Expedite the "Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act", (H.R. 2428)

  • recipient: Greg Walden, Chairman Of Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee, US Congress - - Resources Committee
To Provide For The Protection Of The Last Remaining Herd of Wild and Genetically Pure American Buffalo, by Allowing Herd to Freely Roam Defined Federal Land Outside of the Park; Introduced To House, 5/18/05; sponsored by Rep. Hinchey NY, and Referred To Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee, 5/23/05.
 Text Of Legislation:A BILL

To provide for the protection of the last remaining herd of wild and genetically pure American Buffalo.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    (a) Short Title- This section may be cited as the `Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act'.

    (b) Findings- Congress finds the following:

      (1) More than any other animal, the American buffalo (Bison bison) is a wildlife icon of the United States. The American buffalo is the symbol that represents the Department of the Interior. The American buffalo is profoundly significant to Native American cultures and, perhaps more than any other wildlife species, has influenced our history.

      (2) The American buffalo is still under assault, as it was in the late 19th Century when it was nearly exterminated. At the end of the great slaughter, in which tens of millions of buffalo were killed, only a few hundred wild buffalo remained in the Nation and all were located in Yellowstone National Park. Due to poaching, their numbers were reduced to 25 by the year 1900.

      (3) The offspring of the 25 survivors comprise the Yellowstone buffalo herd and are the only wild, free-roaming American buffalo to continuously occupy their native habitat in the United States.

      (4) The Yellowstone buffalo herd is genetically unique. Unlike captive ranched buffalo, which are now relatively common, the Yellowstone buffalo herd has never interbred with cattle and has retained its wild character.

      (5) Because the Park lacks extensive low elevation winter habitat that provides bison and elk with access to winter forage, wildlife migrate from the high elevation plateau of Yellowstone National Park to lower elevation habitat adjacent to the Park in winter and spring.

      (6) The Yellowstone buffalo herd was exposed to the bacterium Brucella abortus, which can cause the disease brucellosis, in 1917. The only potential way Brucellosis is transmitted between species is through animal ingestion of contaminated reproductive products. Brucellosis can cause abortions in infected animals, but only infectious females who have the bacteria in their reproductive system represent any potential threat of transmission.

      (7) The risk of transmission between wild buffalo and cattle was deemed low in a 1992 General Accounting Office report, and again in a 1998 National Research Council study. In fact, there has never been a confirmed incidence of brucellosis transmission in the wild from buffalo to cattle. Buffalo with brucellosis and cattle have grazed together for over 50 years in the Jackson Hole area south of Yellowstone without any incident of disease transmission.

      (8) Despite these facts, the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, and the State of Montana Department of Livestock haze, capture, and kill members of the Yellowstone buffalo herd in an attempt to keep them unnaturally confined within Yellowstone National Park. At the same time, approximately 13,000 Yellowstone elk, some of which also harbor brucellosis, are allowed unfettered access to Federal land outside the Park. Since 1984, nearly 4,000 American buffalo have been killed in Montana as a result of this policy. In the winters of 2002 through 2005, 811 buffalo were killed by the Federal and State agencies, including 496 buffalo captured and slaughtered by the National Park Service.

      (9) The key lower elevation habitat needed by American buffalo is on Gallatin National Forest lands adjacent to the north and west sides of the Park. On the north side, taxpayers spent $13,000,000 in 1999 for a private-Federal land exchange intended to make low elevation habitat adjacent to the Yellowstone River accessible to the Yellowstone buffalo herd and other wildlife. The land exchange failed to provide adequate protection and conservation benefits for buffalo, therefore key habitat is not available to the Yellowstone buffalo herd.

      (10) On the west side of the Park, the Horse Butte peninsula provides prime wildlife habitat for grizzly bears, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, wolves, and buffalo. The peninsula comprises approximately 10,000 acres of primarily Gallatin National Forest Federal lands extending into Hebgen Lake.

      (11) National Park Service lands have been set aside for the conservation of resources and values and for the enjoyment and use of all citizens. The Federal lands adjacent to the Park represent some of the most valuable and important wildlife habitat in the lower 48 States. They are integrally connected to the health of wildlife residing seasonally in our Nation's oldest national park. Together, the Park and the adjacent Federal lands provide some of our Nation's richest opportunities for recreation, wildlife viewing, family camping, wildlife conservation, fishing, and other recreational and sporting activities. These Federal lands should be preferentially managed to sustain this rich and diverse wildlife resource and to provide the public with enjoyment of this National treasure.

    (c) Purpose- The purpose of this Act is to provide for the protection of the Yellowstone buffalo herd by allowing the Yellowstone buffalo herd to freely roam defined Federal land outside of the Park.
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