Police Bloody & Arrest Field Workers Filming Bison Haze On Public Lands

There has been a very unpleasant development near West Yellowstone where a massive show of force was used to haze bison back into the Park (to protect the non-existent cattle from brucellosis).

In doing so, the Buffalo Field Campaign, who instead deserves a paycheck from Montana Highway Patrol for trying to protect motorists from frightened bison running out of the forest across the highway (US 191) was instead denied their civil liberties and brutalized.

Here is the story in the Bozeman Chronicle by Scott McMillion.
Here is BFC’s news release.

It has been suggested I put a link to contact Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Here it is.

Exclusive BFC Video & Photos Available Upon Request
For Immediate Release: May 9, 2007
Contact: Stephany Seay (406) 646-0070
Watch it on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/v/COEpF463PKQ

WEST YELLOWSTONE, MONTANA. Two members of the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) were arrested today Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement. One BFC volunteer was taken to the hospital due to injuries caused during arrest.

Here Montana Highway Patrol and Forest Service make sure Dan Brister doesn’t take any more video

The volunteers were arrested for exercising their civil rights attempting to document today’s Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) and Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) bison hazing operations.

The first volunteer arrested had witnessed the DOL and other agents hazing wild bison across U.S. Highway 191. Highway patrols failed to warn motorists or shut down traffic. Chased by agents on horseback and a helicopter, another group of bison were close to crossing the road the BFC volunteer urged a Montana Highway Patrolman to shut down the highway and warn traffic. The MHP responded to the volunteer’s request by arresting him in the heated exchange.

The second BFC volunteer was arrested after attempting to document the first volunteer’s arrest. The MHP attempted to take the camera away and forcibly placed the volunteer into handcuffs, slammed him to the ground, injuring his face. U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer assisted the MHP officer with the arrests. The two arresting officers confiscated two Buffalo Field Campaign video cameras.

Last week, the same MHP officer was filmed being hostile and aggressive to BFC volunteers documenting a bison hazing operation along Hwy. 287. Video footage of this incident is available at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.

“Today’s arrests were completely without warrant,” said BFC volunteer Jessie Patterson who witnessed the arrests of both volunteers. “These officers acted in a violent way when the volunteers were well within their rights to document government actions on public lands.”

Government officials, including law enforcement, routinely attempt to prevent BFC from filming bison hazing operations.

Freelance photographer, Barbara Michelman, was on the scene of the arrests. A photo attached with this press release, or is immediately available by contacting BFC.

Last night, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks held a public meeting in West Yellowstone regarding Montana’s infamous bison hunt and the agency’s involvement in the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Many BFC members and residents of the community were present to voice their opposition to the current mismanagement of wild bison.

“The rights of American citizens are being infringed upon and today’s behavior is utterly unacceptable and will be challenged,” said BFC spokeswoman Stephany Seay. “Government agencies are ignoring the voice of the American people and acting as rogue entities who answer to no law but their own.”

The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S.D.A. Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Gallatin County Sheriffs, and Montana Highway Patrols all participated in today’s bison hazing operation.

The government agents harassed approximately 400 members of the United State’s last wild herd of bison within the Gallatin National Forest today using horses and a helicopter. This is the bison’s calving season, a very sensitive time for the species. Pregnant bison and day-old newborns, as well as other bison, were run off of public land in an aggressive manner by agents on horseback and a DOL helicopter. Wild bison were forced for over eight miles from the northern tip of the Horse Butte Peninsula along the Madison River back towards Yellowstone National Park.

One baby bison fell injured and sick from the aggressive and relentless nature of today’s hazing operation. The protective mother was forced to charge a NPS hazer while he aggressively approached them as her baby buffalo was attempting to nurse. The bison, with numerous calves, were run for over 8 miles without rest, food or water.

Hazing bison off of public lands runs contrary to a November 2006 agreement signed by all Interagency Bison Management Plan officials, which is supposed to allow native wild bison access to public lands though May 15. This is the third time in three weeks that the IBMP agencies have ignored their agreement. The IBMP adaptations memorandum can be viewed at: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/legal/adaptivemanagement.html.

The purported reason for the government’s aggressive management of wild bison is the perceived threat of the cattle-born disease, brucellosis. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting the European livestock disease brucellosis to livestock, even prior to implementation of Interagency Bison Management Plan.

American Bison once spanned the continent, numbering between 30 and 50 million. The Yellowstone bison are genetically unique and are America’s only continuously wild herd, numbering fewer than 3,600 animals, .01 percent of the bison’s former population.

1,912 bison have been killed since 2000 under the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Last winter Federal and State agencies killed or authorized the killing of more than 1,010 bison. So far this winter two bison were captured and sent to slaughter by Montana Department of Livestock agents and hunters have killed 58.

Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their native habitat and advocate for their lasting protection. BFC has proposed real alternatives to the current mismanagement of Yellowstone bison that can be viewed at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/solutions05.html. For more information, video clips and photos visit: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org.

Someone ought to get this story up on Kos or Crooks and Liars because Kos, especially has lionized Montana Gov. Brian Sweitzer.

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  1. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Could you maybe post the E-mail addy of the gov in Montana. As a sidebar, the excuse by law enforcement personnel that they are “erring on the side of public safety”,(wink, wink,), is, to put it politely, horse apples.

  2. Tony Criscola Avatar
    Tony Criscola

    Someone should get that video to the New York Times. No wonder they tried to stop them from videoing their actions.

  3. skyrim Avatar

    “{tapes} will be returned after making copies of the tapes for evidence”………………Ya right!
    Right, wrong or indifferent. Ya gotta love the BFC for their passion on this issue. I haven’t sent them money in awhile. Think I’ll sit right down and do just that.

  4. Buffaloed Avatar

    This is over the top. I have had many experiences where buffalo were on the road and the Sherrif’s Deputy had full knowledge that they were a hazard but did nothing. There was an experience in January of 2006 where there were 7 cows and calves that had migrated down highway 287 to Beaver Creek, that’s below Hebgen Dam near Quake Lake, and it was a snowy day with a packed snow surface on the road. The buffalo were standing on the road in a place where it would have been very difficult to stop in time had I and other volunteers had not been there to warn traffic. While this was happening the Sherrif’s deputy was back at the Duck Creek facility where the DoL was staging to capture the buffalo and had full knowledge that they were on the road, causing a hazard to motorists. We were there for at least an hour and a half warning traffic of their presence before the Sherrif and DoL arrived. I was furious but I calmly told them that they were being negligent in their duties of protecting the public. It seems to me that this is not about public safety as they often claim. They just don’t want buffalo in Montana where they can eat the grass, it’s that simple.

    It also occurs to me that they might not mind a bison-vehicle collision to use as an argument for more control and more money. The existence of that incentive makes it incumbent that if their operations result in the injury or death of any person, they must be sued with a vengeance. RM

  5. be Avatar

    i met the young man who the police brutalized. he’s a damn smart guy and it upsets me to see how he was abused by police while ~ as far as i can tell ~ legally documenting these horrible hazings. this is outrageous !

  6. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    While I sympathsize with all of you, you must keep the moral AND legal high ground. Kicking out a patrol car window might seem rewarding at the time, but it serves as an example of “what nut cases these people are”.
    If you can’t be Ghandi, don’t go into the field. You do more harm than good.

  7. elkhunter Avatar

    they guy on the ground looks kinda crazy.

    I don’t think so, but how are you supposed to appear in such a situation?

  8. kim Avatar

    i was gonna say,, was he being arrested for kicking out a patrol car window, or videoing,, phootographs can be used to portray what is necesary, depending on what side you are on,,, i am all for the protection fo the bison, believe me, but if these folks are going to extremes,,,they will do more harm than good, as mike post states,,so wh is he being arrested,, really,, for vandalizing a patrol car or videoing the hazin,,, someone clear that up,,

  9. kt Avatar

    This is disgusting. Thocka thwocka thwocka of helicopters as Dimestore Warriors spend $600 bucks an hour overhead terrifying wild animals. All to show the “dominance” of the sicko livestock industry.

    And to the two preceding Posts:I dare you to walk in the BFC folks’ shoes.

    So the “democratic” Gov of Montana is letting DOL and the rest of the thugs do this? What a wonderful “new west” it is …

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    We will see if they provide evidence that a window was kicked out, and we will also see if they return the video cameras to BFC.

  11. be Avatar

    “the guy on the ground looks kinda crazy”

    it’s probably a good thing there aren’t any pictures of me floating out there 😉 ask anyone that knows me ~

    i have met the chap – and my experience of him was that he was a reasonable and good-faith advocate. it perplexes me.

  12. kim Avatar

    kt, i dont pretend to have the dedication of those people,, howver,, when, and if,, they show windows were kicked out of law enforcement vehicles,,,, it diminishes the cause,,if you will RE READ my post,, i am for there efforts,, but if they do it in destructive manner,, they will be self defeating,,,,,

    newspapers print unreliable information,, and i would dare guess,,so do blogging authors,, so unless “facts” come out,, its gonna be who do ya believe,, that simple

  13. kim Avatar

    want to clear up one sentence in prior post, as to blogging authors,, not picking on anyone specific, or anyone here,,

  14. elkhunter Avatar

    I agree with Kim, if you want respect and want your side to be heard, you dont kick the window out of a Highway Patrol Car. It just makes you out to look like a crazy person, and I am sure there were things that he was doing before his arrest that made the officers act they way they did, I dont think that he just walked up to them and they threw him to the ground, i would take his later action of kicking the window out to assume how he was acting towards them from the beginning.

  15. barb in west yellowstone Avatar
    barb in west yellowstone

    kim and elkhunter,

    if you read the text of the press release, the volunteer who sustained the head injury after being tackled by MHP officer Shane Cox was documenting the arrest of the first volunteer.

    and do look at the video from 5/1 on BFC’s website to see this same officer just to get an idea of what these dedicated volunteers put up with from Cox and other agency personnel implementing the MISMANAGEMENT PLAN.

  16. mikarooni Avatar

    I certainly do not approve of kicking patrol car windows. It’s not legal and it’s a badly counterproductive strategy even when it might be otherwise understandable due to the emotional duress caused by the events. This situation is not good at all; I do not believe that we can assume, given the realities in place, that wrongdoing in the officers’ handling of the events can be legally proven; but, I also believe that the whole sequence of events needs to be fully investigated to ascertain the level of traumatic stress to which this young man was exposed in the process of his progressing to what seems to have been a case of temporary insanity due to intense handling and a situation that eventually drove him, justified or not, to fear for his own safety and to panic at his uncertainty about what the officers were going to do next. In any case, the leadership of BFC absolutely must face the gravity of these events. The truth is that not all publicity is good publicity. BFC needs to try to provide whatever support is appropriate and possible for this impacted young man, but also to realistically assess the emotional state of their field crew and, regardless of their perceived needs in the field, rotate out this fellow and others who seem too highly stressed. Individuals who are so traumatized that they risk losing control must be rested out of the stressful field activities, for their own good and the good of the effort, to enable them to get recentered and recover their ability to stay cold (and perfectly within the proper legal groundrules) under pressure.

  17. Buffaloed Avatar

    First, there seems to be some real confusion here about what happened. There were two people arrested in this incident. The first person was arrested for asking that the police do more to warn traffic about the impending stampede of buffalo crossing the busy highway. The second person, Dan Brister who is photographed on the ground, was trying to document the first arrest when he was given a very vague order so he backed away from the police to a safe distance when he was suddenly pushed, or “assisted to the ground” where he hit his head and received a wound which needed 3 staples to close. During this arrest the alleged incident with the window occured presumably in response to seeing the cops beating up his friend. If the window was broken then I agree that it was unfortunate, however it was possibly understandable under the circumstances. With the total injustice of the situation I think that many would, if panicked in the same way, react similarly. It’s not justified but when someone you love and respect is being thrown to the ground and injured by big thugs like these I would like to see your reaction.

    I think these arrests were illegal and unjustified. Most of these types of cases are thrown out just hours before they go to trial because it is known that the charges are bogus. This has been the tactic used by law enforcement for years with BFC and it is intended to get people out of the field so that there are fewer to document their crimes. I think that the window incident will be prosecuted but the other charges will be thrown out.

  18. Jim Avatar

    Someone shpuld post a video of the police’s response to the VT and Columbine shooters as a comparison. In those two instances the heavily armed and armored officers did nothing other than hide behind trees and and point guns at innocent students who were trying to get away from the shooters.

    These officers have no trouble beating up on people who are peacefully demonstrating, as they have no trouble doing to anyone at any anti-war rally or political protest.

  19. Vicki Avatar

    It’s been a while since I have posted, and it sadens me to read this story. It sickens me actually. Government abuse isn’t limited to one race or religion, or sexual preference…. it is simply used to benefit what ever group paid for it. A lot of police officers are goo d men/women, who, like soldiers, put themselves in harms way to protect people’s safety and rights. Some, however, are ego- maniacs and paranoid. I would love to know what legal action is going to be taken against these officers… is the ACLU involved? I may have missed that info, as I read this post while in a vehicle-??? I know that I support everyone’s right to vote, protest and have an opinion. When these rights are violated, we allsuffer, regardless of wether or not we agree with the person who was wrongfully and illegally mistreated. Who is paying to fix the protester’s head? Recently the courts in Colorado found that police having lists of profiles on citizens was unconstitutional, those people have sued for damages, and the court ordered the files to be destroyed. As of several months later, the Denver Police had still not completely complied with the orders….(My recollection of news reports…don’t quote me.) This is just another case were some facets of the law are held above it. I say the men who’s rights were violated should take legal action, and publicize the heck out of the illegal behavior of those involved.

  20. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    One of the main reasons I keep blogging about bison, and have done so since 1996, is that the whole operation is based on a lie about bison being a significant danger to passing brucellosis to cattle. If you go to Wyoming, the whole thing is reversed, and they are lax about brucellosis because they don’t want to close the elk feeding grounds that perpetuate it.

    The Montana Department of Livestock and its collaborators’ continual lying bothers me as much as the artificial confinement of bison to Yellowstone.

    Every agency that gets touched by this continuing operation gets tarnished by it. My view is that the real motivation of the entire thing is to show Americans and local people, many of whom are beginning to get restive, just who is in charge. In such circumstances, police overreaction, both unintentional and planned, is a likely outcome.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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