Buffalo Field Campaign's patrol and advocacy efforts have so far saved the last of the wild buffalo from extinction, but the best long-term strategy to end the heart-wrenching cruelty and protect the buffalo over the long term is a federal “Endangered Species” listing. While continuing our extensive field campaigns, we will increase the level of protection provided to wild buffalo and their habitat through implementation of pragmatic state and federal policy changes.
- We are working to change Montana law to recognize wild bison as an essential native species requiring protection and remove the Montana Department of Livestock’s (DOL) bison management authority. Specifically, we seek to transfer management authority from DOL to Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Accomplishing this will transfer power from an agency whose mission is to protect the profits of the livestock industry to an agency whose mission is to protect wild buffalo and restore them to their native habitat.
- BFC will increase the protection of wild buffalo and their habitat by obtaining a “threatened” or “endangered” status for America’s wild bison under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- We frequently attend public hearings and conferences where we present information and submit comments on buffalo management decisions.
- Our legal team diligently works within the courts to ensure that existing laws are upheld and contest management actions that are detrimental to the buffalo and/or their ecosystem.
- We strongly ally ourselves with native tribes to highlight and promote the many tribal perspectives favoring wild bison in Montana.
- Throughout the year we attend conferences and expositions, and conduct public education talks throughout Montana and on the east and west coasts. We also regularly set up information tables throughout Yellowstone National Park to inform and engage visitors, who are largely unaware of the way buffalo—as a national treasure—are treated.
Much of the above requires legal casework, court filings, dealing with myriad agencies and bureaucracies, and the execution of a public education component that we continue refining.
BFC’s capable cadre of staff, volunteers, and allies includes some fine pro bono legal help. These legal professionals are supported by our experienced internal staff as well as occasional paid legal specialists, wildlife biologists, and other expert assistance.
BFC is very fortunate to have had a series of animal rights and environmental law students volunteer with us in various capacities—including field patrols. Now, years later, we reap the benefit of a well-educated and experienced legal support system. We do have to pay for some services, but generally receive about four dollars of legal guidance, research, and representation for every dollar invested. This four to one return is a benefit that we maximize for the buffalo.
To support our national-level buffalo protection efforts, we have maintained a staff person in Washington DC since 2010. This person educates and builds relationships with congressional offices and members of the executive branch to spur federal action to provide wild buffalo greater room to roam.
We also have the good fortune to have a Native Liaison who is a spiritual leader of the Blackfeet Nation and volunteers with us. This person has made multiple trips to Washington, DC; Helena, MT; and Denver, CO on behalf of BFC and wild buffalo. He has and shares his Capitol Hill contacts, making key introductions between BFC and members of U.S. Congress, as well as key staffers at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.
BFC leverages the grassroots energy of more than 30,000 supporters to support our mission. We facilitate letter writing and email campaigns by folks supportive of our mission, and use them to help politicians and legislators understand that not all constituents are uninformed and passive. Our supporters are generally very engaged.
At a “basecamp” in West Yellowstone, BFC maintains a very rustic headquarters occupied year-round by between 5 and 20 staff and/or volunteers from around the world (depending on the season and activity level). The leaders of BFC have trained hundreds of volunteers on every aspect of BFC’s work—and helped “launch” thousands of activists out into the field after experiencing the effectiveness and empowerment of BFC. These wonderful people keep in touch and help grow support for buffalo protection.
We track the plans and proposed actions of the buffalo adversaries and seek to hinder them, without violating any laws, as described in “Strategies” above.
In our fieldwork, many of our primary indicators must be framed and adjusted annually, or even seasonally, according to the activities of buffalo antagonists and the buffalo themselves, for example:
How many buffalo crossed the Yellowstone National Park boundary? Of those, how many buffalo were harassed and/or killed by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) this season/year compared to previous seasons/years? Did DOL meet their self-imposed buffalo kill (or forced relocation) quotas? Can our actions be directly or tangentially linked to decreased buffalo injury and/or mortality? How much film did we capture of the cruel actions of the DOL, and how widely, articulately, and effectively did we share the story of what these animals endure? Through media and outreach activities, how effectively were we able to shine a protective spotlight onto the atrocities perpetrated against these last wild bison?
Regarding our education and outreach activities, we track how many people attend educational events, visit our information tables, “Like” our Facebook page, visit our website, and telephone inquiries into our office. We also measure responses to our electronic newsletters, in which we request our supporters to take action via phone calls, emails, and letters to legislators.
In legislative and policy areas we evaluate how broadly our coalitions have grown and how well we work together with our allies. We also track the progress of our efforts through the state and federal systems as we seek to ensure true and lasting protection for buffalo via changes to law and policy.
We monitor all of the above closely as an organization, as does our Board of Directors, and together regularly evaluate what we have accomplished against our goals. We discuss what has worked, how things can be improved, and regularly seek input, feedback, and new ideas from our large pool of volunteers.
In the near-term, our field patrols continue to reduce buffalo suffering and death on a consistent basis. BFC’s volunteer ranks continue to grow. Our cameras continue to capture evidence of the cruel way our taxpayer dollars are wasted, as DOL agents harass a species fighting for its very survival. We continue making videos and sharing stories of this deplorable situation…and public interest is slowly but steadily growing.
For the longer term, and in consultation with the Montana tribal legislative caucus and other allies, we are pursuing various legislative avenues to protect the buffalo and their ecosystem. We have been in close communication with members of the tribal caucus and are very excited about the potential of working together to champion a pro-bison bill in the upcoming legislative session.
BFC is currently working to draft, promote, and find a sponsor for legislation to introduce in the 2015 Montana legislative session that would strike the harmful anti-bison law MCA 81-2-120 from the books and strip DOL of buffalo management authority. We understand that the Montana legislature is heavily influenced by the livestock industry, and that it will be extremely difficult to pass legislation to change the status quo of bison management. However, recent state and federal polls clearly show that more than 70% of Montanans and Americans hold a favorable impression of wild, free-roaming buffalo. To capitalize on this public sentiment, we plan to follow our 2015 legislative agenda with a 2016 ballot initiative taking the issue to Montana voters to earn protection for the bison. A precedent already exists with wild elk, a species allowed to carry out its natural migration across Yellowstone’s boundaries. Our legislation will protect the bison’s right to migrate and, like the elk, place them under the authority of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. We are making good progress on this project.
Most importantly: a listing as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act would be the most effective way to protect the bison. With this end in mind, we are currently compiling all the relevant data to draft an objective, scientifically persuasive, and legally defensible petition to list the species. We are working with attorneys and biologists to answer key strategic, legal, and scientific questions pertaining to this effort.
Outreach, education, and media, are informing an engaged citizenry, continue to play a huge role in achieving success.