Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Saga of the Yellowstone Bison and Ecoterrorism

This article recently came out on the recent proposal that bison will have year-round protection in the Gallatin National Forest outside Yellowstone. Anyone who follows environmental news, especially throughout the western United States, has seen the numerous headlines surrounding the battle between ranchers, government officials, and the bison herds of Yellowstone National Park. I had the opportunity to spend two summers in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, working for the concessionaires in Yellowstone and as an interpretive ranger for the U.S. Forest Service in West Yellowstone, MT (Gallatin National Forest-Hebgen Lake Rangers District). I have spent plenty of time in bison country and seen the problems that arise.

On one side, you have the ranchers who claim that bison leaving the park and entering US Forest Service lands, which are open to grazing permits from ranchers, are carrying a disease called Brucellosis and transmitting it to their herds. On the other side you have conservationists, Native American tribes, and others arguing that the bison have a right to travel where they please. Working for the Forest Service, we were trained on some of the "eco-terrorism groups" throughout the area, people that will physically harm another human to protect a natural resource. Many of these groups would stuff shards of glass and human feces into the locks on our gates so that when we tried to open them, we would cut our hands and get feces into the cuts (never happened to me luckily). There were many times when I would be driving my government vehicle and they would be following my closely behind to make sure that I wasn't harming the bison. There would be instances where the Forest Service would get on horseback and wrangle the bison into pens to test them for brucellosis and kill the ones who tested positive. It's been a long ongoing battle, but one that is very interesting with many different sides and interested parties. Bison originally roamed throughout the whole country, yet today have been virtually exterminated and only occupy small regions throughout North America:

It is sick and saddening to me that we live in an age of eco-terrorism and that arguments like these are still continuing. I see the value in preserving the life of all wild animals (but, yes, I am a hunter/fisherman), but I also value human life even more and would never knowlingly harm someone over these issues. There are battles like this raging all over the country and I highly advise you to become up-to-date on these issues. Even in my own local Allegheny National Forest (my family has a camp in Tionesta, PA), eco-terrorism struck in the form of arson when the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) burned a research lab causing $700,000 in damages. All this over logging in the forest (See article here).

I do not personally believe that the fight over bison will ever be over. As population continues to grow, more beef is needed as food supplies and we will see the expansion of grazing ranges. There are bound to be impacts and conflicts, much like the reintroduction of wolves in 1996 to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. No one will ever be fully satisfied, but I believe that we need to approach these issues with respect for both parties and come to a meaningful consensus. Violence will not work and is not a solution to our current environmental problems. If you look at the history of the United States, it was violence against native tribes that to forcibly take over lands for our own uses that have ultimately perpetuated our current degrading environmental state.

Whether you believe politics works or not, shards of feces-fill glass does not solve anything but enhances the problem. Politicians need to be willing to sit down (as we can see they did in the aforementioned article) and discuss both side...but we need to sift through the red tape and actually make decisions and implement changes. We can't sit idly back while Congress throws in their own bills and desires, but we need to push them forward to do something. Politics, in the truest sense, does work. But that debate,  my friends, is for another day.

1 comment:

  1. It has always been interesting to me that ranchers have continued to want to raise herds of cattle over native bison herds. To me bison is just as lucrative as cattle (if not more) for many reasons, but most obvious the bison evolved in North America. They are supposed to be here by natures law. There isn't any sort of indication that people won't eat bison over cow, and I personally prefer bison over beef.

    good write up cory, definitely enlightening and refreshing.