Interview of Stephany Seay ― Resistance Radio

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(sounds made by frozen Lake Baikal.)

Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen. This is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Stephany Seay. She is the media coordinator with the Montana-based Buffalo Field Campaign, the only group working in the field, in the courts, and in the policy arena in defense of the country’s last wild migratory buffalo, the Yellowstone population.  She has been on the front lines with BFC for fourteen years and from the direct interactions and experiences with these gentle giants, she and her comrades have come to the understanding that while we may be trying (very, very hard) to save the buffalo, the buffalo are desperately trying to teach us to save us from ourselves.  

So first off, thank you for your work in BFC, and also thank you for your work with DGR; and second, thank you for being on the program.

SS: Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here with you.

DJ: So, talk a little bit about buffalo. Who are they, what were they like prior to the European conquest of this continent, and then bring us up to more recent history.

SS: So, buffalo have been in existence for hundreds of thousands of years on this continent. They are North America’s largest land mammal, now that woolly mammoths and mastodons are extinct. And the interesting thing is the buffalo who exist today are actually the smallest version of buffalo that have ever been in existence. There were bison prehistorically that were twice the size of these creatures who we know today. And buffalo existed pretty much almost all over the entire continent, in the tens of millions. There’s estimates of anywhere between thirty to seventy million at the time before European invasion of this continent.

And, you know, buffalo were chosen by the earth to help create the land, and they have a symbiotic relationship with the land and with all the prairie and grasslands creatures who they share that community with.

As themselves, they are very helpful. They are grazers, they are gentle grazers, and their hooves help to till the soil, their poops fertilize the soil, their furs carry the seeds of the soil, their bodies feed the soil when they pass on. They help create other habitats for other species, birds and amphibians with wallowing, which is when they get down on the ground and shake their bodies around, rub their bodies around and create these big indentations that during the rainy seasons would fill up temporarily with water, and that helped create a lot of beneficial habitat for many other species. So they are just – they helped create this continent, and they are the sovereignty of the land.

With humans, with indigenous cultures, they had a relationship of reciprocity. There was respect, and there was honor to the point where many indigenous cultures, in particular the Plains tribes, considered the buffalo to be their relatives. But, as history has shown us, and it’s still actually taking place today, when Europeans invaded this continent, they wanted to get rid of the people who were already living on this land, and having a hard time doing that, they decided that they would go after their most important food source, which was the buffalo. And so, in an act of genocide, the federal government, the army hide and head hunters nearly drove the buffalo to extinction in pretty much less than two decades. It did not take them long. And they wasted all these buffalo who had covered the continent, who had taken care of the people as the people had taken care of them before, and just laid them to waste. And they didn’t even use the meat, they just killed for heads and hides. And ironically, those hides, with the strength of the buffalo’s hides, they were used as belts that actually assisted with the Industrial Revolution.

So it’s a pretty tragic history. We’re not always taught that in school, you know. People say “oh, there were buffalo, they were all killed,” and that’s pretty much all you get from it, and a lot of people don’t even know that there are still wild buffalo who exist today, and the only reason that they do exist is because there were about 23 individual buffalo in the late 1800’s that sought shelter in the Pelican Valley, which is located in what is now Yellowstone National Park. And these buffalo were discovered, ironically, by the Army, the US Calvary, because they’d suddenly decided they had made a big mistake in facilitating the destruction of these buffalo, they decided to protect them from poachers, and from others who would want to kill the last of their kind.

And from these buffalo, and a few others who were brought over to the park, we now have the last wild population that exists today, solely in and around Yellowstone National Park. And that population today is still extremely small relative to the tens of millions that once existed. There are fewer than 4500 buffalo that exist in the wild as a migratory species today. You have to go to Yellowstone to see them. There are approximately a little fewer than half a million buffalo around the country, but aside from the Yellowstone population, the rest are all living behind fences, or they’re in the public herds, or they are raised as livestock, so they’ve been turned into domestic livestock in the majority of the places where people would see buffalo today in the United States and Canada.

So this population in Yellowstone is very special, and like I said, they’re a migratory species, they still follow those instincts to migrate with the seasons, either to lower elevation habitat to seek winter range, or to spring calving grounds.

And unfortunately, those migration routes lead them into the state of Montana, which is a state that is heavily run by the livestock industry, the cattle industry. And the cattle industry does not like wild buffalo. And the reason they don’t like wild buffalo is because they eat grass. And the cowboys like to think that the grass is for their cows, and their cows only, and they don’t want to share.

And so the State of Montana has taken an extremely heavy-handed approach to prevent wild buffalo from accessing the habitat, their original range in Montana. Right now we’re just talking about the edge, right on the edge, the western edge and the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park.

The livestock industry is very – they have a strong history of violence, as you can well imagine. They’re a culture of death. They raise animals to kill them. So they don’t play fair, as you can also imagine, and so they’ve put a stigma on the buffalo that has kind of thrown a scare tactic out there to the world, to kind of make it seem as though the buffalo are a diseased animal, and this disease is, it’s a bacteria called brucellosis, and it was actually brought to this continent, and it’s an invasive bacteria brought to this continent with livestock, with cattle, and the buffalo contracted it around 1917, is what people believe, contracted brucellosis through human manipulation. Yellowstone National Park had an orphaned buffalo calf that they thought it would be a good idea to nurse on a domestic cow that they had inside the park, and voila! Brucellosis entered the Yellowstone population.

Elk also carry brucellosis, and it is believed that other species do as well, including deer and coyotes and other animals as well. But buffalo are singled out.

Brucellosis as a disease is not really a huge problem. It isn’t, certainly, for the buffalo. They develop antibodies, resistance to the disease, and if either an elk or a domestic cow or a buffalo contracts brucellosis – it is active in the females, and an adult female, if she gets brucellosis, she will miscarry one time and then she resumes normal birthing cycles and she develops immunity, and that’s it. It’s over.

DJ: So instead of having a baby – when do buffalo have their first babies? A year? Two years?

SS: About three years old, is when the females are sexually mature.

DJ: So one with brucellosis would have her first baby at four, then, is all.

SS: Or sometimes at three.

DJ: Okay. Sorry, go ahead.

SS: Yeah. So, but the cattle industry – as a conservation aspect, brucellosis is not a problem. The elk and the bison have developed resistance. They can deal with it. It’s not a big deal. You can eat the meat of animals that have been exposed to brucellosis. That’s not a problem. The problem is in the cattle industry. Back before the advent of pasteurization, when people were drinking raw dairy milk from cows, humans were getting brucellosis. And so it became this big deal in the cattle industry, and then pasteurization came into place, and so now it’s really not. It’s not even on the Center For Disease Control’s list any more, as a concern.

DJ: And what does it do to humans?

SS: It’s called ungulate fever when it’s in humans, and so it’s pretty much that. You can get temporary fevers that come and go, at any given time. I’ve never met anyone that has it. But the livestock industry likes to claim that it’s a serious human health hazard and that the buffalo are a serious threat. And so one of their excuses for having such a heavy-handed approach against wild buffalo is that they say they fear that the buffalo will transmit brucellosis back to the livestock that they got it from.

Before any of these crazy management schemes that are taking place now, which we’ll talk about- there’s never been a documented case of wild buffalo transmitting brucellosis. There’s never been a case of buffalo transmitting brucellosis to cattle outside of a human-induced situation, a laboratory setting, or a human-manipulated situation.

Meanwhile, elk, who we also love, are free to roam, exist in much greater numbers than buffalo – they can come and go as they like, and yet, over the course of the past ten years, they have been implicated numerous times in transmitting brucellosis to livestock in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. And yet, the same thing isn’t happening to them.

So there’s war against wild buffalo, it’s specific against wild buffalo, and a lot of it has to do with continuing genocide of indigenous cultures.

DJ: Can we back up just a second? What you’re saying is really important, but I want to go back prior to conquest, in more ways than one. Can you just describe for a moment what you’ve heard. You know, you said, between tens of millions of animals. Can you just describe for a moment anything you’ve read or heard about what it might be like to have a big herd pass by. I’ve heard that they might go horizon to horizon. Is this – what have you read about it, or heard?

SS: Yeah! That’s what I’ve heard, that’s what I’ve read. That is what has been stolen from the land and from us. There were places where you couldn’t see anything but buffalo, from horizon to horizon. And that when they’d come, you could feel them coming before you ever saw them. They would shake the earth with their movement. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine that, what it was like for the continent to just be teeming with all these buffalo, and how wonderful that was, and how the earth must have been so much healthier.

DJ: And you’d have one herd, and it might take several days of that to pass.

SS: Yeah. Can you imagine that? It’s a dream that will come true again. To think about that. To think about walking out your front door, or stepping outside your tipi door, to see these buffalo coming, and they just keep coming, and keep coming, and keep coming. And then night comes and they’re still coming. The next morning you wake, and they’re still coming, until the next day. That would be the most beautiful sight to behold. And this culture has stolen that from us.

DJ: I was reading an account – this is a random thing. I was looking up something or another and I saw these accounts of, in Texas – because, of course, wolves eat buffalo, and if you have that many buffalo, you can have a lot more wolves – I was reading these accounts of single packs of wolves that were in the hundreds.

SS: Yeah, I’m sure. And it would take a pack that strong -maybe not a hundred, but at least 20 plus – at least. Buffalo are no small task to take down. There’s a lot of times wolves just back off. There was a video that was going around, I think it was the Mollies wolf pack in Yellowstone, there was a family group of buffalo, it looked like a herd of about 30 buffalo, and they had singled out an adult female, and she looked like she was offering herself. But the rest of the family said “that’s not going to happen today.” And this pack was about 16 wolves strong, and they had to give it up. The rest of the herd came in and told them to go away, that today was not the day for buffalo meat. So they had to seek something else for dinner.

And a lot of times, also; I have seen this, and this is really cool. In the Lamar Valley this one time we saw this wolf pack chasing a bull elk up on top of this ridge, and down in the valley was a bachelor group of bull buffalo. And this elk ran down the ridge and right into the middle of this bachelor group of bulls, and the wolves just totally backed off. They were like “yeah, we’re not going in there.”

Buffalo are formidable. They do not die easy. Except, I guess, by guns and traps.

DJ: Well, that brings us back to – we have a prairie full of buffalo, and we have a prairie full of prairie dogs, and the largest village was, I dunno, something like a thousand square miles, like a billion individuals – huge prairie dog village, biggest one. And we had flocks of passenger pigeons so large they darkened the sky for days at a time. We had six billion passenger pigeons, more passenger pigeons than all other birds in North America combined, and yet salmon runs so thick that an entire river the size of the Klamath would be black and roiling, second biggest river going into the Pacific Ocean in the United States.

And they’re all gone. This is a pattern of, you have this unimaginable fecundity, and wild life, and all of those, they’ve devastated. I don’t – I know this interview is about you, and about the buffalo. But, y’know, all of my work is about bringing down civilization, and it’s not because I hate hot showers. It’s because I can see obvious patterns. I don’t understand how somebody can see 60 million buffalo down to – it doesn’t matter. Even if we count all those half million, that’s still 60 million down to a half million. Same with the prairie dogs, same with the salmon, same with every single thing.

SS: And still humans will say: “Those are too many.” The species that exists in billions and billions, that is destroying everything, says these little tiny fragments are too many.

DJ: So let’s go back to Yellowstone. They migrate, and the technical term for the arguments in favor of killing the buffalo when they cross the park – I think the technical term for the argument is crap.

Actually, you haven’t got there yet. So what happens? The buffalo are in Yellowstone, during the summer – correct?

SS: They spend most of their time inside park boundaries in the summer. And that’s mainly because the herd size is as small as it is, and that’s where their rut grounds are.

So the cold comes. And winter in Yellowstone is intense, and the snow gets very deep. And you also have to think about – buffalo are a plains animal. Grasslands, plains. Lower elevation habitat where the grass is accessible. So Yellowstone is great summer country, and it was a great place to hide from the killers, back in the day, but it’s not their ideal habitat, even though they have always existed around there, that is not someplace they would choose to live all the time. They want to be on the grasslands, on the plains. So, when winter comes, and the grasses are obscured within the Park boundaries, they drop down to lower elevations, and that brings them west into the Hebgen Basin of Montana near West Yellowstone, and also north into the Gardiner Basin in Gardiner, Montana.

And when they come there, there is serious conflict with the State of Montana and Yellowstone National Park. And just to back it up a little bit, things started to get really bad in the winter of ‘96-‘97. There was an extreme winter where there was a whole lot of snow. And then it got warm and the snow got soft. And then it got cold again and the snow turned into veritable concrete.

Buffalo can live in deep snow. They can make it. They would prefer to seek lower elevation, but they can use those huge heads to push snow aside to get down to the grass below. But when the snow turns into concrete like that, they cannot do it. And there’ve been times that we have even seen buffalo, 1800 pounds, 2000 pounds, walking on top of snow that has frozen. And there’s no way to find food that way.

So this particular winter, ‘96-‘97, the winter was like that, and tons of buffalo, a few thousand, migrated into Montana, and over 1083 buffalo were shot by the State of Montana.

And Mike Mease, who you know, a videographer and activist, went to Yellowstone, went to Gardiner, and started to document what was taking place, to document the buffalo being gunned down. And he shared that footage, he sent that footage around to various tribal leaders, and Rosalie Little Thunder, a Lakota elder, responded, and together they decided there needed to be a presence on the ground, to show people what was taking place, so we could eventually stop this.

And that is basically how Buffalo Field Campaign was formed. And so what we do; our home base is located in West Yellowstone, and we have volunteers that come on a seasonal basis, as the buffalo are migrating into Montana, to conflict zones. We are present in the field every day. We go out morning through night, if night is necessary, and sometimes it is, and we monitor the buffalo’s migration. We are always armed with video cameras and still cameras and two-way FM radios, so that we can communicate with different patrols in the field and we can document all actions that are made against the buffalo. And we provide room and board and gear and training for anybody who would like to come and stand with the buffalo with us.

And so we’re with the buffalo every day when they are migrating into Montana, and that typically is a season that runs from November through June. But that could be changing, because there is a little bit of good news to share. We have actually gained a little bit of ground for the buffalo, but we can talk about that a little later.

So BFC is in the field every day, running field patrols, standing with the buffalo, documenting all these actions made against them, and also just on the good days just learning from them and seeing how they behave and interacting with them, you know, in a respectful way. But we are in a unique position to advocate for them, because we can see what is actually taking place. We live with the buffalo, we see how they use the land. We know what’s going on, we’re there in the face of it all. It’s a wonderful organization and I’m really thankful that we exist. And we can always use a lot more volunteers.

There’s been some good news that’s come, so that we’ve gained a little bit of habitat over in Hebgen Basin, but the Gardiner Basin is a completely different story. To back up just a little bit; when the buffalo migrate into Montana, they’re managed under a state, federal and tribal plan called the Interagency Bison Management Plan. This was crafted back in the year 2000 and it was largely designed by livestock interests. It’s pretty much – there’s nothing good that comes of it for the buffalo.

So when buffalo migrate into Montana, the Montana Department of Livestock, Yellowstone National Park, and other agencies initiate operations such as hazing, which is to chase or forcibly remove buffalo from the ground that they choose to be on. They used to do it on snowmobiles, and with helicopters, and they still do it today from horseback and ATV’s. And the other tool that they use is to capture buffalo and to ship them to slaughter to reduce their numbers. And another tactic that they are using more and more is so-called “hunting,” yet with no habitat to access, these hunts are basically a firing line style, where hunters situate themselves in these little bottleneck corridors – specifically, there’s a place over in Gardiner, on the north boundary, right at the boundary of the park, called Beattie Gulch. A lot of the family groups use this corridor, and it’s a pretty tight spot. And hunters just wait. They wait, they’ll watch groups of buffalo coming from the interior of the park and just wait until they literally step across the park boundary, and then they’ll start to shoot into the family groups.

It’s awful. And even worse – it’s all bad, but I guess even worse, because it’s Yellowstone National Park. Located inside Yellowstone National Park, about a mile south of Beattie Gulch, where this firing line/ so-called hunting takes place, is an enormous, industrial-strength trap, basically a glorified livestock trap, and it’s inside Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone National Park employees operate the trap. They chase or bait the buffalo into the trap, they run them through the sorting pens, they run them through the squeeze chutes, they put them on the trucks to ship them to slaughter.

And so these are some of the things that are happening to the buffalo, that we are trying to stop, and are in the face of all the time. Very difficult things to see, and absolutely unnecessary for every possible reason you can imagine. But it is what’s taking place and it’s sanctioned by the Interagency Bison Management Plan. That’s what’s going on, in a nutshell.

DJ: The larger solution, of course, is this entire culture that is killing everything needs to go away. But before that, what would be some – I mean obviously the brucellosis is an excuse to kill the buffalo. That’s not even any problem that needs to be solved because it’s not a problem, because there has never been a case of transmission. So that’s a non-issue.

SS: Exactly.

DJ: Before we go on, I want to ask: If we exclude the cattle industry, what do the local people think of – and this is not the determinant, because the most important determinant is what’s best for the land. Nonetheless, I’m wondering: What do the local people think about the buffalo slaughter? Do they support it? Do they hate buffalo? Or are they against it, for the most part?

SS: Most people, if they don’t have any ties to the cattle industry, are adamantly opposed to the slaughter. I mean, you get your random redneck types that just think killing is just the way that it is and, you know, there’s too many and blah blah blah. But for the most part there is a lot of support throughout Montana, including the specific locations where the buffalo are migrating into Montana currently. There’s support for the buffalo. And that is why, in part, we were able to gain that year-round habitat over near Horse Butte, on Horse Butte and that surrounding area. But the livestock industry just has so much control. They control the language, they control the dialogue, they control the land, they control the park. They’re controlling Yellowstone National Park. Or Yellowstone National Park’s allowing themselves to be controlled. They’re manipulating the tribes who are coming to hunt buffalo under treaty rights, by enlisting their participation to help facilitate the destruction of these herds. It’s insane.

But there is a lot of support. There’s been two polls conducted by other groups over the past I think maybe four years, that have shown that between 70 and 75% of Montanans support wild migratory buffalo.

DJ: And Montana’s a conservative state.

SS: Yeah. But Montana also is – it’s conservative, but people love the wild. I mean, ironic as it is because of the way wolves are treated, the way grizzly bears are probably about to be treated if we don’t stop delisting. There’s a lot of people that are in love with wildlife and love the wild places that are here. And most people live here because of that. There’s a lot of support for wild buffalo in Montana. But, again, the cattle industry just holds so much power. They own the legislature, like I said they’re patrolling Yellowstone National Park. They have way too much power and it’s difficult.,

DJ: So before we get to short-term solutions, what is the good news?.

SS: The good news is that – well, there’s two pieces of good news. Both of these mainly pertain to the Hebgen Basin, which is just west of Yellowstone’s western boundary. In 2014 – let me back up just a little bit.

Buffalo Field Campaign, ever since the beginning, we’ve always provided these “Buffalo Safe Zone” signs, for residents who love the buffalo and don’t want the Department of Livestock or any other agency to chase them off of their property.

And unfortunately, up until recently, the Department of Livestock could do whatever they wanted. If you had a herd of buffalo in your yard and you wanted them to be there, the DOL could come on to your property and chase them off because they had that authority, and that was a huge problem for a lot of people in the Hebgen Basin, and particularly in this area called “Yellowstone Village,” out on Horse Butte. And that’s a place where buffalo come every spring to give birth to their babies.

DJ: So one has some land there, and one sees – not to be too maudlin about this, but one sees baby buffalo frolicking with their mothers, and then you can fall in love with these particular creatures, this particular family group, and then – excuse my language, but thugs from the cattle industry can come on ATV’s or their horses, and send those buffalo off, many of whom are going to be killed.

SS: Yeah. Or chase them into the park, sometimes chase them into traps. A lot has changed over the years. But yes, especially over on Horse Butte, and that whole area, there would be these huge industrial-strength hazing operations, where you’d have these cowboys, federally funded cowboys, coming in with all their, y’know, chaps and their cowboy hats; backed up by federal cops. Federal law enforcement, state cops. Local cops. To come and chase native buffalo off of people’s private property where they were welcome. Where there were never any cows. It was insane.

And so everyone, we all made a huge big deal about this, and kept applying all this pressure – y’know, there’s no cows anyway. There’s absolutely no conflict. People want buffalo here. And then these hazing operations happening during calving season with these tiny little calves with their brand-new legs are getting chased for upwards of 15-20 miles in a day, many times collapsing or dying or becoming separated from their mothers and orphaned.

And finally we had a governor who decided to do something right. And in 2014 he issued a directive to the Board and Department of Livestock that the Department of Livestock may no longer trespass on a private property to haze wild buffalo without permission.

And so that suddenly made all of our little “Buffalo Safe Zone” signs a valid, real statement; they had meaning. There was at least 800 acres of habitat, and a little bit more, that was suddenly available to the buffalo. So that was one really awesome thing that happened. And that empowered a lot of people.

And the following year, there was a decision made after a long, long public process. The same governor, Governor Steve Bullock, granted year-round habitat to wild buffalo in the Hebgen Basin west of Yellowstone National Park, which included all of Horse Butte and lands north of Horse Butte. There was a little under 250,000 acres, which was given to the buffalo year-round, which is huge. It’s a small step in the larger scheme of things, but in the immediate, what’s taking place right now, it is huge for those buffalo, for these buffalo.

Lots of the land, however, is mountainous and covered with trees and it’s not really habitat that the buffalo are actually going to use. And also, south of Horse Butte, there’s a lot of habitat that the buffalo do use, that was not included in the year-round habitat decision. So that was unfortunate. That’s something that we’re still fighting for, obviously.

But in the Horse Butte area proper, it’s been amazing. We’re still trying to get used to it, of being out there, and being with the buffalo, and seeing all these babies born. And these pregnant moms are just on the verge of giving birth, knowing that they get to do what they want. They can be there as long as they want. They aren’t going to be harassed or abused by these government cowpokes that are going to come in and chase them off their ground while they’re in the middle of labor or while their baby’s just been born. They get to just be there. The calves get to grow strong.

And we’d always told these people that if you would just stop, they will migrate on their own. They have – their rutting grounds are in the park. As long as that’s happening, they’re always going to go there for their family reunions, until they establish other rutting grounds outside of the park.

And for the past two years, since they have had this new year-round habitat, that is exactly what has happened. And you know, they’ve gone back into the park before the cows have even showed up. And it’s just another lesson the buffalo have taught people, or are trying to teach people, in patience.

But like I said, we’re still trying to get used to it, because it’s so wonderful, and we’ve just always been so on guard, ready for the government to come and attack the buffalo, to have these spring months, with these little calves and these family groups, and just watching them graze and play and nap and do whatever they want wherever they want. It’s been awesome. I can’t – I’m still – We’re all still trying to wrap our heads around it, and learn how to just be there and enjoy this with them and not expect, y’know, the bogeyman to show up any minute now.

And the people that live in Yellowstone Village, so many people, they just every year now that they’ve gained this ground; people are smiling. It’s not like bittersweet, like “This is great, but uh-oh, the cops are coming” kind of thing. It’s – people are just so happy, and Yellowstone Village kinda updated one of their signs – Yellowstone Village is also called Hebgen Lake Estates. But they updated one of their housing signs, that has buffalo all over it now. And everyone’s just really, really happy. And we can welcome the buffalo in the spring and not be worried and not fear for their lives like we used to over there.

And we still have a long ways to go, this is a small step. But it is a huge and significant victory, and it took, y’know, it took 20 years to get there.

DJ: Which is a great, a great reminder to everybody else, that this is how social change occurs. It doesn’t happen because you go take pictures once. It happens because you go take pictures and then you work like hell for 20 years.

SS: Exactly. And then you don’t stop. You don’t stop there. You let that give you strength, and say “Look, we got this much, that’s a crack in the dam. This dam is gonna come down. We just gotta keep going.”

And now, y’know, I mean there’s still little bits of hazing that take place if the buffalo go south of Horse Butte, so we’re obviously working on stopping that, and gaining them that ground, but for the most part, most of the really bad stuff that the – the hunting, and the capture for slaughter, is happening over on the north boundary, in the Gardiner basin, and that’s where the trap is located, inside Yellowstone National Park. And that’s where that firing line that I was talking about earlier, is located as well.

DJ: What is the strategy to – well, first off, once again, I know what both you and I want on the large scale, and that’s not what we’re talking about at this moment. In the short term, in the next three to five years, what do you want – what would “solve” this problem – so, what do you want and how are you going to get there?

SS: Okay, I can think of four things off the top of my head right now. One is, there’s a law in the State of Montana, MC 81-2-120, that gives the Department of Livestock authority over wildlife when they migrate into Montana. We have to repeal, abolish that law.

Two, would be to replace the Interagency Bison Management Plan, which has expired, with a plan that respects wild bison, like wild elk, in Montana. And Buffalo Field Campaign has created that alternative. You can find it on our website, and we have submitted it to Yellowstone National Park and to the State of Montana.

The third thing is to gain Endangered Species Act protection for the Yellowstone herds, and we in 2014 filed a petition with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to do just that, and we are, of course, in court over it now. We’re pressing for that. You can also find that on our website. It’s loaded with information.

And the fourth thing – and these other three things would enable this last one to happen, is to dismantle the trap that’s inside Yellowstone, the Stephens Creek trap. Get rid of it. And get rid of their Berlin Wall that is at the northern end of the Gardiner Basin that is an attempt to prevent buffalo from migrating farther north into the Paradise Valley.

So those are very real, possible things that could happen, in a reasonable amount of time. And from there, the buffalo take it. We just step out of the way.

DJ: Okay, we have about five minutes left. And this is a ridiculous thing to ask with five minutes left. But where I live, in far northern California, there are herds of elk who go all over the place. If I were to drive from here to Arcata, I’m almost guaranteed to see a herd of elk. And the same if I drive north of here to the Oregon border, maybe one day out of five I may see a herd of elk. They’re all over the place. And hunters shoot a few, in the winter, or, I’m sorry, whenever the hunting season is. But nonetheless, the herds are doing great.

And nobody cares. They don’t – I don’t like how the locals treat mountain lions. If they see a mountain lion they want to shoot it. But elk are just …

So my point is, aren’t the buffalo kind of like the elk in that way? Don’t the elk just wander wherever they feel like it?

SS: Yeah, the elk do. And you know, there is a difference with buffalo. They do behave differently. Because they don’t really – they tolerate humans. You know, lots of times you see elk and you see their butts as they’re running away. I mean, sometimes that’s not the case. And y’know, buffalo, when they come to the roadside they don’t necessarily just cross it. Sometimes they bed down in the middle of it. Sometimes they hang around, around it.

We also provide a “Buffalo Crossing Safe Zone” service, helping buffalo to get across the highways safely. But that doesn’t mean that that’s a problem. That just means humans need to learn how to coexist, humans need to learn how to change our behavior so that we can coexist. And it will be fine. There’s safe passage, there’s migration corridors. There’s so many things that we could do, that would enable the coexistence to happen.

DJ: Well, I would think – I know I’m a bit strange, but I would think that buffalo tolerating people is actually, as they say, not a bug but a feature? I mean, that’s – as you know from discussions you and I’ve had; I see bears every day and it makes my life, y’know. This is wonderful. So you would think that having the chance to actually see a pregnant buffalo – you know, you have a friend visit from Kentucky, and your friend then gets to see a pregnant buffalo walk across your back yard, you would think this would be the highlight of this friend’s summer. Or decade.

SS: Nine times out of ten, it is.

DJ: So you’d think that would be a good thing – I mean, of course they’re going to trample on your roses or something once in a while, but anyway – sorry, I’m just rambling. I don’t see why that’s a bad thing.

SS: And it isn’t. It’s not a bad thing. There’s just some people that are too impatient and they think that everything needs to be controlled, and they think that humans are the ones that have the right of way. And that’s the behavior that I’m talking about that needs to change.

And at Horse Butte, and at Yellowstone Village, there has been the perfect living classroom of coexistence. I mean, this is a small little subdivision, with little houses on little land. It’s a little subdivision. And hundreds of buffalo migrate through there in the springtime. And people love it.

And, you know, if you have a favorite tree, they do like to rub on trees, especially when they’re itchy and they’re shedding in the spring. People put a little, y’know, fence around their tree. And the buffalo scratch on the fence, and it’s all good.

And the people that complain are people that don’t live with wild buffalo. The people who live with them have learned to coexist with them. They love it, can’t wait to see them again, they’re sad when they leave. So if anyone needs to just see how it can work, you just come to Horse Butte and go to Yellowstone Village in the spring, and there you go. The living classroom.

DJ: So we have about two minutes left. And can you talk about either (a) what people can do if they love Florida panthers and live in Florida, to start something similar, or how they can help Buffalo Field Campaign if they want to come help you.

SS: Well, (a) just enable yourself to be on the ground so you can be with the place, the animals, the trees, whoever it is that you’re trying to protect. Be there with them, get to know them, be that kind of an advocate for them and help tell their story and help stop the madness. And of course, help Buffalo Field Campaign. We always need volunteers, during our field season in particular. Like I said, we provide room and board, gear, training. Our field season runs from November through the end of May, sometimes a little bit into June. We need you. We have got a big problem on our hands. The buffalo have a huge problem over in the Gardiner Basin and we need to figure it out. We need people on the ground, more people to see this. You can visit to learn more about the issues, learn how to volunteer, there’s a little application involved. Sign up for our email updates so you stay on top of what’s going on. Check in with us on social media, we’re on Facebook, and it is a good way to help spread the word about what’s taking place. And yeah, we need people on the ground, especially over in Gardiner. We need people to come with some creative ideas.

DJ: Well thank you so much for all this. And thank you for your work. And I would like to thank listeners for listening, my guest today has been Stephany Seay. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen
No Responses — Written on October 1st — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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