"I called, I wrote, and no response. This is my response."
Statement of Nathan Drake:
The National Park Service and the Department of Livestock are colluding with a tiny group of lobbyists in crafting a policy not based of sound science or public input. 3 percent of Yellowstone is in Montana and the government is slaughtering bison based on the interests of the livestock industry. We could witness this year a scale of slaughter not witnessed since the turn of the century and the near bison extinction. These bison are not owned by the state of Montana, they are not Yellowstone’s. These bison are alive today because 23 found refuge in what became Yellowstone National Park. Bison have been used as tools of oppression, blatant racism and today as martyrs for bad policy and even worse science. Wild buffalo exist for this continent and all its inhabitants, for the grassland prairies, for the indigenous, for the tourists. The residents of Horse Butte do not want the buffalo hazed off their private property for fear of brucellosis transmission to cattle 40 miles away! The tax money wasted by this policy at the tune of 3 million dollars a year should be better spent. Montana nearly lost their brucellosis free status last year, likely from imported cattle and the test results from that herd were misplaced.
The Interagency Bison Management Plan has had 8 years to adapt and change its policy and they have chosen not to. This plan since its inception has blurred the lines of management for population control and control of livestock. In the past few years I have tried every conceivable method of redress. I have written, I have called and I have gotten absolutely no response. I have nothing left but my life and my freedom.
Until bison management in the state of Montana is based on sound science and fiscal responsibility with input from every interested party I choose this stance. The ongoing slaughter and capture of wild bison is abhorrent and a black eye on this state and country. It is reminiscent of the near extinction perpetrated by this country on such a symbol of resistance and resilience. The tax money wasted by the Montana Department of Livestock in collusion with the Park Service and cattle industry would be far better spent trying to come up with a plan that works. The cattle industry contributes far less to our economy in Montana than the tourist industry, yet time and time again their interests have taken precedence. Montana nearly lost their brucellosis free status last year, not because of bison, but likely from imported cattle. When will we stop being complicit in policy that is shaped by false ideology and poor science? Until then I am doing the only thing I have left, I am putting my life and freedom at risk. I have exhausted all other avenues of discourse.
Update from the pod.
It was freezing; the wind was whipping through the tarp and numbing my exposed face. It was my first night high above the Horse Butte bison trap and the snow was falling gently, rapping against the tarp like little staccato drumbeats reminding me of my existence and sense of place. One cannot ignore the immensity of existence when precariously perched upon strands of rope holding our own mortality. I had enough food for weeks, socks for negative-forty degree weather and hotties for emergencies. It had passed through my mind that the agents who were below me had never considered my personal safety. To them I was a nuisance, a life worth risking in an ill-conceived plan to rid them of my annoyance, my statements.
I knew it was going to be scary when a Department of Livestock agent named Ernie walked up to one of my lifelines, laughed a sadistic laugh, and pulled out his knife. He looked at me and held the blade inches from my rope. I screamed over and over that he was being filmed, that he was endangering my life, and still he laughed. Suddenly supporters and people were shouting at him, gathering around each other with cameras in hand. I breathed a little easier knowing that at this height he could easily end my life with one stroke but there were people who were willing to risk their freedom to stop him.
At this point I went over in my mind the reasons I was suspended forty feet in the air at the whims of deputized livestock inspectors. The bison had it worse. Their slaughter this year is well on its way to rivaling the bygone years when bison were used as agents of racist oppression and tools of assimilation. The agents who eventually made their way up to my perch with the help of an eighty-foot cherry picker were unconcerned with my safety. They cut my sleeping bag, my only protection from the Montana winter, and threw my boots to the ground in an attempt to freeze me out of my lock box. Eventually the sheriff and a Forest Service law enforcement officer cut my safety line, attached me to the bucket, and threw me in it. I maintained my non-violent, non-threatening behavior even while they nearly broke my arms while descending with me attached to a leg of the bipod.
Screaming in pain I looked down and saw DOL agent Shane Grube laughing and making suggestions that would endanger my life and the lives of the agents who were repeatedly throwing me against the bucket of the cherry picker. Forty-five minutes into their attempt to cut me out of the pipe with a cutter, they tossed me to the ground. Five agents then picked up one leg of the bipod, which was precariously balanced at best, risked my life, and attempted to pull me out from underneath it. I was scared for my life, knowing that the full weight of the pole was well over one thousand pounds that I pulled so hard on my arms I broke the straps holding me in the box. It was indeed the scariest moment of my life, more compromising than I have ever seen in my experience with non-violent direct actions. With my arms finally free I was quickly handcuffed as tight as possible and carried to the back of the sheriff’s truck. Gallatin County had possession of my freedom and my life was no longer at risk from reckless agents bent on slaughtering bison with no scientific or logical justification.
I risked life and freedom on behalf of the thousands of frustrated people fed up with this government and their full tilt assault on the last wild bison. I know full well that my frustration was echoed in the thousands of people who called, wrote, and petitioned the government to stop the slaughter of these amazing buffalo. The strength I felt while suspended forty feet above the Horse Butte bison trap was solidarity from people and the wild. A calf came and visited me, walking over the Department of Livestock closure lines and a feeling of awe and inspiration rolled over me in waves. I knew that as long as I sat perched from the bipod, this young bison would not be trapped and sent to slaughter without ever being tested for a disease that wild bison have never transmitted to cattle.
Tags: BFC, buffalo, bison, Buffalo Field Campaign, Yellowstone, first nations, ecology, environment, welfare ranching, activism
Location: West Yellowstone, Montana, United States (load item map)
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