When you think about Yellowstone National Park, you might link it to images of spectacular natural beauty:landscapes filled with colors you would have to see to believe and wild animals roaming around in their natural element. However, this sight is becoming rarer as the years go on.
In March of 1872, Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill that officially made Yellowstone a federally protected national park. The U.S. Army was the first branch of the government to protect this home to so many of the United States’ natural marvels, until the National Park Service took over in 1917.
Now, 136 years later, we wonder if protection is really what’s being provided by the government.
Between Feb. 8 and 14, nearly 170 American bison, or buffalo, were captured from within Yellowstone National Park and are now being sent to slaughterhouses. Seeing as there are less than 4,500 wild and genetically intact American bison living in the United States, that kind of slaughter in that amount of time is unbelievably excessive and considering the lack of reason for it, incredibly unnecessary.
This massive slaughter of the American bison is being carried out to ensure Montana’s cattle ranchers that their livestock will not be infected with brucellosis, a contagious disease that can cause bison, cattle and elk to miscarry. Despite the lack of a single documented case of wild bison transmitting this disease to cattle, ranchers still fear the possibility of lesser productivity which has prompted this violent course of action.
The American bison, a native species to North America, was roaming the continent long before the non-native cattle were brought over by settlers, and even longer before the growth in the nation’s economic interest in cattle, around 100 years ago.
But of course, this isn’t the first time that the buffalo have faced massive slaughter by the federal government. In the 19th century the U.S. government launched a campaign to wipe out the buffalo population — the army exterminated buffalo in an attempt to make Native Americans “civilize.”
Today, instead of the army leading the slaughter of buffalo, it’s the National Park Service. This time it’s for the benefit of the cattle ranching industry, the practices of which have come into question many times before.
It seems as though the cattle barons are the ones calling the shots, while the federal government backs and enforces their decisions.
This disregard for wildlife can also be seen in the recent decision to take the gray wolf off of the endangered species list. This makes it less of a legal issue to shoot a gray wolf — or in other words, less of a legal issue for cattle ranchers who shoot a wolf, thinking their livestock may be in danger.
In the quest for profits, there is little — if any — regard for the what was here before us. The power the federal government to protect Yellowstone National Park has been manipulated to serve the financial interests of cattle ranchers.
If we let these interests continue without raising our voices in protest of the government’s thoughtless actions, it is possible that our generation could lose some of the natural wonders for which Yellowstone was once provided protection.
The last time we checked, the purpose of a national park was to protect the land and the animals that inhabit it, not to slaughter them by the hundreds.