Man Risks Arrest Blocking Road That Leads Yellowstone Bison to Slaughter
Early this morning, Comfrey Jacobs, a twenty-year old citizen from Grand Junction, CO, concerned for wild bison, placed life, limb and freedom on the line by blocking the access road to Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek bison trap in hopes of preventing more of America's last wild, migratory bison from being shipped to slaughter.
To date, approximately 450 wild buffalo have been captured in Yellowstone National Park's Stephens Creek bison trap, located in the Gardiner Basin. Most of the buffalo have been and will be shipped to slaughter, while some are going to government research facilities. More than 200 bison have been shipped to slaughter and 250 more have been killed by hunters.
"During my time in Gardiner," said Jacobs, "I was feeling helpless as I watched wild buffalo lured and trapped, fed hay like livestock, tortured with sorting and testing, and eventually crammed into livestock trailers headed for slaughter facilities, while simultaneously bison were being hunted just outside the Park boundary."
Jacobs blocked the road to prevent livestock trailers from accessing the trap before more wild bison could be loaded onto trailers destined for slaughter facilities. He handcuffed himself to a hunter orange 55-gallon barrel filled with concrete, and wire-mesh webbing spanning the entrance to the roadway, which is closed to public access.
"My goal is to stop these trailers from getting to the trap so they cannot load more bison and transport them to slaughter," Jacobs said. "My intent is not to unduly cause these buffalo any more stress or harm than they are currently being subjected to in the trap, and to ultimately get Yellowstone to set them free."
This is the first time a citizen has exercised civil disobedience at Yellowstone's Stephens Creek bison trap. Yellowstone National Park initiates a seven mile public access closure surrounding their Stephens Creek bison trap while highly controversial bison management activities are underway.
Mr. Jacobs, Buffalo Field Campaign, other organizations and media outlets have requested numerous times that Yellowstone conduct media tours of the facility, but these requests have been ignored. Thousands of people have written and called Yellowstone urging them to cease capture and slaughter operations.
Yellowstone National Park has also been extremely secretive: Superintendent Dan Wenk is the first Yellowstone superintendent to prevent his staff from disclosing information to the public. Yellowstone has not issued a single press release during this year's capture and slaughter operations, and they are refusing to tell the public how many wild bison they have captured so far, and are only giving delayed information on the number, age and sex of bison that have already been transported to slaughter.
Jacobs said he is aware of the repercussions of his actions, but felt strongly that he needed to draw attention to what the Park is doing so that they are held accountable for their direct participation in bison mismanagement, which has lead to the decimation of America's last wild bison populations.
"I have taken these drastic actions because I feel it is my civil duty as an American citizen to protect this national treasure," Jacobs said. "The National Park Service has neglected their duty as stewards, to respect public interests and preserve and protect the entirety of the Yellowstone ecosystem. I'm giving up some of my freedoms in hopes of re-establishing a free-roaming heard of bufflo in their traditional habitat."
Comfrey Jacobs's blockade included banners with the messages "Hunters for Bison Habitat," and "Road Closed."Jacobs also included a list of demands for Yellowstone National Park:
- The immediate halt to all current and future capture and slaughter management actions and the release of all currently captive buffalo.
- Yellowstone National Park's withdrawal from the Interagency Bison Management Plan, due to its ineffectiveness in maintaining a wild, free-roaming bison population and not meeting the public's, or the buffalo's best interests.
- So long as the Stephens Creek facility continues to be used to capture, torture and ship wild bison to slaughter and research facilities, there needs to be public oversight and media access at all times, to keep the Park Service accountable for its actions.
The wild bison of Yellowstone are the most significant bison populations in the world, the last continuously wild bison to exist in their native habitat since prehistoric times. They are the direct descendants to the tens of millions that once thundered across North America. Currently, wild, migratory bison are ecologically extinct throughout their historic range with fewer than 4,200 existing in and around Yellowstone and, temporarily, in Montana. They are free of cattle genes and the only bison to hold their identity as a wildlife species. North America's largest land mammal, wild bison are a keystone species critical to the health and integrity of grasslands and prairie ecosystems.
The zero-tolerance bison politics of Montana's livestock industry are driving the policies that are pushing these significant herds back to the brink of extinction.
Yellowstone and its IBMP partners have set an arbitrary population target of 3,000-3,500 bison, yet a Yellowstone bison carrying capacity study has determined that the Park can sustain upwards of 6,200 wild bison. Additionally, there are tens of thousands of acres of public lands surrounding Yellowstone that could sustain thousands more.
"I belive year-round habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Montana is the solution for wild bison population management, not genetically damaging and limiting the herds through slaughter or constant harassment and abuse through hazing operations," Jacobs said.
"We would like to thank Comfrey Jacobs for taking an action that our organization cannot," said Stephany Seay, a spokesperson for Buffalo Field Campaign. "We have always strongly opposed the slaughter and abuse of wild buffalo and applaud non-violent civil disobedience when other means of public participation have been exhausted and ignored.”
“BFC shares Mr. Jacobs' goals for wild, migratory buffalo populations that are respected and valued as native wildlife and free to roam and flourish beyond Yellowstone's borders, in Montana, and beyond. We hope his courageous actions inspire other patriotic Americans to stand up for this iconic and important National Treasure."
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By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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