Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations
You’re busy, I know. You’re busy working and playing and doing a million crazy, diverse things that Americans do in our big, crazy, diverse country. That’s just who we are, and that’s what makes us awesome.
But right now, I’m going to cherry-pick a few things we share. We’re nuts about wildlife–amiright?!? In 2011, a whopping 71.8 million of us–that was 30% of the U.S. adult population–identified as dedicated wildlife watchers in a once-every-five-years national Census survey. We spent a bundle–$54.9 billion–on wildlife watching that year.
According to the same report, 12.3 million of us visited parks and other natural areas to view wildlife (pg. 36). And in 2012, a National Parks Conservation Association poll found that “95 percent of voters see protecting and supporting the National Parks as an appropriate role for the federal government.” In one survey question, protecting natural habitats, plants and wildlife was ranked the top value of six possibilities.
And we walk the talk–take Yellowstone, for example. Visitation topped 3 million for the eighth straight year in 2014, up 10.21% from 2013. Many visitors are drawn to the largest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states–to wolves, elk, and bighorns. To bears, eagles, and pronghorn. To the only place on earth where a wild bison herd has survived continuously since prehistoric times!
That’s why what’s happening in Yellowstone National Park right now–even as I type this and you read it–is so awful. So incongruously terrible. A carefully-worded news release from the park announced the cull of 500-600 genetically-pure bison (on top of an expected 350 hunting deaths), citing the authority of a bogus “management” plan (Interagency Bison Management Plan, IBMP) with an artificially-low, politically-derived population cap of 3000 individuals. This is the number of wild native bison the Montana livestock industry has decided it will “tolerate.”
This past Wednesday morning, 100-plus wild American bison were forced from capture pens located inside the world’s first national park (heads up, taxpayers!) and into waiting stock trailers for the final, terrifying hours of their lives: the trip to slaughter. (Since I began writing this piece yesterday, another estimated 60 have been sent.) Many were likely already injured–victims of goring by sharp horns in crowded capture pens where the frightened, wild animals of wide, open spaces suddenly find themselves unnaturally–cruelly–confined.
Yellowstone’s excessive “safety” closure around the capture facility–an attempt to keep citizen monitors from witnessing this travesty–didn’t thwart the activists from Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC). Read this heart-rending, first-person account and weep:
Because of Yellowstone’s extreme seven-mile closure surrounding the Stephens Creek trap, we were posted high in the hills so we could view the trap through our spotting scopes and binoculars. … Approximately two hundred and fifty wild buffalo were being held captive, doomed for slaughter. As we set our scopes on the trap, we saw four stock trailers beginning to line up near the loading chute.
It was the stuff of nightmares, for us, but especially for the buffalo. Men in Park Service and DOL (MT Dept. of Livestock) uniforms walked the catwalks above the corrals, yelling, jabbing them with cattle prods that they used like spears, shaking large rattles, throwing ropes, and scaring them to move! move! move! into the dark maw of the stock trailer that would take them to their horrible deaths.
The buffalo were crammed like sardines into these mid-size livestock trailers. Thirty-three in one, thirty-two in another, twenty-five in another, and eleven in another. Packed in the cold metal boxes, they were about to make their last migration to their death sentences. Again this year, the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes and the InterTribal Buffalo Council, both IBMP affiliated tribes, are shipping the buffalo to slaughter.
As the trailers full of America’s last wild buffalo made their way, surrounded by law enforcement, we moved to another location to film the caravan as it left the Gardiner Basin. Standing on top of our car, (we) documented as the trailers went by. We were close enough to see them crammed tight, wool to wool, no room to move, twisted and cramped, embarking on a five-hour ride to hell. Through the slats of the trailers we could see that the buffalo wore white stickers with numbers on them. Many had bloody wounds from injuries caused during confinement. Then they drove out of sight, never to be seen again. Passing back by us, a Park Ranger smiled and waved. ~Weekly update from the field, 1/22/15
Ed Abbey said, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government,” and that’s our call to action. It’s likely you can’t drop what you’re doing, travel to Yellowstone’s northern gate, and stand against rogue state and federal government agencies in defense of your country and its citizens (if you can, click here). But you can help:
- Share the reality of this injustice on your social media platforms and spread the word to save the herd (check BFC’s Facebook page for current news).
- If you’ve got only a few minutes, choose a couple of the Take Action alerts in BFC’s weekly update and contact decision-makers.
- Contribute a few extra bucks to these grassroots activists. Your tax-deductible contribution will directly fund Buffalo Field Campaign’s on-the-ground work for wild bison–there are no hefty administrative salaries, and you won’t get multi-page mailings with unsolicited stickers, stationery, or address labels.
- If you prefer, donate through BFC’s Valentine card fundraiser–for a minimal donation per card, BFC will send a hand-crafted, non-romantic Valentine to the recipient(s) of your choice. These cards are perfect for anyone you’d like to honor with a gift to BFC and wild bison (see weekly update for photo and ordering info).
Dear Americans, we might be busy and crazy diverse, but we know injustice when we see it, and we know that history condemns those who remain silent. We can’t let the unique individuals–and their genes–of America’s last wild, migratory bison herd disappear from the earth they’ve long roamed. As I finish writing this…word comes that another estimated 55 have been sent to their deaths.
Dissident theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (born, 1906; executed, 1945) said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. …Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
_______________________________________________________________ Learn more:
- BFC’s weekly update from the field for 1/22/15 – includes photos and videos
- BFC news release, 1/21/15 – “Yellowstone bison sent to slaughter”
- BFC news release, 1/15/15 – “BFC, FOA file lawsuit in response to Yellowstone bison capture and slaughter”
- “Yellowstone begins transferring bison for slaughter,” 1/22 Missoulian article
- “Of bison and betrayal,” my post on bison politics, hunting, and tribal cooperation
- “Wild bison in the American West” – background on the “disease management” aspect and my first-person account of monitoring the reinstated 2005 bison hunt with BFC – at Britannica’s Advocacy for Animals.
- Once the winter migration slaughter ends, the springtime hazing of pregnant bison cows, moms, and babies begins; the tragic Mother’s Day story of one calf’s brief life and brutal death is told here and here.