Write-up from the IBMP Meeting

Hello Wild Ones!

As many of you know, on November 30, the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) partners (state, federal, and tribal) held a working meeting, which Roam Free Nation attended and spoke at. We wanted to give you a brief recount of some of the meeting’s highlights.

Getting to the meeting was no small feat. For now, we are about 250 miles away from Yellowstone, in NW Montana, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, and all the roads leading to West Yellowstone were treacherous with extreme winter conditions. Thanks to the skilled driving of our co-founder Jaedin Medicine Elk, we made it there and back safely. Although, the whole time we were questioning why in the world would we put ourselves in such danger, as to travel these roads. The answer was simple: because we love the buffalo so much.

This was probably the least frustrating IBMP meeting yours truly has ever attended. In fact, I would go as far to say that quite a lot of positive things were discussed that day. Let’s not delay, then:

  • Straight from Yellowstone’s bison biologist Chris Geremia’s mouth: “Yellowstone National Park can support upwards of 10,000 buffalo.” TEN THOUSAND. We’ve known over the years that the Park alone could sustain more buffalo than have ever existed since the shameful slaughter of the 19th century, but to hear the Park’s bison biologist state 10,000 was music to our ears. Buffalo create and manage their own habitat. They know what to do and humans should let them do it. The Earth created and chose them for a reason. The current population stands at approximately 6,000. That’s the largest it’s been since the Park has been in existence. The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL), of course, wants to severely reduce that number and bring it down to 3,000 as is stated in the Interagency Bison Management Plan. Three thousand is an arbitrary number that has nothing to do with any kind of science, biology, ecology. It’s merely a number of convenience that the DOL believes will limit bison migrating into Montana. Yellowstone stood up strong to them. I have to hand it to Yellowstone’s Superintendent, Cam Sholly, who really stood his ground and supported the current (and growing) population. He was direct in saying to the DOL that the population is higher than it’s ever been (since colonization), and the IBMP is still meeting their objectives, so what’s the problem? He said conflicts have gone down as the population has grown, so what’s the problem? He directly asked the Montana/DOL State Veterinarian, Marty Zaluski, to give him a scientific reason that the population should be reduced. Zaluski could not do it.
  • Yellowstone will no longer set kill target numbers for each year. Every year they come up with a number of buffalo to be killed to meet “IBMP objectives”, but, due to new information, real time on the ground, and strong public support for wild buffalo, they will no longer do this. This does not mean that Yellowstone will not capture for slaughter or quarantine, but it does mean that they will not be pressed to kill. Yellowstone stated that “meeting IBMP objectives does not require saying we need to remove X number of buffalo…. viable does not mean the minimum.”
  • Public comments were all strongly in favor of more buffalo on a larger landscape. Everyone spoke well and from their hearts and experiences. One gentleman who really stood out came from the Southern Cheyenne/Northern Arapaho tribes, also representing the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota — the great Sioux Nation. He read a letter from the tribal leaders of these tribes, calling the DOL to task, stating that they do not have authority nor jurisdiction on open and unclaimed federal lands. It sounded like legal action may be brewing, and that would be powerful.
  • While Yellowstone stated they would no longer set a kill target, they did write that they would not take more than 25% (!!!!) of the population. A representative from the Nez Perce tribe strongly objected to that, stating that his tribe would only agree to 10-11%. The DOL, of course, strongly objected to that, stating that a 10-11% reduction, after calving season, would mean an increase in the population, and the DOL — true to livestock and enemy #1 of wild buffalo — wants the population decreased. They never came to an agreement on this issue; so much remains to be seen. Roam Free Nation will state that we support a 0% reduction to allow wild buffalo to recover and restore themselves.

That’s the bulk of hot topics discussed at the meeting. While much of this seems positive, and it is because there is a shift happening, bad things are going to happen to the buffalo in the coming weeks, months, and years. But Roam Free Nation will be there to defend them every step of the way.

Here is a current example: while we were there, a group of about a hundred buffalo were in a buffalo safe zone on Horse Butte, but hunters were scoping them out and talking amongst themselves about how to get them out of there so they could shoot them. It is so frustrating to hear good words from (especially) tribal treaty hunters, who keep saying they want more buffalo on a larger landscape, but by their very own actions they prevent this very thing. This is the point of integrity. Humans have to walk the talk. It is not enough to say you want something or someone, only to get in that something or someone’s very way. There has got to be some restraint. You can’t say pretty words and not take action to make them reality.

We really want to thank the folks who joined and supported Roam Free Nation for this meeting. Our board treasurer Lee Fulton, buffalo defenders Taliyah and Earl, and Pat Kennedy, lucky resident of Horse Butte, and all the folks who were with us in Spirit.

Well, our brothers and sisters, it looks like things are slowly moving towards the Buffalo’s favor. If we keep applying pressure in a positive, healing way, it won’t be long until we have wild and free migratory Buffalo throughout the state of Montana. Buffalo should be just as wild as elk, moose, and deer. They should be respected to roam the same lands our indigenous ancestors have seen them roaming on for tens of thousands of years. Buffalo will help all other wild life and mother earth too, as well as humans. Haho everyone! Have a good time thinking “Wild and Free for our next generations to come!”



~ Stephany Seay
~ Jaedin Medicine Elk
Co-founders of Roam Free Nation

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