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buffalo & cows, power & destruction: a political economy and social ecology of the American West

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  • CyberBrook
    from Christopher Ketchum, They Shoot Buffalo, Don t They: Hazing America s Last Wild Herd , /Harper s/, June 2008: The government began large-scale
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2008
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      Christopher Ketchum,
      "They Shoot Buffalo, Don't They:
      Hazing America's Last Wild Herd",
      /Harper's/, June 2008:


      "The government began large-scale operations against the Yellowstone
      buffalo in 1989, after forest fires drove the herd out of the high
      plateaus and geyser basins of the park. The severity of the treatment
      the animals receive each year depends on how far they venture from the
      park, which itself depends on the size of the herd, the availability of
      forage, and the vagaries of weather. In the winter of 1996-97, for
      example, 1,084 stray bison were slaughtered by the DOL---at the time,
      the largest single-season buffalo kill since the nineteenth century. In
      2005-06, more than 30 percent of the herd was culled, including fourteen
      bison that, pursued by government agents on snowmobiles, died after
      crashing through the ice on Lake Hebgen. The buffalo, it was reported,
      struggled for three hours to stay afloat, until two of the creatures at
      last sank beneath the water; several others were then retrieved and
      shot. The surviving buffalo instinctively gathered around the victims,
      shaking their heads, jumping, turning in circles, performing a kind of
      dance. They too were killed."

      "'When we get rid of the Indians and the buffalo', enthused General
      Nelson Miles, commander of a garrison near Fort Keogh, Montana, in 1876,
      'the cattle...will fill this country.'"

      "Cows are also major contributors to global warming. A 2006 report
      issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization noted that livestock
      account for 18 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions, including, from
      human-generated activities, 37 percent of methane, which has
      twenty-three times the warming potential of CO2; and 65 percent of
      nitrous-oxide emissions (296 times the warming potential of CO2)."

      "Over the past twenty years, ranching as a sector has been consolidated
      in the hands of a few powerful operators who can survive the exigencies
      of land speculation and the globalization of the beef trade. Today, 10
      percent of Montana's cattlemen own 50 percent of the state's cattle.
      These rich few now shape ranching in the American West, despite
      contributing minimally---under 3 percent---to national beef production.
      The key to their success lies in their ability to co-opt public
      resources for private gain. Most large-scale ranchers don't keep their
      cattle on their own land."

      "The result of this federal largesse, and the enclosure and monoculture
      it accommodates, is that ranching has become the primary cause of
      species extinction, topsoil loss, deforestation, and desertification in
      the American West."

      "The most formidable player in modern-day western ranching, other than
      the US government, is the banks.... As in the age of westward expansion,
      then, powerful private interests, banks, and government have arrayed in
      opposition to the buffalo."



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