buffalo that we see today.
We MUST return buffalo management back to the reluctant FWP to be managed as wildlife and not as diseased livestock by DOL. The IBMP is just not working. It squanders millions and continues the unconscionable slaughter. Stock growers must be convinced to accept buffalo as Montana wildlife. Brucellosis is a manageable disease. Montanans have been living with it for 100 years, when it was brought from Europe by stock growers. We must delineate “brucellosis management areas” in the GYA where buffalo can occupy public lands and cattle grazing on public lands would be managed to comply with sufficient rules to protect our state’s brucellosis-free status.
Buffalo are stolid creatures, not necessarily fearful of man, honest, straightforward, and unquestionably suited to our climate (look at their suit of clothes), where cattle hunker up and die, if not cared for. Buffalo are free and take care of themselves. What animal is more suited to Montana? To control their family grouping populations in balance with available forage, buffalo could be discretely hunted by state permits managed by FWP. Hunters would come from all parts of the world to hunt buffalo in their native environment and spend large amounts of dollars to Montana’s recreation economy. Instead we now have a YNP boundary shoot that serves as a poor excuse for hunting.
For 2008, FWP is proposing to give CUT $3.3 million for a worthless 30-year easement where 25 vaccinated buffalo with vaginally inserted transmitters will be allowed to walk north on a public road, only to be hazed back to YNP in April of each year. This travesty is a classic case of stock growers externalizing costs to the public while controlling range and wildlife.
April 23, 2008