Washington, D.C. -- A diverse coalition of tribal, conservation, hunting, animal welfare and wildlife groups, an outfitting business, and concerned citizens from Montana and South Dakota, have filed an emergency rule making petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior seeking to stop the National Park Service from slaughtering wild bison inhabiting Yellowstone National Park and adjoining lands on the Gallatin National Forest in Montana.
Yellowstone is home to America's only wild bison who have continuously occupied their native habitat.
This winter, Yellowstone National Park and the State of Montana have engaged in an unprecedented slaughter or removal of over 1,550 bison that have migrated to their winter range near and beyond park borders. One-third of the entire bison herd has been wiped out with 1,284 captured and shipped to slaughterhouses on order from officials in the National Park Service and the Montana Department of Livestock under Governor Brian Schweitzer.
"The Park Service's current course is to slaughter bison without concern as to the damage being done to the genetic diversity of the distinct bison populations in Yellowstone," explains D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. "The petition raises a red flag that unprecedented, large scale slaughtering of wild bison is jeopardizing their long term survival."
The petition presents scientific evidence of at least two genetically distinct bison populations inhabiting the park. The National Park Service currently manages the bison in the park without consideration of this evidence.
To ensure bison's long-term survival and health, the National Park Service must sustain a minimum of 2,000 bison in each distinct bison population. That number would ensure that genetic diversity is conserved - allowing bison to naturally evolve and adapt to a changing environment, and retain important survival behaviors like natural migration and selection.
The coalition says the National Park Service has ignored this science and failed to adapt its bison management plan to ensure the long-term survival of each distinct bison population.
The petition, submitted under the authority of the Administrative Procedures Act, asks Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to publish an emergency rule prohibiting the National Park Service from killing or participating in the killing of bison, or otherwise permanently removing bison from either population, when the population is reduced to 2,000 or fewer bison. Both bison populations have been reduced to fewer than 2,000 animals this winter.
"The Park Service, at the direction of Montana's livestock interests, is slaughtering one of America's most iconic wildlife species, endangering the only continuously wild, free-roaming bison population left in the U.S.," states Michael Mease, President and Co-founder of the Buffalo Field Campaign. "The public must rise up and put an end to the livestock industry dictating control over America's last wild bison herds."
The diverse coalition of signatories to the petition includes: Animal Welfare Institute, Buffalo Field Campaign, GravelBar, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Buffalo Foundation, Western Watersheds Project, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Development, Horse Butte Neighbors of Buffalo, Big Wild Adventures, Gallatin Wildlife Association, American Indian Law Alliance, The Humane Society of the United States, WildEarth Guardians, Ms. Karrie Taggart, Ms. barb abramo, Mr. George Nell, and Ms. Rosalie Little Thunder.
D.J. Schubert, AWI, (202) 337-2332
Darrell Geist, Buffalo Field Campaign, (406) 646-0070
The Animal Welfare Institute, headquartered in Washington, DC, is one of the nation's oldest animal welfare organizations dedicated to reducing the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. Buffalo Field Campaign, based in West Yellowstone Montana, is the only organization that works 365 days a year to protect Yellowstone bison.