Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 10, 2001 - Issue 29



Yellowstone Held Hostage by Million Dollar Cheeseburgers!!!!


by Bruce Gourley Copyright © 2001


 art by John Nieto Buffalo Medicine

No, this shocking headline is not from the front page of a supermarket tabloid or a sequel to the cult movie The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It is not a marketing gimmick by some fast food restaurant, nor is it the plot line of an upcoming X-Files episode. And neither is it the punchline of a new comedy routine by Jay Leno nor a scare tactic by Disney to try and reroute vacationers to the Mouse Kingdom.

In fact, this rather ludicrous statement is not fiction at all. It is a true story which is taking place right now. And not only that, it is old news: this bizarre hostage situation has been going on for years.

Following are the basic facts and figures of this strangest of true stories.

Yellowstone National Park is the world's oldest and best-known national park. Yellowstone is renowned for its wildlife and geysers. The two symbols of Yellowstone National Park, known the world over, are Old Faithful Geyser and the Bison (sometimes called Buffalo). Bison, which once numbered 60 million in North America, were hunted to the very brink of extinction in the late 1800s. Yellowstone became a place of refuge for the remaining few. The bison slowly made a comeback from the edge of extinction, and today the world's largest free-ranging herd (some 3000) resides in Yellowstone.

In the mid-1800s, there were no domestic cattle in the American West. Today, domestic cattle in America number in the tens of millions and supply our insatiable appetite for the billions of hamburgers we Americans eat monthly (if not weekly). In the American West, where many of these cattle are raised, ranchers lease public lands (that is, land owned by the American people, otherwise known as you and me) on which to graze their cattle, paying the government pennies per head.

There are 2000 head of privately-owned cattle grazing on public land in Montana adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. The owners of these cattle pay the government a whopping $13,000 per year in grazing fees.

Government agencies decided some years ago that Yellowstone's bison are a threat to the 2000 head of cattle which graze on public lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. The bison were labeled a threat because some carry the disease "brucellosis," a disease that can cause domestic cattle to abort their fetuses. Oddly enough, however, there is not one shred of evidence -- despite extensive research continuing to this very day -- that wild bison can transmit the disease to domestic cattle.

The simple solution to this "problem" would have been to declare the public lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park off-limits to cattle grazing. However, the government, in its infinite wisdom, decided the 2000 head of cattle, grazing for virtually free on land owned by you and me, were more important than Yellowstone National Park, and indeed needed to be protected from Yellowstone's bison. Of course, the government did not bother to ask you and me, the owners of the land, what our preferences would be for our land.

Having decreed that the 2000 head of cattle are more important than Yellowstone National Park, government agencies set out to put our money where their mouth is. In recent years, the government has spent millions of dollars of your money and mine in protecting the 2000 head of cattle from the subversive Yellowstone bison. Much of that money has been used to kill well over 1000 of Yellowstone's bison in recent years. And just last month, government agencies announced that they will be spending $50,000,000 of your money and mine over the next fifteen years to harass and kill those subversive Yellowstone bison.

In contrast, Yellowstone National Park's entire budget for all of last year was $24,508,000, far less than was needed to protect Yellowstone's bison and tens of thousands of other large mammals (including the endangered grizzly bear and wolf; not to mention small animals, fish, vegetation, geology, etc.), maintain hundreds of miles of roads and trails and hundreds of facilities, and provide enough staffing for the 2.2 million acres which is Yellowstone.

Only in America does the government spend $50,000,000 of your money and mine to ensure that a few thousand cheeseburgers (enough, perhaps, to supply all the McDonalds restaurants in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area for about fifteen seconds) are given higher priority than Yellowstone National Park, the world's first and foremost national park.

Yes, Virginia, the truth is stranger than fiction, and insanity is in abundant supply.

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is America's first and foremost National Park. Established in 1872 by the United States Congress "for the preservation of" its many wonders and "for the enjoyment of the people," and now encompassing 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone is a treasure




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