Bison Abuse in Yellowstone

Harsh criticism is increasingly justified in todays world of National Park and public land management, a world in which regulatory retreat from principles and regulation is the new norm and “gut and grab” politics seem to be an every day threat. One such issue deserving of harsh review is the continuous persecution of bison in the Yellowstone ecosystem. What is happening on Yellowstones borders is no less offensive than the corralling and clubbing of dolphins in Japan, the clubbing of seal pups off Canada’s coast, or the indiscriminate slaughter of African elephants that eventually led to massive population declines barely a decade ago.

The institutionalized abuse of ecological and behavioral cycles that bison have responded to for over ten thousand years, making them at one time the most successful and numerous large North American grazing animal, is abhorrent to people around the world. It is moreover a dangerous indication that a mountain of ecological / scientific knowledge, gained over half a century, and presumably vested in government agencies, is being ignored and wasted. A massive accumulation of social, scientific, and management evidence is being trumped by a shrinking minority in the livestock business, blindly aided and abetted by the Montana Dept of Livestock, the federal Animal Health Inspection Service and a not so silent partner, the Park Service. Why are we investing tens of millions of dollars and spending lifetimes doing research into ecological well being?

Thousands of bison have been casualties of this retreat from reason and accountability, and 500 more are in the crosshairs this week, but these helpless and trusting animals have not been the only casualties. These practices have inflicted psychological damage to a century old link between “wild” and wildlife. They have degraded National Parks as strongholds of biodiversity and ecosystem conservation; they have severely set back the long established, but obviously vulnerable principle that American citizens should set the vision and direction of National Park management; and they have gouged wounds in what has been one of the most unifying issues in Americas floundering democracy – the right of people from every street and every state in the Nation to be heard when significant National Park decisions are being made.

It strikes me as severe treatment to confine “wild” bison at all (other than the rare soundly justified research project) but the fact that National Park staff are complicit with this practice and seem to turn a blind eye to plans to again destroy bison indicates a major professional retreat by senior management. This represents failure by the Park Service to serve the people of America by protecting and maintaining, or recovering, the biodiversity of the ecosystem as a top level management / conservation objective.

I confess I have a personal interest in this issue; For days, several times each year, I walk parts of Yellowstone, and one of the joys of doing so is being in (often) constant contact (visually, space wise, philosophically, emotionally, ecologically, and professionally,) with bison and their ecological footprint. But I also am part of a collective interest; millions of Americans have fought for Yellowstone to be the best it can be, and millions have visited it and enjoyed what I have, and millions more are entitled to enjoy an intact Yellowstone when they eventually get there. I admittedly resent the continued abuse of bison by a sadly outdated Montana Dept of Livestock and its political sidekicks, apparently embraced in a twisted partnership with the Park Service.

I fear for these bison, for Yellowstone, and for the power gap developing between self serving local agency actors and the American people. The slaughter and perpetual harassment of Yellowstone bison may be a “time honored” practice – what on earth was that Judge thinking? – but so was the exploitation of children in coal mines, abuse of African Americans, joy killing of millions of bison from railway cars, and dumping sewage in water ways. Call it what you may, it remains a chronic, unethical and inexcusable conflict that has to move up the power ladder for resolution.

Until bison have low elevation winter range freely available, there will be no peace on the land and Yellowstone cannot lay claim to being ecologically intact. People in Washington, even Helena, legislators, citizens, activists that are not mired in the petty local politics, need to step in decisively. It will cost money – literally peanuts when put in perspective – but its time for America to move beyond this festering division in favor of the greater public good as exemplified by a protected and intact Yellowstone National Park, public lands managed for all Americans, and largely free ranging bison.

Dr. Brian L. Horejsi is a Wildlife Scientist and long time Yellowstone user. He lives in Calgary, Alberta


More articles by:
March 22, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Italy, Germany and the EU’s Future
David Rosen
The Further Adventures of the President and the Porn Star
Gary Leupp
Trump, the Crown Prince and the Whole Ugly Big Picture
The Hudson Report
Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity
Steve Martinot
The Properties of Property
Binoy Kampmark
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Surveillance Capitalism
Jeff Berg
Russian to Judgment
Gregory Barrett
POSSESSED! Europe’s American Demon Must Be Exorcised
Robby Sherwin
What Do We Do About Facebook?
Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn’t Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us