Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act
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The Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act (HR 2428)
| Buffalo Preservation Act Text (PDF) | House Rep. Rahall letter to National Park Service (PDF file) Speak out for the Buffalo!
On May 18, 2005, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) introduced HR 2428, the “Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act”. The bill is designed to protect Yellowstone bison from unnecessary management practices including hazing (chasing bison with helicopters, snowmobiles, horses and ATV's), capturing, and killing. Under the bill, bison would be allowed to range in Montana up to the edge of zone 3 of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). This area constitutes a relatively small portion of lands on the west and north sides of Yellowstone National Park (YNP) where bison currently migrate in winter and spring with fatal consequences. The bill further establishes that the National Park Service (NPS) has sole jurisdiction over bison inside YNP. Under the IBMP, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) has authority to haze bison inside YNP near the western boundary. MDOL agents commonly haze bison near the border using horses and helicopters as many as seven miles into the park. The bill calls for the dismantling of the Stephen's Creek capture facility located inside YNP near Gardiner, Montana where NPS sent 267 bison to slaughter last Spring.

The bill also directs the Park Service and Forest Service to acquire additional habitat for bison in Montana using such methods as conservation easements and acquisition.H.R. 2428 is essentially based on three precepts.

First, bison have the right range on federal public lands both inside and outside of YNP. Bison are a native wildlife species in Montana and the West. They are an American icon and the symbol of United States Department of the Interior. They deserve to be treated with respect and managed as native wildlife.

Second, the current management scheme under the Interagencey Bison Management Plan (IBMP) is flawed and unnecessarily expends federal taxpayer dollars. The continuation of this plan will result in perpetual hazing, capturing and slaughtering of Yellowstone bison at tremendous and rising cost to taxpayers. The bison management budget for FY2004 will likely exceed 3.5 million all coming from federal funds. The IBMP's arbitrary 3000-population cap for bison endangers the survival of the herd and limits the genetic variability of this unique herd.

Third, there are a number of common sense solutions that could be employed that will effectively address the concerns of Montana's livestock industry while allowing wild bison to freely range outside of YNP. The IBMP is not based on simple common sense solutions but rather expensive wildlife vaccination programs and massive population reductions, neither of which has proven effective.Opponents of the bill, led by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), contend that free-ranging Yellowstone bison pose a significant threat to Montana’s livestock industry. They claim that bison infected with the disease brucellosis will infect domestic cattle thus threatening the state’s brucellosis free status. They believe that the only way to deal with the threat of brucellosis infected bison is to keep them within the borders of YNP using whatever means necessary.We believe, however, that the threat of brucellosis transmission to domestic cattle from wild Yellowstone bison is vastly overstated. First, studies indicate that less than 10 percent of the Yellowstone bison are presently infected with brucellosis. Of these animals, only pregnant female bison have the biological capability to transmit the disease. Transmission can only occur if livestock ingest a significant quantity of infected birthing material. There has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from wild bison to domestic cattle.

Second, domestic livestock grazing in the Greater Yellowstone Area are vaccinated for brucellosis. The vaccine is at least 75 percent effective. Vaccinated cattle and brucellosis infected bison have commingled in Grand Teton National Park for over 45 years without a single documented case of brucellosis transmission. Third, wild bison and domestic cattle do not inhabit the same range at the same time. Bison migrate from YNP to lower elevations in Montana in the winter and spring months. They return to YNP in the late spring when forage is accessible in the Park. Domestic cattle do not graze these areas during this period because the climate is too harsh to support them.

Third, many other wildlife species including elk, deer, moose, wolf, coyote, bear and numerous others have also been exposed to brucellosis and may carry the disease. If Montana is so deeply concerned about brucellosis, why are bison the only species targeted by the state livestock industry.

The truth is that the Montana livestock industry is using brucellosis as a front for the real reasons they wish to exclude wild bison from Montana. What it all boils down to is access to grass. Livestock producers, particularly those grazing on public land, are concerned that the addition of a large ungulate species would lessen the amount of grass available for their cattle. They also claim that wild bison will damage fences and injure their animals. In seven years of observation near the western boundary of YNP, we have not seen damage to fences caused by bison except when they are being chased by MDOL agents. What we have observed, however, is that bison walk around fence lines or simply jump fences. It may be hard to imagine a 2000-pound bison jumping a fence, but we can assure you that it is possible and does happen.

Further, livestock producers already have to deal with fence damage done by elk and deer. There is no indication from our observations that bison will significantly add to this unavoidable aspect of ranching operations in native wildlife habitat. Other concerns that have been raised about wild bison ranging in Montana include the presence of bison on roads and private property. Both of these issues can be adequately addressed by employing sound wildlife management practices. There are currently several projects underway in Canada and northern Montana to create wildlife overpass/underpass migration corridors. This technique could be employed in affected areas near Yellowstone. Private property owners who wish to exclude bison from their land can install larger bison proof fences. Both of these practices will cost taxpayers significantly less in the long run than continuing the current policy of keeping bison out of the state.

In summary, we believe that H.R. 2428 sends a message to the Montana livestock industry that their current management practices are not solution oriented and are out of touch with the vast majority of Americans. The bill advocates common sense alternatives that protect Yellowstone bison as a native wildlife species and would cost taxpayers significantly less than the current program of hazing, capturing and killing bison at Yellowstone’s border.

To Contact your Representative, Click Here, For the Buffalo!
15 co-sponsors who supported the bill in 109th Congress

Representative
Party-State
1
Hinchey, Maurice (Sponsor)
NY
2
Bass, Charles
NH
3
Lee, Barbara
CA
4
Frank, Barney
MA
5
Kirk Mark Steven
IL
6
Miller, George
CA
7
McNulty, Michael R.
NY
8
Kildee, Dale E.
MI
9
Van Hollen, Chris
MD
10
Sherman, Brad
CA
11
McDermott, Jim
WA
12
Nadler, Jerrold
NY
13
Grijalva, Raul M.
AZ
14
Kucinich, Dennis J.
OH
15
Shays, Christopher
CT
16
Woolsey, Lynn C.
CA
17
Olver, John W.
MA
18
Evans, Lane
IL
19
Honda, Michael M.
CA
20
Payne, Donald M.
NJ
21
Kennedy, Patrick J.
RI
22
Tauscher, Ellen O.
CA
23
Andrews, Robert E.
NJ
24
Blumenauer, Earl
OR
25
Roybal-Allard, Lucille
CA
26
Capps, Lois
CA
27
Hooley, Darlene
OR

To Contact your Representative, Click Here, For the Buffalo!