Will the Dept. of Interior Stop the Killing?

BisonThe slaughter of buffalo around Yellowstone National Park continues unabated. In the latest round of killing since 2002 these beautiful creatures, icons of the American plains have been killed or rounded up and taken to slaughterhouses in large numbers.

Just this week the Animal Welfare Institute, http://www.awionline.org/ led a coalition of animal welfare organizations, Native American groups and concerned citizens in filing a petition under the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. 553(e), that calls on Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kemthorne to publish an emergency rule prohibiting the National Park Service from "killing or participating in the killing [or removal] of bison from Yellowstone’s northern range or central herd populations if the numbers in each population are reduced through management actions and/or natural mortality to 2,000 or fewer bison." 

The rule would amend the Yellowstone National Park regulations "to protect the short and long-term genetic diversity and viability of Yellowstone Northern range and Central herd bison populations…and prevent [illegal and] unacceptable impacts and impairments to the bison populations".

The petitioners explain, "Since the NPS has refused to provide legally required protection and continues to kill or participate in the killing of an excessive number of bison, potentially harming the park’s population, an emergency rule is critical to slow or stop the continued slaughter of these animals. …[T]he NPS has failed to sustain the 2,000 bison threshold lower limit for both the Northern range and Central herd populations this winter".

The petitioners request a rule to take effect by no later than April 25, 2008 and ask in the meantime, that NPS "immediately cease its role in the lethal management of YNP bison." There are at least two genetically distinct populations of bison. According to AWI, both of these populations now have fewer than 2,000 animals.

How Did This Happen?

In 2000 federal and Montana state agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Forest Service; the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and the Montana Department of Livestock, implemented a "bison management plan". 

Management means extermination.

The bison populations are free roaming in the Yellowstone National Park area and in the winter and early spring move naturally between into other public and also private lands.  

Thanks to this "management" plan, only about 3,000 bison remain in the U.S. Over 1,700 of these wild buffalo have been killed just in the last year.

The reason offered for killing off, uh, "managing", the buffalo is that some may have brucellosis. Ranchers believe cattle may contract the disease. But this disease is not known to be transmissible between buffalo and cattle.

Ranchers won’t say it, but they simply don’t want these buffalo competing with cattle for grass. As In Defense of Animals, http://www.idausa.org/, has put it, "Taxpayers have spent more than $16 million since 2002 on the interagency bison management plan, which mainly consists of hazing and killing the animals to protect beef industry profits."

The original stated goal was to stop the slaughter as soon as there were "no cattle graz[ing] on a ranch north of the park, and second, th[ere was] a safe and effective remote brucellosis vaccine-delivery system … available for bison." U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO-08-291  This was to happen by 2002. Instead, the slaughter has continued.

Bison familyIsn’t that what the ranching and agriculture industries wanted, though? Just to get rid of the bison. Recently, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its report on the bison management plan. The report notes:

The plan has two broadly stated goals: to ‘maintain a wild, free-ranging population of bison and address the risk of brucellosis transmission.’ The plan, however, contains no clearly defined, measurable objectives as to how these goals will be achieved, and the partner agencies have no common view of the objectives. As a result, the agencies have no way to determine the effectiveness of the plan or of their management efforts.

Also, in developing the plan, the agencies adopted an adaptive management approach that promotes flexible decision making in the face of uncertainties as outcomes from management actions and other events become better understood. But the agencies have not adequately implemented adaptive management, [and c]onsequently, their decision making more often resembles trial and error than adaptive management and also lacks accountability and transparency."

As IDA points out, "as the agencies flounder in mismanagement and incompetence, the buffalo continue to die."

Click here for a copy of the petition for emergency rulemaking.

What You Can Do

Send a letter to your U.S. representative and senators, urging them to stop the slaughter of buffalo. It’s easy. Just click here for a sample letter that you can edit and IDA will then send for you!

Also, write the Secretary of the Dept. of Interior and urge him to issue a rule stopping the slaughter of bison in the Yellowstone National Park area.

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, Dept. of the Interior, 1840 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C.  20240; (202) 208-3100 

Email: webteam@ios.doi.gov or click here to submit an email to Secy. Kempthorne.