Right now, newborn wild bison -- better known as buffalo -- are grazing under their mothers' watchful eyes on the lush Horse Butte peninsula near Yellowstone National Park in Montana.
But on May 15, this pastoral scene could turn ugly if the government begins hazing the buffalo back into the park with a helicopter, horses and ATVs, as they did last year at this time.
If this operation proceeds, some buffalo could die, including young calves and pregnant cows.
It's time to stop hazing buffalo off U.S. Forest Service land on the Horse Butte peninsula, adjacent to Yellowstone National Park in Montana. There are no cattle on Horse Butte, and thus there is absolutely no basis for hazing -- and potentially killing -- dozens of buffalo. Yellowstone's iconic buffalo population numbers about 3,000 animals, and it is the only continuously wild, free-roaming population that remains in the United States. And while almost all of the buffalo in America have some cattle genes, the buffalo in Yellowstone do not. As such, they are critically important for the long-term conservation of the species. In the spring, some buffalo leave snow-covered Yellowstone National Park in search of fresh forage at lower elevations in Montana. Many buffalo also travel to these grass-rich areas to give birth. Unfortunately for the buffalo on Horse Butte, however, the government agencies in charge, including the U.S. Forest Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (both agencies within your Department of Agriculture), do not allow them there after May 15. This arbitrary deadline stems from an unreasonable fear of brucellosis -- a disease that causes pregnant animals to abort. Because of brucellosis, buffalo are generally not welcome outside Yellowstone in Montana, which is why thousands have been slaughtered or hazed back into the Park in recent years.
The justification for the slaughter and hazing is concern that wild buffalo may spread brucellosis to domestic cattle in Montana. There has never been a documented case, however, of transmission of brucellosis from buffalo to cattle in the wild. And recent science finds the chance of a buffalo-to-cattle transmission occurring outside Yellowstone in Montana to be very small. Notwithstanding such low risk, the reason I'm asking you to intervene on behalf of buffalo here is that there are no cattle on Horse Butte in Montana. In fact, just last year, the Gallatin National Forest made a great decision to permanently close the only remaining grazing allotment on Horse Butte. Now more than ever, there is absolutely no reason to haze -- and, as a result, potentially kill -- dozens of buffalo back into Yellowstone from Horse Butte. There are simply no cows at risk, and thus there is no basis for needlessly endangering valuable Yellowstone bison. Please do not allow buffalo hazing this spring on U.S. Forest Service land on Horse Butte in Montana. Thank you for taking action on this very important issue.
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