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Buffalo Field Campaign Report

Dear Buffalo Friends,

Things in the field have been relatively quiet these past few weeks.
We are busy gathering the firewood that will keep us warm throughout
West Yellowstone's long and serious winter. A lot of hard work and
heavy lifting goes into wood-gathering for the BFC family and we are
so grateful to everyone who has put their back into keeping the fires
lit! Tabling inside Yellowstone National Park continues for the next
couple of weeks, with volunteers talking to hundreds of park visitors
about the wild buffalo and braving the heat and the smoke of
countless fires.

Coordinators are busy around BFC headquarters,
working on the vehicles that will convey us on our field patrols,
keeping the office and administrative functions going strong, tending
to the garden and gathering wild foods and medicines. While summer
is a relatively quiet time in the field, it is still a busy one. Many
thanks to everyone who keeps the campaign going, and especially to
all of you - the buffalo's faithful friends - who help keep us in the
field, working in defense of the last wild buffalo.

We have very important news to share with you:

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has recently issued a notice,
inviting the public to submit any information concerning the
Yellowstone wild buffalo herd, and threats to them and their habitat.
Now is the time to make a strong case to the FWS that this special
herd and their *historic* native range should be considered for
protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

This notice comes in response to a letter submitted by a citizen from
Minnesota, Mr. James Horsley, who filed a petition on January 5,
1999, urging the government to protect the Yellowstone herd - the
last wild buffalo left in America - under the ESA. Mr. Horsley, if
you are reading these words, THANK YOU! Never underestimate the
power of an individual!

With the FWS notice comes both good news and bad news:

The good news is that FWS recognizes that the wild population of
American buffalo currently living in and around Yellowstone National
Park meets the criteria of a Distinct Population Segment (DPS). As
you know, BFC has been circulating a petition for years to bolster
support for protecting the Yellowstone herd - America's last wild
buffalo - as a Distinct Population Segment. Further, FWS also
recognizes that Yellowstone National Park is the *only* place in the
U.S. where wild bison have continuously existed since prehistoric

The bad news is that FWS has failed to adequately research and
address the wild buffalo's historic range, which covered hundreds of
millions, of acres across North America. They didn't even bother to
identify the historic range of the last wild Yellowstone herd. The
FWS is only considering the interior of Yellowstone National Park and
the Gardiner Basin (north of Yellowstone) to be significant habitat
in their native range, and in that context - which is based on
grossly insubstantial and incomplete research - they do not feel that
the last wild buffalo are at risk of extinction.

But there's more good news: we have an opportunity to help FWS change
their minds and reconsider their decision. The task before us now is
to urge FWS to conduct substantial, thorough research to establish
what has been lost and what can be recovered. We must - and we can -
clearly demonstrate that the so-called Yellowstone bison population -
and its historic native range - is endangered and warrants full
protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The fact is, the so-called Yellowstone buffalo are the last
continuously wild American buffalo left in the United States. Once
numbering an estimated 25 to 50 million, and present from Florida to
Alaska, Canada to Mexico, today wild buffalo are ecologically extinct
throughout nearly all their native range, and cut off from all of
their historic migration routes. Yellowstone is the last stronghold
for the wild American buffalo, who follow their nomadic instincts and
are still genetically pure buffalo. This remnant herd represents the
last of the nation's wild buffalo, not simply inhabitants of the
Yellowstone region. Yellowstone just happened to be the place where
23 individual buffalo escaped the horrendous 19th century slaughter,
and they haven't migrated out of there because the government and
cattle industry will not let them. We are all too familiar with this
ongoing part of the buffalo's story.

This is a great opportunity for us to set the record straight and
help gain strong protection for America's last wild buffalo! BFC has
read through FWS's findings, and has pulled out some major points
that must be addressed. Please see the action item below, read
through the talking points, backed up by some of the supporting
scientific evidence. Contact information for submitting your
comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is below. Please pass
this on to everyone you know. This is an opportunity of unbelievable
proportions to make a real and lasting difference for America's last
wild buffalo and their native habitat!

Roam Free!

* TAKE ACTION: Send Comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service!

Everyone who cares about wild buffalo should write, email, and make
calls to the USFWS asking that they reconsider their decision. You
may use the following talking points (starting with the *). We will
keep you posted and provide more information as we move forward.

To read the FWS notice please visit

To read Mr. Horsley's petition to FWS please visit


1. Please strongly urge the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to
reconsider their decision not to protect America's last wild buffalo
under the Endangered Species Act. FWS must fully research and
explore the bison's historic native range, migratory corridors, and
the Yellowstone herd's genetic significance.

2. Use the talking points below to help you formulate your comments.
Use our talking points as guidelines ONLY, putting them into your own
words, making them your own. Decision-makers will not count comments
that all look the same.

3. Add your own personal thoughts, sentiments, stories, books, maps,
songs and more about wild buffalo, and tell the FWS what wild buffalo
in North America mean to you and the living landscape.
~*~ Help us fill in the story-lines of yesterday! Many Americans
have only a contemporary understanding of the buffalo's historic
range. Tribal members from the Indigenous Cultures who evolved and
coexisted with the buffalo can contribute significantly, helping to
fill in the many gaps that still exist, by sharing stories, songs,
and indigenous knowledge of the buffalo's ancestral landscape and
significance, what the people and the land have suffered in their
absence, and what their return would mean.

4. Spread the word to save the herd! Get every individual and group
you can to submit similar comments on the herd and its native habitat.

Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Suite 645
Lakewood, CO 80228
Telephone 303-236-4253
Facsimile 303-236-0027
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

* The USFWS finding makes no mention of how bison came to occupy the
Yellowstone Plateau. This is an important discussion - missing from
their finding - about the bison's historic and native range within
the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Without this discussion, the
public has no way to judge whether bison are threatened or endangered
within all or a significant portion of their native range.

Dr. Mary Meagher, retired bison ecologist for YNP, believes the
Yellowstone bison migrated from the surrounding river valleys
following plant green up into the mountain ecosystem and were able to
establish an indigenous herd because Yellowstone's unique geothermal
features provide bison winter range.

Paradise Valley, along the Yellowstone River, is just one of the
river valleys with documented bison jumps, and other archaeological
evidence of bison inhabiting habitat that the USFWS did not consider
in its finding.

"The Lamar Valley and the Yellowstone River Valley north of the park
(Figure 4.1) to Livingston and beyond was an important area for bison
and Native peoples throughout the Holocene. This system can be
considered the original Northern Range for Yellowstone bison,
functioning as an ecological continuum of grasslands that likely
supported seasonal migrations by bison as far south as the high
elevation ranges in the Upper Lamar Valley. Davis and Zeier
(1978:224) described the lower Yellowstone Valley as an exceptional
area for Native people to gather, drive and kill bison. Eight bison
jumps and three kill sites have been documented south of Livingston.
The closest jump site to YNP is 25 km north of the park boundary. It
was used during the late prehistoric period between 1,700 and 200
b.p. (Cannon 1992). There is evidence of a human use corridor from
the Gallatin and Madison River drainages into the interior
Yellowstone National Park. Several major bison kill sites are located
in the Gallatin Valley outside of Bozeman Montana." C. Cormack Gates
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, A Critical Review With Implications for
Winter Use and Transboundary Population Management, April 2005.

* The USFWS finding also make no mention of migratory corridors, an
important biological consideration for maintaining the bison's
habitat and genetic fitness, and making a sound determination on the
extant of the bison's native range.

Long distance migration, a characteristic that defines wild bison as
a nomadic, herd animal that once thundered across the plains, is
gone. In The Last Mile: How to Sustain Long-Distance Migration in
Mammals, (Conservation Biology, Pages 320-331, Volume 18, No. 2,
April 2004) Joel Berger examined the "ecological phenomena" of
accentuated treks of ungulates and found that 100% of historic and
current routes for bison are lost.

* The USFWS also fails to consider that wild bison as a native
wildlife species are at risk of genomic extinction. A vast number of
the 500,000 bison you see on the land have been bred with cattle.
Conservatively, wild pure bison managed as a wildlife species number
around 4,000 in the United States: 450 bison in Wind Cave and 3,600
bison in Yellowstone.

The extensive prevalence of cattle genes in public and private bison
herds, habitat fragmentation, limited range and herd sizes, isolated
populations, artificial selection, intensive management and fenced
ranges, and non-native disease are just some of the risk factors of
ecological extinction that the USFWS failed to consider in its

Curtis Freese along with several scientists writes in the Second
chance for the plains bison, (Biol. Conserv. (2007),): "Small herd
size, artificial selection, cattle-gene introgression, and other
factors threaten the diversity and integrity of the bison genome. In
addition, the bison is for all practical purposes ecologically
extinct across its former range, with multiple consequences for
grassland biodiversity. Urgent measures are needed to conserve the
wild bison genome and to restore the ecological role of bison in
grassland ecosystems."

"Today, the plains bison is for all practical purposes ecologically
extinct within its original range."

* USFWS utterly failed to discuss the ecological importance of bison
and the vital, keystone role they play in maintaining ecosystem
health and function. The Endangered Species Act is one sense an
endangered ecosystems law. Extirpation of bison from their native
range is also an indication that the prairie ecosystem they played a
part in forming is also at risk of extinction.

"Bison were a keystone species of the prairie ecosystem;
significantly affecting the way the prairie grassland ecosystem
evolved and playing an important role in maintaining it. Wild bison
remain ecologically extinct in Montana. The State of Montana
Department of Livestock has prevented the natural dispersal of wild
bison into Montana from Yellowstone National Park because of disease
issues while no attempts are underway to restore the species outside
of this controversial region. Current management of private, state
and Federal bison herds is leading towards domestication of bison
that threatens their wild character and limits important natural
selection processes." Position Statement of the Montana Chapter of
The Wildlife Society on Wild Bison in Montana, signed by the
Executive Board of The Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and
adopted April 11, 2000.

* The USFWS puts great faith in the "contingency measures" of the
Interagency Bison Management Plan and its "successful management" to
prevent the loss of the bison population.

Continued removals of large numbers of wild bison under the
interagency plan may threaten the genetic viability and integrity of
the Yellowstone bison herd's subpopulation structure. Scientists
have identified two distinct breeding grounds that help maintain
genetic diversity within the herd. However, there is no evidence
that the interagency plan has considered subpopulation structure in
its management decisions and actions.

"The current practice of culling bison without regard to possible
subpopulation structure has potentially negative consequences of
reduced genetic diversity and alteration of current genetic
constitution both within individual subpopulations and the overall
YNP bison population.

Since bison are known to naturally assemble in matriarchal groups
including several generations of related females and the most recent
calf crop (Seton 1937; Haines 1995), it is possible that the culling
of bison at the YNP boundaries is non-random with respect to family
groups, a practice that over sufficient time may lead to systematic
loss of genetic variation.
The caveat, however, is that caution must be practiced in the
management of populations with substructure to ensure the maintenance
of both subpopulation and total population variation. The YNP bison
population has not previously been managed with this consideration in
mind. For example, 1,084 bison were removed from YNP in the winter of
1996-97, representing a 31.5% decrease in total population size. Even
more troubling, however, is the inequality in the reductions across
the Northern and Central herds. While the Northern herd suffered a
loss of approximately 83.9% (726/825), the Central herd was reduced
by only around 13.9% (358/2,571; Peter Gogan pers. comm.). If in
fact the Yellowstone bison population is represented by 2 or 3
different subpopulations, disproportionate removals of bison from
various subpopulations might have detrimental long-term genetic
consequences." Natalie Dierschke Halbert, The Utilization of Genetic
Markers to Resolve Modern Management Issues in Historic Bison
Populations: Implications for Species Conservation, December 2003.

THANK YOU for taking action for the last wild buffalo! Remember to
spread the word and save this herd!

BFC West Coast Road Show Schedule

It's that time of year again, when Buffalo Field Campaign takes the
wild buffalo's story to the streets! BFC's co-founder Mike Mease and
BFC family Fishburne and Chris will be heading to the West Coast with
events beginning on September 5 in Reno, Nevada. BFC has
presentations scheduled in various locations throughout Nevada and
California, including the ever-exciting Power to the Peaceful, where
Mike Mease will take the stage!

Learn about the current threats to America's last wild buffalo and
the solutions that will ensure them a place in this world. Watch
exclusive BFC footage from the field, hear first-hand accounts about
what BFC witnesses and learns being in the company of wild buffalo,
discover volunteer opportunities, and take action to defend this
unique wild population.

Please visit to
find out about when Buffalo Field Campaign will be near you, and
encourage your friends and family to come out and learn about what's
happening to the last wild buffalo, and how you can help! If you
can't make it in person, you can still make a difference. As a
volunteer-based, grassroots organization BFC always appreciates your
monetary support, which is what keeps us in the field and on the
front lines. Visit to help
support these critical outreach efforts and the the daily operations
of the only group working in the field every day in defense of the
last wild buffalo!

For more information about BFC's West Coast Road Show contact Mike
Mease at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. through the end of August. Starting
in September, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 406-646-0070.

Last Words

"Half [of] the [Yellowstone] herd is now gone due to their slaughter,
their destruction, attempting to interrupt their migratory movement.
At present, they are stopped at the Park border by state officials
using rifles, trucks and helicopters. Some are shot. Some are hazed
back into the Park. Due to the stress, some of the females abort.
The animals were headed toward grasslands both public and private
located at lower altitudes, grasslands occupied by non-native, Old
World cattle. We, as a Nation, are exercising a preference for a
world-wide abundant domestic species over the last wild herd of
native buffalo in existence today in the United States. Some
scientists believe that if more slaughter occurs and if another
severe winter comes, this herd will collapse, that is, cease to

~ James Horsley, from his petition to the Secretary of the Interior,
Bruce Babbitt, urging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect the
wild buffalo of the Yellowstone region as an endangered species. His
petition is dated January 5, 1999. The USFWS responded to it on
August 15, 2007.


Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BFC is the only group working in the field every day
to defend the last wild herd of buffalo in America.

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