Reporting back from the IBMP meeting

Three buffalo calves nuzzle each other.

Roam Free Nation’s cofounders traveled to Gardiner, MT recently, to attend the Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting and speak on behalf of the buffalo. On our way there we had the pleasure of meeting up with our friends Mike Garrity and Steve Kelly of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. These are the good folks who have been funding the “There’s No Hunt. It’s Slaughter” billboards, and assisting us with gaining lots of media attention. We give thanks for these fine comrades.

A room full of people looks at a screen.

Given the tragic winter and early spring the buffalo had, we expected the meeting to be much more intense than it was. It was a packed barn (yes, the meeting was held in a barn), but there were very few tribal representatives there, and some of the tribes who “hunted” this year were not represented at all. And, of course, the buffalo don’t have a seat at the table.

People look at a graph on a screen that shows "Hunting by Treaty Tribes"

The most disturbingly revealing part of the meeting was the overview of the “hunt”. While it’s a bit hard to see in the photo, the graph demonstrates how many buffalo were killed by the state and tribes.

Here are the grim numbers that graph represents:

State: 75
Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes: 151
Nez Perce: 417, plus 5 elk
Shoshone-Bannock: 28
Umatilla: 99
Yakama: 30
Blackfeet: 171 (they reported 70 bulls and 101 females!)
Crow: 36, plus 28 elk
Northern Arapaho: 78
Unidentified kills: 136
Wounding loss reported by NPS and FWP: 37

With some new figures reported at this meeting, the number of buffalo killed in the “hunt” now stands at 1258.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks (FWP) and the tribes who were represented went around the room reporting how the “hunt” had gone for them, and I quote:

FWP: “Went pretty well.”
Confederated Salish & Kootenai: “Two violations. Went pretty smooth.”
Nez Perce: “It was a banner year!”
Yakima: “No issues. Smooth Season.”
Shoshone-Bannock: “Everyone’s happy. No complaints.”
Blackfeet: “Seventy bulls, a hundred and one females.”
Crow: “This hunt, they call it. Why do we have to participate? We’d rather have live buffalo than dead buffalo.”

We applaud the Crow representative, Leroy Stewart, for that statement. But he also said, reluctantly, that his people will continue to hunt because they have a right to do so.

They went on to discuss gut pile (and dead baby buffalo) clean up. The fact that they need to clean up a testament to how wrong this hunt is. Jaedin remarked that there shouldn’t be a clean up at all because tribes should be taking everything.

After that, there was a long lunch break, and when we returned, the public got a whopping two minutes to give comments. You can watch videos of our comments, and those from a couple of our powerful friends:

Jaedin Medicine Elk’s comments
Stephany Seay’s comments
Bonnie Lynn of Yellowstone Voices comments
Dagmar Riddle, Earth advocate’s comments

The IBMP officials came back to discussing the hunt again, and some good words were said by a few people. Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly remarked that the hunt, “can’t be a free-for-all”.

Ervin Carlson, President of the InterTribal Buffalo Council and Blackfeet tribal member said, “leave those animals. Let them be alive. Let them be wildlife like other animals.”

And Tom MacDonald, Tribal Chairman for the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, cautioned the group to, “try not to manage for numbers. You will always fail. Manage for conflict. Give back to the buffalo. Let them express themselves and restore them on to the landscape.”

In the end, without action, these are just words.

Two buffalo cross the highway in front of a semi truck with "teeth" displayed on the grille.

Lastly, there was a safe passage presentation by HDR, Inc., who are consultants for the Montana Department of Transportation. In the Hebgen Basin, near West Yellowstone, runs Cougar Creek. Highway 191 runs over it, and the bridge is currently being redone. They are going to raise the bridge so that wildlife, such as moose who are very tall, will feel comfortable walking under it. They will put in a quarter of a mile of wildlife fencing in both directions to help encourage wildlife to move that way. They are also going to be putting up live (real time) animal detection signs along Hwy 191 from Cougar Creek all the way south to the town of West Yellowstone. This means that the buffalo will get a bit more help. They reported — as we know — that current warning signs and speed limits aren’t working, and that historic records show that most of the buffalo — as we know — are hit and killed near the Madison River. So, we asked them if they were planning on putting in safe passage at the Madison. They said they were discussing it. I guess that is better than a “no”.

A car drives pasta billboard that says "There is no hunt. It's slaughter!"

After the meeting we had the pleasure of having dinner with our dear friend, Bonnie Lynn, of Yellowstone Voices, then hit the hay early so we could head out first thing in the morning. Making our way west, as we drove through Belgrade we we got to see one of our billboards. That was really cool to see!

Just a few hours after we returned home, Mike Garrity sent me this Daily Montanan article about the meeting. It includes an image of our billboard and a quote from Stephany.

That’s all from here, for now. The next IBMP meeting will take place on Hallowe’en at Chico Hot Springs, about thirty miles north of Gardiner, in the Paradise Valley. We will be there to represent.

We appreciate all of you being with us so much, and are especially grateful for your support making it possible to attend this very important meeting. Thank you! 

Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!