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Hey Park Service! Don't bulldoze Yellowstone buffalo just so I can ...
by Jim Macdonald (jsmacdonald [at] riseup.net)
Saturday Feb 2nd, 2008 11:58 PM
Last weekend in Yellowstone, I witnessed buffalo being forced off the road by a snow plow, one young bison taking a very scary fall in the snow drifts. Being part of this horrifying scene put in the perspective of other ironies leads me to ponder the sad moment, a change that requires something so mammoth and yet so small, one that has nothing to do with Barack Obama and everything to do with recognizing the moment to give space and when we must cross double yellow lines in order to do so.
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Hey Park Service! Don't bulldoze Yellowstone buffalo just so I can stay on my side of the double yellow line

Not that many minutes and not that many miles after this picture was taken on January 27, 2008, in Yellowstone National Park, I found myself stopped 100 yards away from another set of buffalo in the road. On the snowpacked road between Tower Junction and Mammoth Hot Springs, the most beautiful animals strolled along a road they hadn't been just a half hour before.

Buffalo are always on the move, but sometimes they don't have a lot of say in when and where they are heading.

I've sat through many buffalo jams, which I almost always try to avoid. This one was impossible to avoid. I sat there, and I was dismayed to see cars with futility go around me, as they had near the Lamar Valley (at the spot this photo was taken), only to get stuck within a few feet of the buffalo. Still, they calmly strolled, in no hurry to move.

That was until all of the sudden I could see the bison stampede toward my car, instantly afraid, and moving right toward us. In horror, I witnessed a young buffalo get forced into a snowbank only to stumble and fall. I shrieked aloud as my heart sank; the young girl or boy managed to regain her or his footing. Still, they ran by and around the vehicle where my baby and my girlfriend were. At that moment, I wondered if we were about to be like those videos of buffalo (and sometimes elk) ramming into the side of vehicles.

What was causing this horrible and scary scene? Why were the buffalo in a run panicking? Quickly, it was obvious. A snow plow was pushing on forward, driving the buffalo down the road. Whether the snow plow was simply intent on plowing a road (that would be closed by weather anyhow the very next day) or whether the plow simply didn't care about the buffalo, I cannot say. Either way, the buffalo were being hazed from their spot. I cannot emphasize enough how my heart dropped to see that one buffalo look like she or he might fracture a leg in the deep snowdrift (no doubt deeper than it would otherwise be because of those plows).

Since that moment, a moment that pales in comparison to so much of what happens outside of the park - including the hazing, the hunting, and the slaughter of buffalo - I have felt empty inside with the memory of that frightening moment, which wasn't necessary. We could have waited; we would have waited hours if we had to. And, hours would not have been necessary. Anyone who has ever witnessed buffalo realizes that they are always on the move, roaming. However slow they may appear, misjudge them at your peril. They are not born to sit; they are born to roam. As with the other jams, we would have been moving in no time.

While the National Park Service keeps one road open to vehicle traffic during the winter - between the North Entrance at Gardiner to the Northeast Entrance up to Cooke City - and grooms other roads for snowmobile and snowcoach traffic, I fail to understand what the rush was in that moment to further plow a road that was already able to be driven. How many other buffalo have been hazed so that I could be on that road with my car? All I can do is wonder; it's impossible to generalize from a single impressionable experience.

For me, the irony was that a Park Ranger in Mammoth Hot Springs had chewed me out for driving around a needless bison jam just north of Mammoth. On the climbing and winding road, some bison were off in a field. A few cars had stopped with a ranger behind them. Not wanting to add to the trouble, I decided to go around them, like any driver who spends time in Yellowstone does to avoid trouble, especially the needless trouble of one of the many animal jams throughout the park. Just as I was about to go around, traffic moved, and I fell in behind the ranger. At Mammoth Hot Springs, we got out to get Genevieve an extra hat for her head, and the ranger took the time to drive up and pull behind me. He wanted to tell me how wrong it was that I pulled out over a double yellow line and what the consequences might have been for me legally and otherwise if anything had happened. In my mind, I thought to myself, "Give me a break." I've driven my bicycle through the streets of Washington, DC - each intersection was a greater danger than that moment on that road. What was dangerous was adding to a situation of more people crowding around buffalo. However, I also knew from millions of encounters with police officers, including Park Police, that the best thing to do is to shut up and say as little as possible. The more quiet and empty-stared "OK"s I gave, the more agitated the officer seemed with me, but the less he could do but repeat himself a couple of times. He left, probably annoyed with me, annoyed with all the people who do things that create danger to other people and animals alike. I was just one more person to him. And, yet, I was easy to pick on. What stops plows from bulldozing bison off the road? What will stop people in Cody - so eager to protect what they feel is their right - from insisting that the Park Service continue to bombard Sylvan Pass with munitions (or the Park Service from being the overlord making decisions that affect local people, too)? What will stop the livestock industry, who finally announced achieving brucellosis-free status for all cattle in the United States, from persecuting the buffalo of Greater Yellowstone, keeping them penned in a park that they are overgrazing to the detriment of vegetation and other animals alike?

I went over that double yellow line - whether I should have is not the point - I did it to avoid and give space to the buffalo. What sad irony that the road crews under the watch of the same rangers gave me the opportunity to cross that line by bulldozing buffalo off of the roads they live every single day of their lives?

It makes me sick inside.

The day before, I had driven on wind-swept snowy roads to West Yellowstone. Outside of Yellowstone National Park between West Yellowstone and the park boundary on U.S. 191, I saw a group of snowmobiles watching a group of bison outside the park. All I can wonder about is how many of those buffalo are now dead.

Only fundamental changes can make these feelings and these experiences go away.

Genevieve, River, and I want to visit Buffalo Field Campaign and see if we can bring them some things on the wish list. I wonder what more I can do, how I can bring my perception, my organizing skill, my other skills to help while trying to be the primary caretaker for a small baby. I know that I need to do something more. The experience of seeing that buffalo, scared and stumbling is not something I can shake - and I was already convinced. What needless arrogance we have to assert our power in the way that we do, what arrogance that we think our recreation must come at the expense of these creatures. Conflict may be an inevitable part of nature, but asserting ourselves as rightful lords of the conflict doesn't need to be part of it. Can't we enjoy waiting it out? Can't we give the buffalo some space? If we come to the point where we are running buffalo over cliffs as many indigenous people did back before the horse, do we have to do so with the ruinous sense of entitlement that we have?

A world away, politicians are having their normal talk about hope and change - do you hear me Mr. Obama? They talk about transparency in government and empowering people to be part of the change. I'm all for it; who isn't? But, what exactly is that change, and how are we a part of it? How are the other beings of this earth a part of it? Is that compatible with what the politicians are talking about? Of course not. We have to be daring enough to be radical enough to recognize that small primal moment - the moment where our fate and the fate of the wandering buffalo are intertwined and unpredictable, the small space between Mammoth and Tower. It starts by recognizing that buffalo roam, that they need space. And, we can wait it out, or even cross the double yellow line if we have to make that happen. If that doesn't end up so rosy for me, if I can't see Yellowstone, if the roads don't get plowed, at least that horrible feeling won't also be there.

Still roaming and pondering,
Jim

§Buffalo Rear Guard
by Jim Macdonald Sunday Feb 3rd, 2008 9:33 AM
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Comments  (Hide Comments)

Please tell me what Obama has to do with this? Has Mr. Obama ever even visited a National Park, at least a Western U.S. National Park? I know McCain actually hikes in the Grand Canyon. I still haven't made up my mind on a choice for president, but McCain at least 'likes' and 'knows' that NP's exist.

As a former Park Ranger, I'd ask if you were so disturbed by the actions around you, did you ever stop to question whether you might be part of the problem? I know, as long as the Parks keep roads open, people can and will visit. There's always the argument that if you build a road, people will come... and if you perform herculean efforts to keep it open, people will drive on it. When I worked at Denali, there was an late season road closing... 4' of snow fell overnight... it took several days of plowing to get to the end of the park, so stranded people could escape. Meanwhile, the Park was having to turn people away, from wanting to travel INTO the park.
by luci
Monday Feb 4th, 2008 11:31 AM
but i only skimmed the article. i don't understand why people are stumping for mccain on a progressive/radical news website.
by Jim Macdonald
(jsmacdonald [at] riseup.net) Monday Feb 4th, 2008 1:30 PM
I am an anarchist, so how one suggests that I'm supporting McCain is beyond me? That's the false dilemma people think that one must be talking about if one criticizes a political stance.

My allusion to Obama was to the notion behind his campaign, that he is a person who is working with the people to empower them - that his presidential campaign is one that joins with the people - as opposed to say Hillary Clinton (who talks about being a fighter for the people).

In Yellowstone, the politics of who is in power makes no difference. Buffalo have been slaughtered with Clinton as President, with Bush as President, with a Republican Congress, with a Democratic Congress, with Republican control in Montana, with Democratic control in Montana. The buffalo get slaughtered no matter what.

If there is a real people's movement, it can't be looking for a Messiah, even one who promises that we will have self-empowerment in his government. When I wrote what I did, it was to the notion that change must happen at the ballot box. Change happens only when we recognize that the ballot box is irrelevant, and the moment on that road is everything, with the people and beings around us - in that moment.

As for whether I've ever considered that I was part of the problem - that's all I ever think about. To be in Yellowstone, to live near Yellowstone, to know that my living there is a consequence of centuries of genocide, to know that every moment I'm driving, breathing in this world, is a conflict is something at the core of things. But, what can I do but own up to it and resist where possible? And, where one must resist is in the systems of power and abuse; those systems manifest themselves in capitalism, they manifest themselves in political and social hierarchies. To write about this is to expose that buffalo and people are not protected by the rangers who enforce laws, presumably for our protection. However well they mean, however much people also screw things up (and I've seen my share of people doing things that they shouldn't have done in national parks - my empathy is often with rangers and others who do understand the consequences of those actions), the answer to protecting people and buffalo don't come from the hierarchies or the politics that control them. You don't tell people never to cross a double yellow line and be part of a group that is hazing buffalo mercilessly and participating in their slaughter.

So, we all need to resist; and resistance isn't getting involved in elections, it's standing up to abuse in the moment. For me, in my context, it's giving space to the buffalo to roam (and as I write, my baby to scream - and to his needs I must now attend).
by Mike McCord
Monday Feb 4th, 2008 3:52 PM
So you're in Yellowstone, and you see bison (not "buffalo", because "buffalo" live in Africa) stampeding ahead a snowplow, and you see one young bison stumble into a snow drift because of it, and you "shrieked aloud" as your "heart sank." Seriously? You actually shrieked? Why don't you take off your dress and grow a pair?

Yellowstone is a wild place, and life in the wild isn't always pleasant or pretty. That plow could just as easily have been a pack of wolves. Would you have shrieked then? Would you have been horrified? Would you have been writing this pointless article so that people who have never even seen a cow up close, let alone a bison, or an elk, or a deer, can get their collective panties in a bunch over nothing?

Plow or wolf pack, if that bison falls and breaks its legs or neck, the end result is the same . . . dinner time for predators and scavengers. One thing dies, several more live.

The only tragedy in this situation is your obvious exaggeration of events and your characterization of the park service and its employees of being heartless bastards that don't care about the wildlife and the people that they are supposed to protect. I've been in more "buffalo jams" than I can remember, and I can tell you one thing, you don't "force" a bison off of the road, they move when they want to. They can be encouraged to move, and yes, they are skittish, and do occasionally move from one place to another very fast, but the park service does intentionally "bulldoze" any of these animals so that you can drive your precious SUV hybrid anywhere. specially not in winter when they are already stressed enough.

This is why we who live in and around Yellowstone, and really, why those of us who were born and raised in the West, dislike all of you pompous, whiny, self-righteous, hypocritical, blankety-blank Easterners. You come out here for a day or two expecting some sanitary, Disney-esque adventure, and when you encounter something that doesn't fit in with your concept of reality, you run to your laptop and spew out this bunch of crap to incite people who will never see anything wilder than a squirrel to tell the government, "That's a no-no. Don't do that."

Your the same group of people that come out here and buy up property because you fall in love with the idea of the West, and the wide open spaces, and the wildlife. And then you build your summer home, stay for a week or two every year, and then you leave. Meanwhile, you drive up prices for those of us who actually make a living here full-time so that we can't afford anything worth a damn, the added traffic kills more wildlife, and as an added bonus, guess what? There's so many of you that the wide open spaces aren't so wide open any more. That also means less habitat for the animals you seem to care so much about.

A bison stumbles and falls into a snow drift, and possibly dies. So what? Ten more die of starvation. You don't like it? Stay home. On your side of the double yellow line.
by Just another "easterner"
Monday Feb 4th, 2008 6:04 PM
Good lord, where in the world do you go to find people as stupid, pigheaded, pissed off, and red-necked as Mike McCord? Tell me, so I can stay away from there.

Talk about someone with their "panties in a bunch," Mr. Mike, you must be using yours to floss your teeth, from what I can tell.

Sure, you might be correct in some of your points about the article you were commenting on, but why did you feel the need to attack the writer, make assumptions that you cannot possibly back up, and go on a red-faced right-wing full-out screed against anyone who isn't quite as ingnorant as yourself?

Go back in your whole, Ted, and leave the rest of us alone.
by Jim Macdonald
(jsmacdonald [at] riseup.net) Monday Feb 4th, 2008 7:06 PM
Ad hominems aside, Mr. McCord (I worked five summers in Yellowstone, have covered Yellowstone for more than 10 years, and currently live in Bozeman), the buffalo were in fact forced off the road. I saw it with my own eyes. Cars took up all of the right lane, the plow came the other direction; the bison had no out, and the plow wasn't stopping. The bison ran. If it were impossible to move bison, they could never be hazed at all. And, in fact, hazing is a fact of life for many bison every winter.

Secondly, as to exaggeration, you can draw your own conclusions. The essay is not all that dependent on what actually happened during my trip. It's a fact of life that bison in Yellowstone are regularly persecuted and have been for a long time. You know enough about the brucellosis nonsense to know what has been happening to buffalo and how many have been slaughtered over the years. You know that it's a red herring, and you know that the Park Service has been implicated in it.

Thirdly, yes, I did shriek. Of course, I may or may not have shrieked to see a wolf attack a buffalo. The difference of course is that the wolf attacks a weak buffalo (or as I mentioned, an Indian pre-horse killed a whole bunch of buffalo by forcing them off of cliffs known as buffalo jumps), but one is done simply because it's done for survival, or done in the course of living. The other - snow plowing a bunch of buffalo off a road - is done out of a sense of human entitlement, a belief that we have a right to do it, to protect whatever so called property right we think is at stake. Anyone or anything caught under the arrogance of hierarchical oppression is worthy of our support; by hierarchy, we don't mean that one thing benefits while another suffers (the wolf eating the buffalo), but rather acting on the belief that one is entitled to control the other. We all live in a world where we all are victims of this world of control; we all have privileges as a result. There is no doubt that the fossil fuels I burned on my drive from Bozeman, on my various trips, on even pounding on this keyboard, is part of that privilege. I am a white male; I've had a lot of things go my way simply by being born into this world - none of which I deserve. But, being in that world, acting in that world does not mean that one shouldn't resist it. If being from Ohio is another source of privilege - though apparently not one that allows me to speak and write about these things - then so be it.

So, yes, all this happened, and it was very upsetting, but even if it had never happened, the issues facing the buffalo and facing us all are the same. And, in that small space between giants, there is room for radical action and resistance. For me, in that moment, it's to give the buffalo space. In your local places, in your localities, it's something else. When I lived in Washington, DC (that most eastern of cities), the buffalo suffering was simply a metaphor in a world where people lied dying of the cold on benches, suffered from AIDS, in a racially torn about city, and whose people were treated as an afterthought or an experimental policy ground against the wishes of the people who have no say in that government. Here in Montana where I am now, where I spent so many summers working, it's the buffalo, it's the wolf, and it's the people wherever they are (whether the seasonal worker, the indigenous woman or man, the homeless person) who have gotten the shaft in this rotten system (one that electoral politics won't fix; one that we can fix by organizing on the most local of levels).

Cheers,
Congratulations on being a westerner - it's a wonderful shield for avoiding rational discussion (maybe, I'll have to try it on now that I live out here - worse than the easterner and the tourist, the transplanted easterner - yikes),

Jim

One other note on whether they are "bison" or "buffalo", which I intentionally use interchangeably whatever the semantical language police say (and there's something to be said for only using the word "buffalo", which is often the word of choice of indigenous peoples, probably in direct response to this inane - "buffalo are in Africa" - insistence.)

There was a long discussion last year on the Yellowstone Net forum about this that I had the misfortune of participating in. See http://www.yellowstone.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=13679 for a most tedious discussion.

You certainly could tell the difference; insisting on one side of equivocal terms - when anyone who knows anything know that the buffalo in North America aren't the same as the buffalo in Africa - is ridiculous.

But, two can play the semantics game (whether the live East or West or are relatively nomadic, or just roam regardless of what some may insist on calling them),

Tchus,
i.e., adios,

James

PS btw, I rent in town, precisely because I didn't want to be someone who moved into a sprawling sub-development to build a dream house (as if I had the money or desire to do that); stereotypes are ruinous things because they miss the point. Rather than treating me as a strawman, sometimes those strawmen are also called scarecrows, perhaps it would be more helpful to put an argument (or even a semantical flourish) in the strongest light so that we can move conversation forward. There are too many fumes in this bison bson jam, Mr. Mike McCord!
by Tatanka Wicasa
Tuesday Feb 5th, 2008 1:09 PM
Mike, for the common good, let's hope a buffalo sticks a horn up your ass.
by Mike McCord
Tuesday Feb 5th, 2008 4:29 PM
Dear, Buffalo Man, or whatever your name is (more likely, it's Joey from Cincinatti),

Are you serious? For the common good, a buffalo should stick a horn up my ass? For real? What good does that serve?

Oh, right, because then I might understand. See the light, so-to-speak.

Or maybe I would just suffer severe internal damage and die?

That's it, isn't it? You want me to die. Or at the very least, you want me to bleed uncontrollably from my rectum . . . and possibly die.

Why? Because you agree with Mr. Macdonald, who comes across to me as an idealistic, tree-hugging, Tool?

Listen, I'm not the one crying out like a little girl because the some poor buffalo stumbles and falls.

Honestly, when I read that line in the article, I laughed my ass off for a good ten minutes. If he really wants to do some good, he should go back home to Washington, or Ohio, or wherever and quit writing this propagandistic crap.

A bison stumbles into a snow bank. Good. Serves him right for being on the road in the first place.

p.s. Notice how I interchanged between bison and buffalo? See, I can do it too.
by Jim Macdonald
(jsmacdonald [at] riseup.net) Tuesday Feb 5th, 2008 10:18 PM
The stick really hurts; it's a wonder I'm not more constipated, especially after devouring as much irrelevant garbage as you spew out.

Tree hugger? You bet. Cry like a girl? If only more of us would... though those sexist labels should probably have you banned from a place like indymedia.

But, idealistic? Those are fighting words. I have absolutely no interest in that label, and I'd challenge you to show me anything I said that is the slightest bit idealistic. Our every breath on this world is conflict; conflict with the very air around us. There's no escaping it no matter the social order. No matter what, you and I will die; buffalo will die, wolves will die, Yellowstone will explode, and the sun will swallow up the earth before slipping the Milky Way slips into a black hole. If there's more than that, it's not relevant to our lives and doesn't make our choices any less ones that destroys the possibilities that might have been. The reason I say we need to give buffalo space, the reason I empathize with creatures - (or is that the stick up my ass? LOL) - the reason I side with them in that context is the blind arrogance that makes everyone's suffering more profound than it already is. Given the dynamic nature of everything, given that we will kill, that we will die, why make it worse? Why pretend? Why not spend that time we have not pretending that the world somehow owes us something because we are human?

I am optimistic despite being far from idealistic; I'm optimistic that in a universe of change (and therefore destruction), that there is meaning in it all. That's not idealistic; it's realistic - you cannot see change without order. It's impossible to deny meaning without at once affirming it. But, to make more of it than that, to pretend this bizarro world we now inhabit is somehow good is nonsense. What else is there in the end but empathy, connection, and dismantling the unnecessary barriers that create nation states, that create governments, that create stupid ideas of better and worse that go way outside the bounds of reason. In each context we find ourselves, the only answer is to resist that and to stand with those who have been oppressed by this weird ideology driving people's actions.

Ouch,

Jim
by Restoring the "buffalo" nation
Saturday Feb 9th, 2008 2:08 PM
Maybe part of the problem is that the bison (or north american 'buffalo') are lacking any measurable free land space on which to migrate. Heading north from Yellowstone into Montana the bison fall prey to the guns of the Montana cattle ranchers who cannot tolerate the wild bison competing with their for-profit herds of domestic cattle for food sources. The excuse for shooting the naturally migrating bison is the fallacy of transmission of brucellosis from bison to cattle, a myth as these two separate species would not engage in sexual intercourse except under forced conditions! In any other direction for the bison exists other impossibilities, either too high of elevation or fences or other impediments. So maybe the bison run onto the road to tell humans they are ready to expand their range into their former habitat??

Since the Lakota Nation is beginning to attempt to reclaim their treaty land violated by the U.S. government maybe the dreams of restoring a "buffalo" or bison nation in the Midwest can become reality? All the extra bison from the Yellowstone region can be safely relocated (instead of shot by ranchers or bulldozed by public park employees) to their earlier migratory range in the midwest (ie., Lakota Nation) and then begin to repopulate to their earlier numbers? We can remind ourselves that it was not the indigenous Native American "Indians" who nearly caused the bison to become extinct, it was the Euro-american settlers' for- profit hunters who killed large amounts of bison for greed and without thought of their possible extinction. It is also believed that when the U.S. government learned of the interdependence between the Lakota and other Plains Indians on the bison, the government agents wished to eradicate the bison herds to near nothingness with the intent of pushing the Lakotas onto small reservations and reducing them to a state of dependency. Thankfully the Lakota have seceeded from the violated treaties with the U.s. government and are now in the process of reclaiming their land, with free range habitat for the bison..

visit Lakota Nation @;
http://www.lakotaoyate.net/

"Lakota Oyate represents the traditional voice of the free Lakota oyate (people) from what was known as the Sioux Indian reservations of Nebraska, North Dakota,South Dakota and Montana.

In our freedom, we reject the colonial apartheid system that has caused genocide to our people, and to all Indigenous peoples.

Lakota Oyate emerges from the work of the Lakota Freedom Delegation. Now that we have returned from Washington D.C., we work to ensure the voice of the oyate - the Elders, children and all people - are respected and heard in the rebirth of a Lakota Nation rooted in the power of wowasakeikcupi, or taking back the way.

We do not represent those BIA or IRA governments beholden to the colonial system, but we encourage all people to reclaim their freedom.

We do not support the continuing imposition of the "Republic of Lakotah" or its so-called "provisional government" which does not represent the will of the people, the traditional matrilineal Lakota society structure, nor the spirit of the Animal Nations which survive within the Elders and children.

We do call for communication and healing so that all aspects of the Lakota Freedom movement can work together under the guidance of the Elders and children."

Lakota map @;
http://www.lakotaoyate.net/about.html

In addition there are several other indigenous nations and their allies working together to try bringing the bison back to their previous habitat. They group themselves under the name Intertribal Bison Coopertive (ITBC). Here is their statement;

"Our History

The American buffalo, also known as bison, has always held great meaning for American Indian people. To Indian people, buffalo represent their spirit and remind them of how their lives were once lived, free and in harmony with nature. In the 1800's, the white-man recognized the reliance Indian tribes had on the buffalo. Thus began the systematic destruction of the buffalo to try to subjugate the western tribal nations. The slaughter of over 60 million buffalo left only a few hundred buffalo remaining.

Without the buffalo, the independent life of the Indian people could no longer be maintained. The Indian spirit, along with that of the buffalo, suffered an enormous loss. At that time, tribes began to sign treaties with the U.S. Government in an attempt to protect the land and the buffalo for their future generations. The destruction of buffalo herds and the associated devastation to the tribes disrupted the self-sufficient lifestyle of Indian people more than all other federal policies to date.

To reestablish healthy buffalo populations on tribal lands is to reestablish hope for Indian people. Members of the InterTribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) understand that reintroduction of the buffalo to tribal lands will help heal the spirit of both the Indian people and the buffalo."

found @;
http://www.itbcbison.com/about.php

This is just the beginning of some needed changes to the system of land usage in North America. For too long has the majority of the land been held against the interest of the wildlife in favor of factory farm ranching and/or agribusiness. Restoration of the bison to their former range habitat is the ONLY humane and rational solution for the current conditions of overcrowding facing the Yellowstone herd..

by Jim Macdonald
Sunday Feb 10th, 2008 9:09 AM
There are extremely radical implications of following this to its logical conclusion. In the short term, it's allowing bison to move outside of the bounds of the park. However, historically, the Yellowstone area was not the primest of buffalo habitats; indigenous people moved through Yellowstone to reach the big herds. According to some estimates I have seen (for instance, in Frederic Wagner), there may have historically only been about 1,000 buffalo in Yellowstone over the centuries before the Euroamerican invasion. There are now closer to 5,000 (though a horrible slaughter perhaps awaits this winter - looks like NPS is about to slaughter many of the 53 bison they just captured at Stephens Creek).

In North America there were somewhere between 30 - 40 million bison at the start of the 19th century; by the end of that century, down to a few thousand, and only 23 left in the wild - in Yellowstone. (Some have said there were 60 million or more - for reasons a little too much to go into, that's too high; but 30-40 million is a huge number). They roamed on the plains; after small pox decimated indigenous populations on the coasts and inland, they roamed toward both coasts.

Now, if that range expanded again, there are very radical implications. How could it be done without undoing the genocide and the rationale behind the genocide that settled North America? How could you not change the ethos? Even if people aren't really displaced, even if agriculture went on (as it did for thousands of years on the continent), it would change the relationship and the entitlement ethics that governs agricultural and land use policies. Land and animals would no longer be there as capital but as part of the community everywhere (not just in some park set aside somewhere). Wouldn't that also lead to fundamental changes in the way people viewed immigrants, nation states? This is not utopian; it's a radical mess. But, it would be a better mess, more manageable, more of one where small groups would be empowered to relate and act in an environment and not be dependent on the mercy of forces that are much to large to understand. No one would dare say that nuclear weapons are what makes them safe; instead, safety would be what we'd be doing as a group as we face the danger of a thundering herd. That we can manage; managing the world is something we cannot do.

Letting the bison roam is as important and radical an issue as war overseas, global capitalism, or anything else. That may explain why the Montana Department of Livestock and its government partners (like the National Park Service and USDA) wage an ideological war against them (even when that war makes very little practical sense and costs a great deal for so very little). They perhaps see what's next. It's important for us who care about buffalo to see and embrace the radical implications of it all.

Strategically and tactically, I see the global radical implications best handled on the small moment level; in our local and current environments. We need to empathize with that particular buffalo, or that particular herd. We need to take on our experience with heart, but that experience at the same time is connected rationally to a world that goes well beyond the immediacy of our moment. As we talk about these things, it helps to bounce back between them. For me, it probably helps to explain my shrieks. Because I have thought and cared about this for so long - to witness it - was all the more shocking and disheartening and rich, but mostly horrible and awful. I don't want this feeling.

Buffalo Field Campaign has a rally in West Yellowstone on Saturday, February 10. I'm going to do everything I can to be there and find out what else I could be doing (while bringing that care package with me).
by interview @ sc-imc
Monday Feb 11th, 2008 10:49 AM
2/08/08 -- 53 Wild Buffalo Captured in Yellowstone and Facing Slaughter
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/02/09/18478049.php

MP3 at 10.6 MB:
http://www.indybay.org/uploads/2008/02/09/breakingnewsbfc.mp3
by Mike McCord
(mmccord [at] gmail.com) Monday Feb 11th, 2008 11:56 AM
Yeeehawww!!!! Can anyone join the fun?

And hey, quit deleting me. I ain't goin' anywhere.

Spoil sports.