Buffalo Field Campaign. Update from the field. Oct. 18, 2007

Buffalo Field Campaign
Yellowstone Bison

Update from the Field

October 18, 2007

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In this issue:

* Update from the Field
* BFC Project Director Convicted in Montana “Justice” Court
* TAKE ACTION! Two Ways to Protect Wild Buffalo Now!
* Volunteers Needed for 07-08 Season
* Buffalo in the News
* Last Words ~ Roman Sanchez


* Update from the Field

Dear Buffalo Friends,

Three cheers for the last wild buffalo! In the face of centuries of oppression and senseless slaughter, these gentle, prehistoric giants continue to show that they are strong survivors. The relentless blows inflicted upon them year after year by livestock interests and government agencies don’t stop the wild buffalo from trying to make a comeback.

According to Yellowstone National Park’s recently released summer bison population estimate, the Yellowstone buffalo population – the last wild buffalo in the U.S. – numbers approximately 4,700 individuals. And these numbers, no doubt, will be politically manipulated to benefit cattle interests. While 4,700 individual buffalo is a minor increase from last year’s estimate, it is a dangerously low count for the American buffalo as a wild species, and threats to their genetic integrity are serious; 4,700 is a mere fraction of what was and could be. Yet cattle interests are bound to cry “overpopulation.” Once upon a time the buffalo herds numbered in the tens of millions, freely roaming the vast expanses of the North American grassland ecosystems. Today, European cattle and other agricultural practices have taken up much of the buffalo’s native habitat, though there are still tens of millions of acres that wild buffalo could naturally reclaim and restore. But government-backed cattle interests continue to protect their economic profits by confining the last wild buffalo in the U.S. to Yellowstone National Park. Consequently, wild buffalo remain ecologically extinct everywhere outside of Yellowstone (that little green speck on the map in southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming).

While the so-called “rebound” of the population should be welcome news, it is hardly a rebound for a species that evolved to exist in the millions. Yet cattle interests will spin this news to step up harassment and killing operations (see “Buffalo in the News” below). The danger is that, under the Interagency Bison Management Plan, which politically caps the population at 3,000, this new population estimate (and it is only an estimate) basically gives the agencies free license to kill. Their response to the buffalo’s successful calving season will likely be severe “management” action: hazing, capture, quarantine, and slaughter. Many of you will remember in 2005 the Park estimated 4,900 wild buffalo; that tragically unforgettable winter the agencies responded by slaughtering more than 1,000.

The agencies and media are being crafty with their language, touting the Yellowstone bison population as the “largest in the world.” They want to make it appear as if there’s no harm done in current mismanagement practices. It’s a lie. The evolutionary potential for wild American buffalo is seriously threatened. A political fence surrounds the buffalo; this fence must be taken down. Confining this migratory species to less than 1% of it’s native range, while harassing and killing them for following their instincts will eventually spell the buffalo’s doom. On a brighter note, however, the media is also stating that “due to public outcry” few buffalo were killed last year. That’s you! So, together, we are making a difference and we will continue to do so.

What will this winter and spring bring for the last wild buffalo? Starting November 15, it will bring so-called hunters to Yellowstone’s borders to shoot any buffalo that migrate into Montana. And should there be more buffalo migrating than kill tags issued, more tags will be issued. To see if you have won a chance to save a Yellowstone buffalo, visit http://www.fwp.mt.gov and click on “Special Drawing Status.”

The buffalo will never stand alone. Buffalo Field Campaign will be with them, standing in their defense, sharing their story with the world, advocating for their right to roam and their lasting protection. Already, volunteers are returning from the four directions, ready to get back on the front lines and stand with the wild buffalo.

Roam Free,


P.S. Please look out Friday for a Special Alert announcing an exciting, interactive new project to help keep BFC on the front lines and to let buffalo roam in Montana!


* BFC Project Director Convicted in “Justice” Court

As some of you may remember, I was tackled, injured, and arrested by Montana Highway Patrol Officer Shane Cox on May 9, 2007 as I documented a government hazing operation of approximately 400 bison near West Yellowstone. Cox, shaken by the fact that he had lost control of himself and split my head open, charged me with resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer, each count a misdemeanor carrying a maximum six-month sentence and a $500 fine.

My jury trial took place last Wednesday, October 10, in Gallatin County Justice Court before Justice of the Peace Scott Wyckman. Wyckman, like Officer Cox who quit his job just weeks after my arrest, is a retired MT Highway Patrolman who does not have a legal education.

The trial, which lasted from 8:30 AM until after 6:00 PM, began with the prosecuting attorney, Matthew Lowy, filing a motion to dismiss the resisting arrest charge. While I originally took this as a positive development reflecting the fact that the state did not have a case, I soon learned Lowy’s true motive, which was to suppress video evidence and testimony of Cox’s excessive use of force and my injuries. Wyckman accepted these terms and we were prevented from mentioning or showing video of Cox’s violent behavior.

This tactic nearly backfired on Lowy, as Officer Cox claimed under cross examination that my alleged obstruction offense occurred at a point on the video footage that was being excluded. Realizing this tactical error, Cox later contradicted himself and said that he made the decision to arrest me based on a number of my actions. Cox and U.S. Forest Service officer Nathan Snead provided conflicting testimony under oath and Justice Wyckman sided with the prosecution on nearly every dispute between my defense attorney and Lowy.

Perhaps realizing that things weren’t going well for his case, Lowy attempted to taint the jury against me and the work of Buffalo Field Campaign. After confirming that I have worked for BFC for a decade, he asked, “Do you know what year Buffalo Field Campaign was listed on the the FBI’s list of domestic terrorist organizations?”

While our objection to this tangential and misleading question was upheld, it seemed to have it’s desired effect in influencing the jury. As did the video footage of me reminding Cox that, as a public servant, he works for me. We weren’t allowed to show the jury the footage of Cox turning red in the face and screaming into my camera “Yeah, you want your quarter back, that’s about how much of my salary you’ll ever pay!”

The six jurors deliberated for about an hour and a half before sending a message to the attorneys asking for clarification on what, exactly, I had done to commit the crime of obstruction. Five minutes after being told that they’d have to base their decision on what had been presented in trial they agreed on a guilty verdict.

I was given a six month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay $585 in fines and court costs. Gallatin County Justice Court is not a court of record and no transcript of the trial was kept.

On Tuesday of this week I appealed the decision to district court where I will have a new trial before a true judge and where a transcript of the proceedings will be kept.

I would like to thank my attorney, Jason Armstrong, for being so passionate and articulate in my defense and you, buffalo supporters, for all your help and encouragement during this long and difficult process.

I remain committed to proving my innocence and defending the rights of citizens to document the actions of our government. If you would like to help with my defense, please contact me at: dan@wildrockies.org.

For the Buffalo,

Dan Brister


* TAKE ACTION! Two Ways to Protect Wild Buffalo Now!

1. Help Protect Wild Buffalo Under the Endangered Species Act!

America’s last wild buffalo – the Yellowstone population – has a chance to be protected under the Endangered Species Act as a Distinct Population Segment. Please download, print and circulate widely this petition to help build strong public support for protecting the Yellowstone buffalo http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/science/buffaloesapetition.pdf.

Send completed petitions to Buffalo Field Campaign. And please SEND YOUR COMMENTS to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in support of James Horsley’s petition to protect the Yellowstone bison under the Endagered Species Act as a Distinct Population Segment. Urge the U.S.FWS to do adequate research to identify the bison’s native historic range and to reconsider their current position not to protect wild bison and their habitat under the Endangered Species Act. For more information contact Darrell at z@wildrockies.org.

Send your comments to:

Michael Stempel
Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Suite 645
Lakewood, CO 80228
(Phone) 303-236-4253

(Fax) 303-236-0027

2. Support the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act! Call Your House Rep. Today!

H.R. 1975, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) is being heard by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands today. NREPA is a tremendous piece of legislation, that will protect wild places and wild species on a landscape scale. As Lance Olsen puts it, “Freedom to move has always been important to wildlife, and barriers to move always dangerous for the wild. With climate change, the freedom to move has become more important than ever… animals have no choice but to move, because it is essential to their very survival.” NREPA is designed to preserve the biological integrity of the Northern Rockies ecosystem and aims to designate over 24 million acres as wilderness in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington. Wild buffalo are specifically mentioned in this important legislation.

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TODAY and let them know you support NREPA! Call their office today using the Capitol Switchboard. Dial 202-224-3121 or 800-893-5276 and ask to be transferred to your Representative’s office. If you’re not sure who your Rep. is, visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/politicians.html and scroll down to “Congress.”


* Volunteers Needed for 07-08 Season

Summer has drawn to a close here in West Yellowstone, MT, marked by our nightly frosts and a few short-lived snowfalls. The few volunteers and coordinators who were here all summer have been busy with cabin-cleaning and restoration, grounds maintenance, wood harvest and getting all of our firewood ready for the long winter. This change of seasons starts the flow of buffalo from Yellowstone National Park into a state that does not accept them. Any buffalo that leave the park and enter Montana are in danger of being shot on sight, herded back into the Park or to a capture facility from which a more industrial death often occurs at a slaughterhouse a few days later. These are the actions and potential actions of the agents involved with the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Buffalo Field Campaign exists to witness and document the plight of the United State’s last population of continuously wild and genetically integral American buffalo (Bison bison).

In November BFC starts the call for volunteers to help us conduct field patrols which include monitoring the buffalo’s migration into Montana and using video and still camera equipment to document the government’s actions against them. In addition to field patrols, we have many other ongoing projects and day-to-day chores that keep BFC functioning. With volunteering comes an orientation, training, and learning and wilderness exploration that never really stops; we also provide room and board for volunteers who have an honest desire to help the last wild buffalo.

Please contact us via email at buffalo@wildrockies.org or phone at 406-646-0070 to see if this volunteering opportunity is right for you. If so, we can discuss details and time frames.


Stuart T.


* Buffalo in the News


Bison advocate convicted of obstructing peace officer while filming hazing

Bozeman Daily Chronicle



Yellowstone Park bison population approaches record

Billings Gazette


Where the buffalo roamed

Casper Star Tribune



Bison rebound in Yellowstone Park

Associated Press


Yellowstone bison numbers on the upswing

Bozeman Chronicle


Yellowstone park bison numbers up 17 percent

Jackson Hole News & Guide


Bison bounce back

Washington Post



Native bond to Yellowstone’s buffalo

Mother Jones

Majestic Yellowstone bison receive Native American prayers

Native American Times

Bison hunt tags drawn
Montana news stations



Respond to these and other articles with a letter to the editor. Buffalo-friendly letters to the editor that are published win you a free “Let Buffalo Roam” BFC t-shirt. For newspaper contact information and tips on writing your letter to the editor visit http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/actnow/lte.html. When your buffalo-friendly letter is published, send a copy along with t-shirt size and mailing address to bfc-media@wildrockies.org, or to the mailing address at the end of this email.


* Last Words ~ by Roman Sanchez

500 Years and Nothings Changed!

Another day of
management machinery
Helicopters, ATV’s
and men on horses

500 years and nothings changed-
technology makes it no less
brutality and clear blue skies
brutality and raptor cries

Aspen leaves shimmer
in gentle breeze-
Helicopter hovering
steely blades thundering

Pelicans & Osprey diving
one with beak
the other with Talons

Bald Eagle perched on a snag
the river reflected
in his eyes

Buffalo being run
in heat of day
500 years and Nothings changed!

All the while
I can still feel my heart
Anger rising like
storm clouds
in the distance
one on top of the other

Centuries piling up like clouds-
like broken treaties
still the sun shines
still the Aspen leaves quake
still the osprey dives
and raptors cry
the Eagle takes it all in
from is snag

And the Buffalo only know
Wild and Free!

500 years and nothings changed

—Roman Sanchez ’07


Media & Outreach

Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758







  1. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    I admire the Buffalo Field Campaign, I have spent time with them in the field and at their cabin, they are doing an incredible job of monitoring and documenting this issue and my hat goes off to them. They deserve our support. A big HELLO to Mike Mease.

    As I have pressed to Mike, I firmly believe that this issue will be resolved only in the courts as our current situation is the result of a lawsuit that then Montana governor Mark Racicot initiated against the Department of the Interior. We’re operating under a settlement which allows AMERICA’s buffalo to be killed today, on behalf of the wildlife-killing cattle industry. America’s lost some 10,000 buffalo on behalf of the Golden Calf. Yet another good reason to ban livestock grazing on AMERICA’S public lands.

    We need some legal minds to get this issue back into court.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: many of the issues we face in the mountainous west will be resolved only in the voting booth or at the courthouse.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    As I have said many times, this issue, while not the most pressing in the area, angers me the most because the controversy is mostly the creation of the Montana livestock industry and its agent, the Montana Department of Livestock.

    The Montana DOL is deliberately brutal and serves no purpose except to make sure we all know who is really is charge in the area. They rub our faces in cow shit to show us they can.

    With the kangaroo trial of Dan Brister now past, it is clear to me those who believe the DOL propaganda are willing to manipulate the justice system as well as the administrative system to keep the cultural hegemony of ranching in place.

    A sidenote, however. While the bison/brucellosis controversy is at least always simmering in Montana, in the two states that actually lost their brucellosis free status (due to infected elk), the issue is covered much differently.

    In Idaho it just isn’t covered. Idaho losing is brucellosis free status (thought to be an absolute catastrope in Montana) hardly generated any news in Idaho.

    I asked a Montana reporter why they covered this issue so much in Montana (thus keeping it going), and he admitted that to some degree they covered it because they always covered it. So the situation perpetuates itself.

    Mack, I don’t think this will be solved until it becomes an issue for a new national administration. Like everything else, the next year under Bush will only be a year of trouble, waiting, and hoping we make it through it relatively unharmed.

  3. Eric Avatar

    We’re still perceived as the extremists. I think most people just accept cattle as a given in the western landscape because they aren’t aware of the damage done, and because it’s such a famous tradition out there. Anyway, just a thought from a midwesterner. I’m anti-cattle since visiting the west.

  4. catbestland Avatar

    Eric and all

    It is wonderful and very encouraging to see that people like you, from all over the country are aware of and moved by the situation here in the west. These wilderness areas and the wildlife they contain are here for everyone to enjoy. Like you, there are many people in the west who do not and will not accept cattle as a part of the western landscape. In fact, we see them as what is wrong with the western landscape. Clearly you are as concened with the problems as we are. Why not join in a boycott of the beef products that are not derived from sustainable sources. This usually means locally grown beef grown by ranchers who have not contributed to the killing of wildlife or the destruction of their habitat by grazing on public lands. If in doubt you could avoid all beef products until we can get a list organized of “wildlife friendly beef producers”.

    The only way the Depts. of Livestock and other cattlemens organizations, are going to get the message is through their pocketbooks. That is in our hands. And let’s all follow through with the suggestions made by Dan Bristor and the Buffalo Field Campain. We the people have the means to get this invasive, destructive, poisonous cancer (cattle), removed from OUR lands. You can help by participating in the boycott and spreading the word to others who are also concerned is. We (the boycotters) will be getting more information about sustainable sources of beef out as soon as we can get organized to do so. If you would like to participate in our efforts, your input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks


  5. Eric Avatar

    Thanks for the encouraging words. I feel very strongly about it, enough that I quit eating beef, which I did enjoy – up till june 2007, approximately. It is much better to abstain from, and be a part of a greater cause, to conserve the great ecosystems of America, which really move me!
    Eric Meyers

  6. jerry black Avatar
    jerry black

    All of us can start by boycotting all beef products including, and I hate to say it, those Fenway Park hot dogs. Also talking to the managers of grocery stores where we shop about carrying bison and predator friendly beef.
    I hear that Wal-Mart, and I have reservations about shopping there, has a huge array of organic produce….the public demanded it. Costco may be another one. I buy my bison from Page Bison Ranch…”pagebisonranch@hotmail.com” in Hot Springs, Mt.
    Cathy…A list would be a great idea.

  7. catbestland Avatar

    Yes, anyone who knows where to buy buffalo products in their area should post in their blog. As long as Ralph approves. Jerry- that is an excellent idea to request buffalo or “predator friendly” beef products from Wal-Mare and all grocery chains. If repeated requests are made, they will start giving consideration to them. If they know what the public wants, they will in time, and for the sake of proffit begin purchasing their products with this in mind. But we as consumers must take the inniative and start letting them know. Until this shift to “predator friendly” beef is available in grocery stores, it woul be best to avoid beef products altogether. If anyone asks why, tell them. We can all take the inniative in protecting our natural predators, wolves, and grizzly bears as well as the last free roaming herd of American Bison if we “JUST SAY NO” to beef.


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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Ralph Maughan