FoA, Buffalo Field Campaign file rule-making petition to stop slaughter of buffalo in Yellowstone Park
(West Yellowstone MT)— Did you know that Yellowstone National Park and other government agencies behind the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) are planning to slaughter 900 buffalo this coming winter under the guise of “disease risk management” even though there has never been a documented case of a wild bison transmitting brucellosis—a bacterial disease that affects livestock and wildlife—to cattle?
In an effort to avert the bloodshed, Friends of Animals (FoA) and the Buffalo Field Campaign filed an emergency rulemaking petition Sept. 15 with the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to protect the genetic diversity and viability of the bison of Yellowstone National Park. They are requesting that the NPS and USFS undertake a population study and revise the IBMP to correct scientific deficiencies, make the plan consistent with the best available science, and follow the legal mandates the U.S. Congress has set. Until then, the groups are also requesting that the capture, removal or killing of bison at the Stephens Creek area of Yellowstone National Park and the Horse Butte area of the Gallatin National Forest be prohibited.
“Yellowstone National Park and other federal agencies are required to follow the best available science and not the latest political whims of Montana,” said Daniel Brister, executive director of Buffalo Field Campaign. “Our joint petition seeks redress to ensure the buffalo are protected for future generations. The IBMP currently is heavily weighted in favor of protecting the profits of the livestock industry at the expense and peril of our nation's only continuously wild bison population.”
Every winter and spring, snow and ice cover the bison’s food and hunger pushes them to lower elevations across the park boundary in Montana. When they cross this arbitrary line, the buffalo enter a zone of violent conflict with ranchers. Last winter 653 bison were slaughtered, and back in the winter of 2007/2008, the largest scale wild buffalo slaughter, claimed the lives of 1,631 animals. At the turn of the 20th century, similar reckless behavior nearly drove bison to extinction.
“Slaughtering wild bison is the livestock industry's way of eliminating competition and maintaining control of grazing lands surrounding Yellowstone National Park and across the west,” Brister said. “Montana's livestock industry continues to use brucellosis to frighten and mislead the public into supporting its discrimination against bison. There has never been a single case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to livestock.”
The IBMP was designed to be an adaptive management plan allowing for greater tolerance for bison as new information becomes available and conditions on the ground change, but no such tolerance has been afforded to the bison. Despite new scientific research showing that the Yellowstone population is comprised of distinct herds with unique genetics and behaviors, the agencies continue to treat Yellowstone bison as though they comprise a single homogeneous herd, Brister said.
“We want to make sure that each herd has a viable population number so that we are not starting to degrade the species,” said Mike Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “Right now they are managing the numbers based largely upon misinformation regarding the genetic viability of the herds. The data they are using is not the best available data right now. They are using data that doesn’t match up with what is the actual status of the herd populations in the park. The petition is asking the federal agencies responsible for protecting these animals make an effort to establish stronger scientific criteria to protect the viability of the remaining Yellowstone herds, and to stop slaughtering the last 4,000 genetically pure bison left in the United States.”