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View John McManus's blog posts
17 May 2012, 4:08 PM
Bison are returned to their ancestral plains
Bison at Fort Peck, with one of the newest herd members. (Bill Campbell)

Home on the range, where the deer and antelope play? Forget about it. How about buffalo (yeah, I know they’re really bison).

After years of dreaming about getting one of the original Americans back out on the prairie where they belong, we’re a big step closer to seeing it happen.

After killing every last buffalo they could find, and starving the native folks who relied on them for food, 19th century market hunters missed a couple of handfuls of buffalo deep in the high country that would become America’s first national park, Yellowstone. The offspring of this small herd are among the last genetically pure buffalo (most other buffalo scattered across the country carry some cow genes).

Native tribes in northern Montana for years have sought to reestablish herds using Yellowstone stock. Until this year, they were blocked by cattle interests. But then the state agreed to move approximately 60 buffalo to the Fort Peck Indian reservation in far northeastern Montana. The Fort Belknap reservation, located in north central Montana, has asked for some buffalo and will hopefully get them soon.

Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso has worked for years on behalf of wild buffalo. Most of this work has been to ease rules unnaturally restricting buffalo to the confines of Yellowstone National Park. Outside the park, buffalo have for years been set upon by federal and state agents in helicopters, snowmobiles and on horseback—all intent on driving them back into the park.

Many cattle ranchers and their ally, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, worry that buffalo will infect their cattle with a cow disease brought by cattle from Europe. The disease has largely been eradicated from cattle herds in the 20th century. Oddly, elk, which are big carriers of the same disease, somehow seem to escape the wrath of the cattle industry for reasons no one seems to be able to articulate but might have something to do with their value to hunters.

Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso (Bill Campbell).Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso has worked to ease rules unnaturally restricting buffalo to the confines of Yellowstone.

When Montana recently moved the buffalo from the Yellowstone area to Fort Peck, interests allied with the cattle industry filed a lawsuit to block the transfer. Earthjustice intervened in the court case to defend the right of the state to transfer these buffalo back to their original stewards, the native people. The judge in the case has issued a preliminary injunction telling the state and tribe to not move any more buffalo until the case can be decided. Earthjustice has appealed that order to Montana’s supreme court on behalf of its clients, the National Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife.

The case should be decided soon and hopefully the last barriers to putting buffalo back where they belong will fall. All Americans, including the very first ones, will be better off knowing these magnificent creatures, specially evolved to live on the wind swept, cold, blistering hot, and sometimes drought stricken prairie, will be back where they came from. Since the buffalo arrived at Fort Peck, at least five new members to the herd have been born. Not bad for an area that has been without this key native species for over one hundred years.

Two of the newborn calves of the Fort Peck herd. (Bill Campbell)

Two of the five calves who have been born at the Fort Peck Indian reservation. (Bill Campbell)

I totally believe in what y'all are doing. I have
Heart Disease and found out about Bison and
All Grass fed animals in the wild. Low in saturated
Fat and high in natural nutrients that our body
Needs to sustain life. Although I thoroughly
Enjoyed bison, unreal hamburgers, but felt
a little guilty about eating it. But it was kind of
a matter of life or death so I chose Bison. Thank
God our asshole ancestors didn't kill them all.
Great job. I salute you for your efforts.
But one thing that bothered me was when I went
to your clothing I saw nothing made of hemp and was a bit
Disturbed. Something that also made our country
great. If u know Bison u must know hemp. The native
Americans did.
Check out or read " The Emporer Wears No Clothes", at

You need to check out South Dakota. There has long been a herd of buffalo-yes-real buffalo, in Custer State Park. There also are ranchers raising them on the plains the way they once llived-grazing on grass, digging with hooves designed for that, to find water. The wild flowers are returning as a result. A number of Native Americans in the Badlands are being helped to raise and process them enabling themselves to make a decent living, through the efforts of Dan o'Brian of Wild Idea Buffalo and others. Check out Dans web site-same name-Wild Idea Buffalo. Jeanette

Thanks for sharing this Jeanette. I actively support the Buffalo Field Campaign out of West Yellowstone. Slowly but surely bison arel re-claiming their vital place in the American plains. I look forward to the collapse of the Rocky Mountain cattle ranch culture which has been nothing but a curse upon the land.

I'm relieved to hear that these beautiful creatures are being saved and treasured!! We LOVE animals and would never think of harming them in any way, shame on those who don't know any better. Thank goodness for!!! XOXO

Thank God this species is being saved! Keep that happening and keep them safe!

Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading? I'm trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

We would be better off raising and eating bison! They do not deplete the land because
of their diet and grazing habits. Nutritionally their meat is better for us. After hundreds of
years they developed into the perfect plains animal. Bring back the buffalo and save the

I suspect that the ranchers main concern is competition to their meat business! We totally missed the importance of a great gift from nature. Our nation did not see the intelligence
in the Native American way of life. Time to make room for the tried and true. BISON.
Time to ask the those who know to teach us a better way.

Excellent post, Karen! The cattle ranchers spread disrespect for our native ecology, along with heart disease and cancer with their non-native cattle, that make the land and people sick. Get rid of the cattle. Let the bison return and roam free!

Hope for Bison!

Of all the people in the World, one would think that most Americans would be aware of the way the Meat,Milk, Egg and Entertainment Industries treat all these noble creatures. If we agree that Slavery is wrong, if we are shocked at the Concentration Camps Atrocities, If we say we are Pro Life, if we say we have the Love of God, if we say we Know God, If we say we are Pro Justice, If we say we are Pro Mercy and Pro Kindness, If we say we are any better than the Wildest Beast…Why do we insist into thinking that abuse and extermination and cruelty against other species is ok? It is not only about preserving, it is about treating these native dwellers and all life with dignity and respect, as "intelligent" and "enlightened as we claim to be. And then we have the face to open our mouths to speak out against "Bullying"...

It is a good thing to finally give those magnificient animals back to the people. So much had been taken away from them. The past holds shame for what was done to them, which can never be properly righted. r8dmarshall

Thank you for your tireless efforts to fight against IGNORANCE in order to save this amazing species! You are Nature heroes and Mother Earth is better because of you. :)

I am so glad that maybe in my lifetime I will be able to see wild bison roaming the plains and bring my grandchildren to see this too. Thank you so much for all the hard work you did to leave this legacy. And to the cattle ranchers - shame on you!

Thank you Earth Justice, for standing up for indigenous American's rights, and especially for the safety and future of the great Buffalo. Our forefathers didn't have the sense that their native American hosts had when they arrived here, and all of the bad that has since happened can be laid directly at the feet of the white man and his ways. The bad to the land, and the water, and the animals, and the air, all of this damage is the white man's legacy here on this continent. Our mistakes need to be corrected if at all possible or we will be unable to attach the monikers 'humane' or 'intelligent' to our species or our actions.

I'm glad to read (& save) this article and wish I could put my money where my mouth is. Alas, I'm unemployed & going broke. I've been in the bison industry for decades and do what I can with bison-leather goods. I had some bison hides straight vegetable-tanned for the 1st time in decades. Now that tannery is out of business - much tanning is now done offshore. I'll have to start all over again. We know the legacy of racism and genocide still is strong in the West. We must look askance at folks who support feral horses but not wild, free bison. Even the Horse Indian Tribes realized they had a no-tech biofuel problem when they saw that horses and bison eat many of the same grasses. Food or transportation? Maybe the main thing that scares the cattle barons is the fact that every product we get from beef cattle - we can get from wild bison, plus the winter hair which we can spin and knit into clothes. Years ago, I got a letter in a newspaper advocating wild bison with commercial hunting on a sustainable basis. BTW I'm a bowhunter and am not a supporter of firearms for hunting - they were invented to kill people, and give game hunters too much of an advantage, as well as polluting the land. The first time I ate bison meat, it was like taking communion. Sorry for rambling; I'm in this for life & am very unhappily unemployed.

Unfortunately many Americans see animals and dollar signs at the same time. They are pathetic examples of the way riches and resources of planet earth are plundered and exploited for money and gain. I hope the Bison are allowed to continue living and enjoying the planet as most of us do. Let those who seek to gain profit from living things live somewhere else and leave us alone to enjoy the earth.

Having seen bison up-close in Yellowstone, I can attest that they are truly magnificent creatures, and deserve all the attention they get. Why there would be an objection to the reintroduction of herds on the Native American reservations, some of which are enormous and mostly unpopulated, is a serious question. Wouldn't it be better for tribes such as the Rosebud Sioux, who are so very poor, to develop a resource such as free-range meat, hides, bones, etc., with an indigenous herd? I'm not against slaughtering animals in a sustainable manner, but the eradication of a species is reprehensible.

humanity has wrecked havoc playing god long enough and that is why we're in such a mess today.

This is the best news, the plains need buffalo, buffalo needs the plains and Americans need buffalo back on the range, its just the natural order.Thank goodness for the tribes willing to take this on,

Thank you Earthjustice. The valuable work you do on behalf of the population is just awesome!! Your organization is in the fore front of the battle against big interests waiting to turn this great nation and its natural beauty into a third world African nation. Let it be Fracking Drilling and toxins in the water, it saddens me to see how the people who are supposed to look after out land PIMP it out in the name of progress and lining up their greed without caring for the future generations to come. Money talks and bull shit walks ... our only hope are the courts and scientific information because the big companies have massive amounts of money to run gullible ad campaigns, against the masses. protecting our wildlife,our flora and fauna is very important as protecting our child so our children may have a better tomorrow living in a clean environment. Thank you once more for everything your organization is doing for us Sincerely Fraancis

How can we tell those in other parts of the world to protect their indigenous species if we cannot do the same here. Wildbeast in Africa are now threatened and we all know about the great apes rhinosourus, elephants, et a. threatened by man. Maybe it's time for us here in North America to try to turn things around and set an example for once. Thank you Earthjustice for taking this on. Future generations will thank you and the tribes for their leadership on this issue. Clearly BLM is not doing their job.

I am glad that native peoples in Montana have been blessed with Bison. However, I am not surpised by the responses of cattle-ranchers. The response is far deeper and far dirtier than concerns over disease. The 19th century mind-set is far from over. What still exists is the 19th century nihilist view, and if the nihilist-viewed people will not repent of what they did to the native peoples of the USA, and the Wildlife (in this case, bison).....then it is pretty predictable their unrepentance will manifest, and morph into the ugliest behavior possible. Such people will irrationally (but with deadly intent) will defend their own evil behaviors/choices. A real good example of this is found in "To Kill a Mockingbird":...when the evil man stalked Atticus's son Jem after dark after a school party and viciously broke Jem's arm. That evil man had a profoundly guilty mind and motives....and would do anything to protect it. So folks be on your toes and protect those bison and their caretakers !!

Oh give me a home where the Buffalo roam

I went to Yellowstone and saw many Bison in the wild and it was such a thrill to be in touch with some wonderful creature who was so much a part of history and kept the Native American fed and warm. I felt a connection to that part of long ago. Please protect this magnificent creature.

The land grabbing techniques of cattle ranchers are well documented. The BLM is in cahoots with ranchers to remove every last wild horse and burro from THEIR native lands. Ranchers have money to pass out for favors. Wild horses do not. The same holds true for the bison. Greed and just plain insanity almost killed them off years ago and still prevents their returning to their rightful homes to be left in peace. The bison in Yellowstone National Park find no peace. They are rounded up every year so that many can be sold off - the majority are slaughtered. Mankind is anything but. We continue to desicrate our wildlife and our wild places and for what? These animals want to be left alone. Fortunately, there are growing numbers of people who want the same for them and all wildlife. It is time we stood up to greedy ranchers and dishonest government agencies and officials who think nothing of killing off these animals and only care about their bank accounts. Vote them out of office! Call, write, sign petitions that call for protections for animals! Make your voice count. The animals are counting on us.

Have just finished a course on Native American history and continue to grieve what America has done to these wonderful people. What was equally disturbing was the way we destroyed most of the Buffalo population for sport or for their hides or tongues. Tribes could make one animal serve a multiple uses and even today we are careless in our destruction...I hope and pray that we can save these marvelous animals.

This disease (Brucellosis) is the worry that ranchers have about their cattle coming in contact with bison. I understand that. But, the following quote from the source noted below, makes it clear that THERE IS A PREVENTION TOOL AVAILABLE. All they have to do is vaccinate their female calves. So why don't they? Like everything else, the answer is GREED. "Prevention of Brucellosis is accomplished by official calfhood vaccination of heifer calves. Vaccination must be done by an accredited veterinarian at calf ages that vary from two to four months using standard dosage vaccine, or from 4 to 12 months using reduced dosage vaccine. Each calf must be identified as officially vaccinated in compliance with state and federal regulations." Source is

Has any one considered the fact that these poor animals are just going to multiply, as they should, just so that humans can eat them too once there are plenty of them again. I have no trust for humans. These animals need never ending protection along with all other animals. Thank you.

I strongly agree! All beings on this Planet should be respected and protected!

So many questions, I don't know where to start. It's about time; I thought there was already a herd outside Yellowstone. Where is the privately owned herd of bison? Maybe ranchers are, after all, trying to protect their livelihood, but I see (at least) one major flaw in their argument (aside from the point made by John McManus about elk)---Are ranchers keeping cattle on reservation land? If so, WHY? Fort Peck Indian reservation is HUGE; isn't there enough room for herd to roam freely within it's borders without coming into contact with cattle? I don't think they mingle easily.

Go to to find out the real buffalo story. There is no herd outside of Yellowstone, BUFFALO ARE NOT WELCOME IN MONTANA! Its all about the holy cow and brucellosis which the bison got from cattle and cattle have NEVER gotten from buffalo. The buffalo are the Yellowstone herd that should be allowed to roam free, one reason why there is a Yellowstone eco-system (not for cows). The federal gov't, APHIS, NPS et al go along with the state of Montana and its wildlife & livestock agencies allowing them to treat these wild innocent animals as livestock rather than wildlife. They are hazed, herded, quarantined and now experimented on. Its a nice effort to restore the buffalo to the plains (Fort Peck) but its traumatic on the buffalo. Less buffalo arrived at Fort Peck than left Montana, no one says what happened to them, AND they are still confined at Fort Peck. Buffalo need to be allowed to ROAM FREE in the Yellowstone ecosystem, that is their home and native habitat. Write every agency and representative you can and fight for the buffalo.

Just to give you an idea about the nobility of this species - there are numerous accounts of lone buffalo striding into Indian camps during times of cold and famine, lying down on the ground as a sacrificial gesture and offering no resistance when the tribe members came at them with spears nd knives. I don't know. Would any of us do anything like that for members of a completely different species? I'm glad they're coming back. It's time for us to sacrifice for them.

To those who support and fight for those who cannot. You are a True Hero and Humanitarian to those living today and to those in the future when they come to understand all You have done. WillS

Even if I never see them in the flesh, the knowledge that bisons are thundering across any plains anywhere, this native of Buffalo* (New York) applauds this idea. If cattle pimps want their herds to be favored, let them go to Eurasia, where the ancestor of modern cattle (the auroch) ran free and wild before humans "domesticated" it, and try to set up a similar program, there. *Yes, I know that the bison is not truly a form of buffalo, but it's been the symbol of my home city for as long as anyone can remember.

Beautiful, thank you Earthjustice.

Probably a pipe dream... But, what a joy to travel across the open Plains and see large, native herds of bison.

Actually, if the bison were restored to numbers such as they enjoyed before their near-decimation, travel across the Plains would be almost impossible. I'd still like to see it, though. We'd have to wait hours at the bison crossings!

Chip MacGill makes a very good point, cattle ranching, in many, but not all, cases is destructive. But even more important, in my view, is that beef, eaten OFTEN, is not a healthful food for humans.

I feel enormous gratitude for your work on behalf of a true national treasure. Thank you

Tatonka should be allowed to live open and free..and I agree with the former comment..those who cannot get their way take it upon themselves to undermine the law bye killing what they can't the wolves...

The Bison should be allowed to return to their ancestral land throughout this country. The concern would be keeping them safe from further human harm from cattle ranchers. They are truly a national treasure and we are fortunate to still have them on this planet.

I am happy to see the Bison returned to more of it's native lands. I believe the success of the Bison could be the key to allowing the wolf to be free once again. I say this because the Bison can live with the wolf, whereas the Cow cannot without protection. Bison will "circle the wagons" and protect each other. If some brave rancher were to figure out how to utilize the unique traits of the Bison, we could all benefit from the added diversity to our wildlands and also at the dinner table since Bison is much better than Cow,.... any way you look at it! :-)

Thank you for defending the bison!

I always thought the bison should be our national symbol.

This is WONDERFUL. Want an idea? As a spinner of bison fiber, it is 8 TIMES WARMER THAN CASHMERE. The Bison's natural shedding can be collected, prepped, and spun to sell as yarn to raise money for the native protectors (who know this already. If they lost the skill, I'm willing to re-introduce it!) and for the Bison's defense. These are very valuable animals, who don't need to be killed or skinned!

Yes, by all means, we should continue to reintroduce the Buffalo back to the parries where they were the natural inhabitants. Shame on the cattle ranchers who came later.

This is a wonderful idea! I hope they consider this.

Very ery good! Awesome !

This article fails to say that the cattle herders, get to graze and raise their cattle on these very Federal lands, in many cases free of charge, or at very little cost. Then they have the audacity to push back this magnificent species. Disgusting. Same argument with repopulation of wolves really. Cattle herders are out of control.

It is a miracle that we are given a second chance to make things right. Let's keep these pure-bred bison unharmed by the dangers and horrors of genetic alteration. We are given this "do-over" to save this species, let's run with it.

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