Defenders Urges Specific Steps to End Bison Slaughter

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(03/23/1997) - Gardiner, MT -- As Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman prepared to meet with Montana Governor Marc Racicot and a host of congressional and agency representatives over the fate of Yellowstone's bison Sunday, Defenders of Wildlife has outlined specific steps to "stop the madness of bison slaughter."

We've probably spent more taxpayers' money on killing and hazing bison than it would have cost to buy all the cattle in the immediate area," says Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders. "The killing has been senseless; the smokescreen used to justify the killing has been the threat of brucellosis spreading from bison to cattle an event that has never been documented in the wild."

The Yellowstone herd, the last free-roaming bison herd, has been cut in half this winter as state agents, encouraged by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), shot or sent to slaughter more than a thousand bison as the animals left the park in search of food.

Schlickeisen says, "What we are doing here on the doorstep of our nation's premiere parkland does not make sense scientifically, economically, or socially. Nonetheless, collectively our state and federal government agencies seem unable to unravel their tangled web of competing interests long enough to fulfil their responsibilities to the American people and to responsible wildlife stewardship."

In short, the Defenders president said, "If APHIS would amend their scientifically unfounded regulations, the other federal and state agencies could work cooperatively to find a solution. If we think `outside the box,' this really wouldn't be a difficult problem to solve."

In the short term, Defenders urges Secretary Glickman to:

  • stop APHIS from inappropriately jeopardizing Montana or other states' brucellosis-free status based upon the condition of their wildlife rather than that of their livestock.
  • direct the U.S. Forest Service to transfer cattle grazing leases for forage lands critical to bison to alternative forage areas for this year and next.

Defenders urges the Governor and Secretary to:

  • direct the Montana Department of Livestock and US Department of Agriculture to allow for the shipping of appropriate starving bison to the Ft. Belknap or other appropriate Native American facilities.

Over the long run, Defenders calls upon state and federal agencies to:

  • research and use brucellosis vaccines in both bison and cattle.
  • ameliorate the impact of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park, where snowmobile trails have allowed bison to exit the park en masse.
  • develop permanent access to expanded bison winter range.
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    Contact(s):

    Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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Bison with calf, © Diana LeVasseur
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Each year, as wild bison wander beyond the borders of Yellowstone National Park in search of food, Montana livestock officials demand that these iconic animals be rounded up and shipped to slaughter houses to keep them out of Montana and to keep their numbers low.