Travelling to the West Yellowstone area? Be advised: wild bison migration is underway and bison are currently on or near the highways, day and night.
Moving towards their calving grounds, members from the central herds roam out of Yellowstone’s high elevations, snow-covered lands, toward the exposed south-facing slopes of Horse Butte and surrounding lands in the Madison River corridor. (Enjoy the experience of this awesome annual event.)
People travelling on Highway 191 from Fir Ridge south to West Yellowstone should be prepared to take a few extra minutes. Bison also travel along Highways 287 from the 191 Junction to Kirkwood, and Highway 20 from West Yellowstone to Targhee Pass.
As the continent’s ancient buffalo traces have become many of our major and minor highways, this unfortunately means that some bison never make it to their natal lands, but instead end up at the dump after being killed by speeding motorists. Six bison have already been struck and killed by motorists this season, five of these within 72 hours, all at night.
Because of their dark color and eye placement, bison are extremely hard, if not impossible, to see at night, until it is too late.
Warnings and lower speed limits are in place in many locations, and wisdom dictates that motorists heed these. MDOT gives general warnings with Caution: Animals on Road marquees in significant locations, as well as Bison on Road: 55 mph warning signs. These are generally in place winter through spring. Buffalo Field Campaign takes things even further, becoming buffalo crossing guards. We rove the highways in buffalo migration corridors and set up our highly visible hot pink Buffalo Ahead / Buffalo on Road / Buffalo X-ing signs when bison are literally on or next to the road. If you see these hot pink signs, there are bison ahead.
– From March through June, expect that bison will be on the road, any time of day or night.
– Heed the warning signs. If you see hot pink signs, slow down.
– A little patience goes a long way. An extra 2 to 5 minutes of your time could be the difference between your safe arrival or a totaled car, injuries, or worse, and dead bison. Slow down, turn on your hazards, and let the buffalo move in the direction they are headed. Speeding through them or causing them to scatter is not only rude but very dangerous.
– Don’t honk. It doesn’t keep bison from crossing but can cause moments of chaos that delays the success of their crossing.
– Don’t pull over in their path or pull right up along side of them. Blocking the direction of the buffalo’s path only keeps them on the road longer. Be mindful, especially when there is snow on the ground, that buffalo need to have a clear exit to get off the road.
This is as much about human safety as it is to safeguard America’s last wild buffalo. Buffalo Field Campaign is doing everything we can with the resources we have, but we cannot always be out there.
Please contact Montana’s U.S. Congressional Delegation and Governor Steve Bullock and insist that they secure the necessary funding to make our highways safer for wildlife and people with safe-passage infrastructure. Until then, heed the warnings and slow down for wild buffalo. The life you save may be your own.
Stephany Seay is Media Coordin-ator for Buffalo Field Campaign in West Yellowstone, Mont.
EPA’s FOIA Release Illegal, Harmful to Farmers and Ranchers
The Montana Farm Bureau, along with the American Farm Bureau, has expressed strong dismay that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed special interest groups to gain private infor-mation about farmers and ranchers through a release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Working with counsel, AFBF has now completed an analysis of EPA’s actions and determined that their release of personal information related to these operations (e.g., names, addresses, phone numbers) was in violation of FOIA and the Privacy Act of 1974.
The EPA recently responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by Earth Justice and the Natural Resources Defense Council. EPA’s response to these groups produced a CD containing data gathered by EPA from 30 state agencies with state jurisdiction over livestock and poultry operations regarding producers within those states. When AFBF learned of EPA’s action, they requested and received a copy of the records released.
“We’ve found out that Montana’s farmers and ranchers had their rights to privacy violated and to what end?” notes Jake Cummins, executive vice president, Montana Farm Bureau Federation. “What the government is telling us with this action is nothing is confidential. It’s hard to trust a government that tells you the information they are collecting is confidential, and then they release it to groups who have a history of harassing ag producers.”
“It seems the EPA just assumed that the released information was “public” when it was actually private,” noted Cummins. “EPA’s failure to even consider the privacy interests at stake before collecting—much less releasing—farmers’ personal information violated both the Privacy Act and the Agency’s own Privacy Act guidelines. EPA did not exercise the ‘utmost care’ in protecting the sensitive personal information.”
Cummins said a breach like this further erodes trust in the government, and will make farmers and ranchers even more hesitant to give the government information than they already are.
“The recent Ag Census claims on the form that all of the information is confidential, but who is going to believe that now if it seems any group can get any “confidential” information just by making a request under the FOIA?” Cummins said. “It’s not the government’s job to put the private and personal details of Montana farmers’ and ranchers’ lives on billboards so they can become targets of radical environmental and animal rights activists.”
—Montana Farm Bureau
Battle of Little Bighorn Reenactment
In the United States, there are few battles more famous or controversial than the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Fought on the plains of present-day Montana (then a United States Territory) on June 25 and 26, 1876, the battle saw Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors, led by legendary chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, clashing with Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the United States Army Seventh Cavalry. Nicknamed Custer’s Last Stand, this famous battle comes to life every year on a plain six miles west of Hardin, Montana. Now in its twenty-fourth year, this reenact-ment features more than 300 reenactors on foot and horseback.
“This is open-air theater at its best,” says Bill Joseph, chairman of the Custer’s Last Stand Reenactment and a former portrayer of Sitting Bull. “We give people a taste of what it was like on that day and during that time in history. In addition to the Indian warriors and cavalrymen, we have people who portray settlers, we have an Indian village with tipis, and there is a fort set up.”
The reenactment is based on the notes of Crow Tribal historian Joe Medicine Crow, whose grandfather, White Man Runs Him, was Custer’s Indian scout. Medicine Crow, who lives south of nearby Lodge Grass, Mont., and who turns 100 on Oct. 27, 2013, used his grandfather’s passed-down accounts to craft the story through the eyes of his forefathers. He has also attended the reenactment since it began, singing Son of the Morning Star, a Native American warrior song, to all those engaging in the battle.
Reenactments take place Friday, June 21; Saturday, June 22; and Sunday, June 23, 2013.
Hardin Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture