Since April of 1997, Buffalo Field Campaign has been standing in defense of the country’s last wild buffalo: the Yellowstone herds. BFC’s mission is to “stop the harassment and slaughter of Yellowstone’s wild buffalo, protect the natural habitat of wild, free-roaming buffalo and other native wildlife, and work with all people—especially Indigenous Nations—to honor and protect the sacredness of wild buffalo.” We envision a world in which buffalo are allowed to exist as they choose, naturally restoring themselves throughout their native range.
Every year millions of people from around the world visit Yellowstone National Park with the hope of seeing wild bison. Just over a century ago, this remnant population barely escaped extinction by seeking refuge in Yellowstone’s remote Pelican Valley. America’s “greatest conservation success story” however, has yet to come true for the few bison that remain in the wild. Bison are still threatened with extinction by the very people sworn to protect them—Yellowstone National Park in deference to Montana’s cattle lobby. While there are 500,000 “beefalo” in North America, only 11,000 to 13,000 remain wildlife, and just 4,500 reside in Yellowstone—the last wild, migratory buffalo.
In the winter of 1996-97, the Montana Department of Livestock (MTDOL) and Yellowstone National Park slaughtered nearly 1,100 wild buffalo when they dared to follow their migratory instincts beyond Yellowstone into Montana. Government slaughter combined with winter-kill wiped out two-thirds of the population.
In response to this senseless slaughter, Lakota activist Rosalie Little Thunder and videographer Mike Mease, formed the Buffalo Field Campaign. BFC committed to stand with the buffalo, document all actions made against them, and share our footage with the world, holding Yellowstone and the MTDOL accountable for their actions. BFC runs daily field patrols, monitoring the buffalos’ migration, defending them on the land they choose to be on. We remain the only organization on the ground, advocating tirelessly on their behalf, representing the buffalos’ perspective, never compromising their right to roam free. Additionally, we fight for the buffalo in the political arenas and the courts, and are the world’s leading news source on this issue. We also provide a critical community service, acting as buffalo crossing guards, using professional-grade equipment to warn motorists when bison are on the road, saving countless lives. These efforts are especially important at night when buffalo are difficult to see. Even people who do not agree with our position take the time to thank us for our presence on the highways.
Wild bison are currently mismanaged under a joint government plan—the Interagency Bison Management Plan—crafted largely by cattle interests. The catalyst for the plan is a Montana law, MCA 81-2-120, giving the MTDOL authority over wild buffalo, which makes as much sense as putting the fox in charge of the hen house. This law classifies buffalo as “an animal in need of disease control,” and is managed for removal under state veterinarian authority. Montanan’s who care about wildlife being managed by biologists and scientists need to help us repeal MCA 81-2-120.
Livestock interests claim wild buffalo threaten cows with brucellosis, a bacteria originating in invasive cattle. There has never been a documented case of wild buffalo transmitting brucellosis to cattle. Elk have been implicated numerous times, yet are free to roam. The centuries-old range war about grass and who gets to eat it is still being waged against the buffalo.
Yellowstone buffalo face serious threats, including government trapping-for-slaughter, excessive hunting, domestication through quarantine, and harassment on National Forest habitat. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has “red listed” the American buffalo as “threatened with near extinction.” Even the state of Montana classifies wild buffalo as being “threatened with global extinction.” Regardless of their biological status, wild buffalo have no protection, not even in Yellowstone National Park, where a bison trap has sent thousands to slaughterhouses in Montana.
With no prospect in sight to protect buffalo under state law, we have turned to the Endangered Species Act to protect these imperiled gentle giants. BFC welcomes you to join our efforts in defending this sacred, keystone species, our country’s National Mammal.
Buffalo Field Campaign's Contact Information
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Phone: (406) 646-0070
WATCH: Yellowstone Buffalo Hunt A Native Perspective
Published on May 31, 2018
VIDEO DESCRIPTION: James Holt, Nez Perce tribal member, and Buffalo Field Campaign's Vice President, expresses his views on the buffalo hunt taking place along Yellowstone's borders, and the need to have more buffalo on a larger landscape.