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LOCAL News :: Animal Rights : Arts & Culture : Environment & Food

Buffalo Field Campaign Comes to Santa Cruz

The Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) is the only group working in the field, everyday, to stop the slaughter and harassment of Yellowstone's wild buffalo. On September 8, volunteers with the BFC gave a presentation at the Louden Nelson Center in Santa Cruz. Mike, a co-founder of the BFC, along with Josh, a four year volunteer with the campaign, gave personal accounts of monitoring the last wild buffalo and showed videos of buffalo being traped and killed. In addition to evening presentation, the BFC brought a large inflatable buffalo to the Santa Cruz Farmers' Market as a way of interacting with market goers.
Although I missed the inflatable buffalo at the Farmers' Market, I was able to make my way over to the Louden Nelson Center for a presentation from the Buffalo Field Campaign. Another event of particular interest was also taking place at the Louden Nelson at the same time. It was a Candidate Forum for Santa Cruz City Council. I was not very interested in hearing from candidates that I am already quite familiar with, but it was a very pleasant surprise to learn that Tony Madrigal is running for City Council.

But, I stuck to my plan and went into the room where the BFC was giving a presentation. The event was sponsored by Santa Cruz Earth First! and Free Radio Santa Cruz. SCEF! and FRSC were able to cover to the cost of the room, so all donations and t-shirt sales were able to go the BFC as opposed to the Louden Nelson. This way much of the money will go towards gas to get the BFC to the next community for a presentation. A local anarchist zine distro and food not bombs were also present.

The Buffalo Field Campaign (formerly known as Buffalo Nations), a non-profit grassroots coalition of Native American and non-Native environmentalists formed in the winter of 1996-97 under the leadership of videographer Michael Mease and Lakota activist Rosalie Little Thunder. BFC spends 365 days a year defending the buffalo. In the opening the presentation, Mike noted that the campaigns and struggles that activists are involved in are very inter-related. The last wild buffalo in the world are being killed under the leadership of ranchers and the cattle industry, the most influential lobby in the state of Montana.

The video documentation was very well done and quite intense at times. One women seated in the front row walked out of the event quite early, presumably because she did not want to see the graphic footage about to be shown. Interestingly enough, not all the footage was captured by grassroots activists, rather much of the footage (primarily footage from inside the containment areas) came the National Park Service which uses the video for their documentation purposes. Josh explained that footage taken by the federal government in situations like this are mandated to be turned over to the public if a request for the footage is made. Other sources of the footage include members of the National Park Service that sneak cameras into the trapping and then turn the footage over to the BFC so they can get the message out about is taking place just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Many people involved in the buffalo killing process are not comfortable with the role they play, according to Mike.

Why are the Yellowstone National Park buffalo being slaughtered?

"A handful of ranchers graze cattle on public and private land adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claim that these cattle are at risk of contracting brucellosis from Yellowstone’s buffalo, a disease originally brought to wildlife from European cattle. It is extremely important to note that there has never been a documented case of a wild buffalo transmitting brucellosis to livestock. Brucellosis is a disease that can cause spontaneous abortions in cattle. The state of Montana on behalf of the livestock industry has killed more than 3200 buffalo since 1985 based on the unsubstantiated fear that Yellowstone buffalo will transmit brucellosis to cattle. There has, however, never been a confirmed case of brucellosis transmission from buffalo to cattle under natural conditions. Indeed, in Grand Teton National Park, where infected buffalo and livestock have co-mingled for more than 45 years, there has not been a single incident of disease transmission."

2000 volunteers have been involved in the Buffalo Field Campaign and they have come from the 50 states of the US and internationally from Israel, Australia, and many other countries. Employees paid by the federal and state government have come to realize that the passion demonstrated by volunteers with the BFC is greater than that of the paid government employees.

Josh reported that, unfortunately, employees of the federal government are now working under the direction of the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL).

There were other important aspects of the presentation that you can learn more about on the BFC website. They include the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) (more info on CUT), the effect of buffalo herding on the environment, and the voice given to native peoples (more info info on native involvement).

As the event ended, I decided to buy a BFC t-shirt to support the cause and cloth myself at the same time. I also picked up a few stickers and big stack of BFC's yearly newsletter. If you would like a newsletter, please bradley (at)">send me an email and I'll let you know where or how you can get a copy in Santa Cruz.

As I walked out the door, I saw Mark Primack had gotten out of the City Council Candidate Forum and I kinda sarcastically said to him, "Hey Mark, what are you going to do to protect the buffalo?" and tried to hand him one of the hundred newsletters I was holding. He did not reach out his hand to take it, but he did ask me to explain what I was talking about.

I explained to Mark and a couple other people standing by Mark much of what I have explained to you all in the preceding paragraphs and went on to mention that there is currently a bill in the house called HR 3446, 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.

I also mentioned that most of our local Representatives have co-sponsored the bill, however Josh suggested to contact Nancy Pelosi because she is a very influential Democrat and has thus far failed to sign on as a co-sponsor of HR 3446. So far there are about 105 co-sponsors, but the House has 435 Representatives so the BFC would like to double the number of co-sponsors on the bill.

At this point I was ready to go home and Mark was interested enough to the take the newsletter. Someone he was talking with then picked up a newsletter from me as well.

And remember, as far as lobbying representatives like Nancy Pelosi goes, you don't have to be a Democrat to call one up and say you are.

However, the BFC are not content to haggle through the legal system in order to protect the last wild buffalo. The tactics of resistance also include direct action civil disobedience, daily monitoring and documentation of the buffalo and the powers working on behalf of the cattle industry, and grassroots educational campaigns which include a website, newsletter, email list, and road tour.


One note about local action to defend the environment, Santa Cruz Earth First! currently meets the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, 7:00 PM, at the Hub for Sustainable Transportation located at 224 Walnut Ave.

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