Endangered Species Act documentation of wildlife migration in a Geographic Information System

Lee Fulton
Buffalo Field Campaign

Mike Mease
Buffalo Field Campaign

Stephany Seay
Buffalo Field Campaign

One nonprofit is the only group working in the field and policy arenas to stop the harassment and slaughter of America’s last wild bison. Daily patrols observe bison during the November-May field season when they are migrating into the lower-elevation lands of Montana, documenting all actions made against them, and enter this information into an in-house-developed geographic information system after the conclusion of their patrols to track the movement of bison as well as other species in the West Yellowstone and Gardiner Basin regions. This documentation facilitated the February 1, 2018 ruling in United States District Court for the District of Columbia instructing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its 2015 decision to deny Yellowstone bison protections under the Endangered Species Act. The collected data provides the only documentation of bison migration out of Yellowstone National Park. Verbal reporting to the nonprofit staff and volunteers is also conveyed on a daily basis regarding interactions with law enforcement, local community members, Montana State-sanctioned hunters, and indigenous hunters from 7 Tribes exercising their treaty rights. The nonprofit is committed to bearing witness to individual and government behavior towards bison and to countering cattle industry propaganda which enables so much of the deleterious bison policy. The challenges encountered by the nonprofit require thoughtful and deliberate decision-making in the course of these interactions to ensure the continued relevance and viability of the organization, in its 21st year, in pursuit of its mission to secure unfettered habitat and population growth for wild bison.