ALDF Sues to Lift Park Service Closure of Yellowstone Park During Bison Capture

Posted on January 26, 2016

Lawsuit Alleges First Amendment Guarantees Access

For immediate release:

Alan Chen,, (303) 871-6283
Justin Marceau,, (617) 256-9073
Jamie Woolsey,, (307) 265-3455
Stefanie Wilson,, (971) 344-2295
Chris Ketcham,, (347) 992-6231
Stephany Seay,, (406) 646-0071

bison-article-image-230Casper, WY – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Jamie M. Woolsey of the private Wyoming law firm Fuller, Sandefer & Associates, L.L.C., and two constitutional law professors filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of journalist Christopher Ketcham and wild bison advocate Stephany Seay, who are seeking access to Yellowstone Park’s controversial bison trapping operations that lead to the slaughter of hundreds of bison. The lawsuit argues that the First Amendment guarantees citizens and journalists reasonable, non-disruptive access to the publicly funded national park.

The National Park Service is scheduled to capture and facilitate the killing of up to 900 bison inside Yellowstone Park starting on February 15, 2016. During the capture and kill operation, the Park Service closes parts of the park to public access.

“It’s ironic that to benefit Montana ranchers grazing their cattle—an invasive species—Yellowstone Park has agreed to facilitate the capture and killing of 900 American bison, an iconic, native species,” said law professor and ALDF attorney Justin Marceau.

Past accounts of similar bison killing operations have provided evidence of brutal treatment of the animals. The centerpiece of the Park’s role in the slaughter is the Stephens Creek Capture Facility, which is located entirely within the national park. The bison are driven into the facility, held in pens, tested, and eventually forced into trucks and transported to slaughter. In recent years, the Park Service reversed its previous policy that allowed members of the public to witness and document the operation—the Park Service itself shot video and photographs—and now proposes to offer only three supervised tours, including one when the trap facility at Stephens Creek was not in operation.

Yellowstone’s public information office also used to offer information on how many bison were captured, shipped to slaughter, or injured each day.  During the past two bison kills, however, the park delayed release of that information for two weeks.

“If the First Amendment right of access is to mean anything,” Marceau went on to say, “it means that citizens and journalists should have reasonable, non-disruptive access to their publicly-funded national park to observe and memorialize one of the most controversial uses of national park land imaginable.”

“No one wants their federal tax dollars to be used by Park Service rangers to abuse and kill the very animals the service is responsible for protecting,” said Seay.  “The Park Service doesn’t want the public to see these shameful activities.”

Ketcham has written about the bison controversy for VICE, Harper’s, and other magazines and websites. “I want full access to the operations,” he said, “so I can effectively report on the issue. I want to be able to see the suffering of these animals up close, and thus bring readers up close.”

Although there were once tens of millions of bison throughout most of North America, today wild bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native range, with fewer than 5,000 living in and around Yellowstone National Park, the last continuously wild, migratory herds left in the nation.  The animals are currently managed under the controversial Interagency Bison Management Plan; thousands of bison have been abused and killed through hazing, hunting, scientific experiments, and capture-for-slaughter operations.

The purported reason for the enactment of the plan is that bison threaten to infect local cattle populations with brucellosis, a non-fatal disease originally brought to North America by European cows.  Wild bison, however, have never transmitted the disease to cattle.  In fact, no transmission from bison to cattle has ever occurred outside of a laboratory setting.

“Denying access to the park during this controversial publicly-funded wildlife slaughter campaign is very similar to the intent of Ag-Gag laws,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Such laws ‘gag’ would-be whistleblowers, journalists and activists by making it illegal to record and disseminate photos or footage taken in agricultural operations. ALDF has successfully proven Ag-Gag laws are unconstitutional under the First Amendment and we are confident we will do the same in this case.” The coalition of law professors, non-profit lawyers, and private attorneys are joined by a team of top law students at the University of Denver, and they are all eager to aggressively litigate the free speech rights of journalists seeking to document the trapping of bison within national park lands.

More Information


28 thoughts on “ALDF Sues to Lift Park Service Closure of Yellowstone Park During Bison Capture

  1. Creator bless all who step up to be the voice for these poor tortured creatures at the hands of Park Service employees during the round ups. It’s horrible but people must know how their tax dollars are paying for this carnage. And it must be stopped. Highest Blessings to all you wildlife Warriors, you ROCK!

    Candy Copeland , Kickapoo of OK Tribe

  2. Fay Carne Artist-Jersey C I says:

    It used to be Morals foremost, profits way down the list, my, my how America has changed………..

  3. Linda Aubuchon says:

    PLEASE…do not kill these magnificent beings. They deserve to live, like you and I.

  4. GPC says:

    Why do they continue using the same tired old brucellosis fear tactic? If it’s never happened the ranchers know that. They must think the public is still buying into it. NEWSFLASH! We’re not!!

  5. There is room for all. Have you ever flown over these areas? More than enough grazing for all. The brucellosis argument isn’t valid

  6. Christine Zaffarano says:

    Yes the Park Services violent murderous actions towards OUR BUFFALO in OUR NATIONAL PARK must be stopped. It is OUR RIGHT to use the justice system to demand accountability and to stop the killing of these animals which are part of our American heritage. Thank you for filing this lawsuit and challenging the policies of the National Park Service.

  7. Gama Leong says:

    Stop cruelty

  8. Susan Durrenberger says:

    The National Park Service has no right to kill those Bison. I have been in Yellowstone and there is more than enough area for the bison to roam. Everyone enjoys seeing them and they are a part of our heritage. Please see if this cruel killing can be banned as it is only for money for their meat that prompts this horrific slaughter. I will never support the National Park Service as long as these killings occur and I am a lifetime member.

  9. Marni says:

    is there a petition to sign or should we send emails or make phone calls regarding stopping the slaughtering of these bison?

  10. Tzindaro says:

    These bison of today are the ancestors of all the millions of bison that will someday freely roam the western plains. And when that day comes, and all the cities long have crumbled into dust and wolves and grizzlies stalk huge herds of bison across the unfenced plains, the only humans will be little bands of hunters sitting by their lonely campfires in the wilderness, making arrows and telling stories of the time when bison were few and men were numerous. And their children will not believe that such a thing could ever have been.

    1. Coco says:

      I like this way of thought,, will it be turned around… miles of bison roaming the plains as they once did,,, cities gone,, quite the vision my friend.

  11. Deborah McNally says:

    Brucellosis is a bogus argument. Follow the money to the ranchers I’ll bet and NOT the park. I will boycott this park, spread the word and stop donating to the National Park Service. Even God knew to stop creating when he saw that humans choose evil over good. Animals only kill out of necessity , humans kill out of greed. Why can’t this be stopped ?

  12. How can we add ourselves to the lawsuit? Please let us know.

  13. Anna wilson says:

    As a historian, I find it appalling that Bison is allowed to be killed. Centuries ago these animals were slauted. US government cannot fix all the I’ll treatment of the indigenous population. Although, at least the animals, the historic and native cretures of North AMERICA can finally receive just treatment. Killing them with tax payers funds is immorality and errogant. The modern civil society should learn it’s lessons of the past. Greedy individuals get their karma back.

  14. melissa panton says:

    IF !!! these animals that are part of our heritage are going to be eaten after they are killed that is one thing, BUT if you are going to slaughter just to waste the food SHAME ON YOU.

  15. Dr. Hildegard Reiser says:

    As a retired science advisor for the National Park Service, I am appalled at the lack of transparency in these operations. Wildlife management in this country is in shambles. In my nearly 35 years of being associated with wildlife and natural resources management, I feel we have harkened back to the ways & techniques of the 1950’s -1970’s as we continue to label wildlife species as good & beneficial vs being evil & bad as witnessed on predator management throughout this country & state agencies allowing wildlife killing contests. I am truly embarrassed for the NPS in not standing firm on what is ecological sound science & not cowtowing to the State of Montana & cattle ranchers.

  16. Linda Allan says:

    Teddy Roosevelt is turning over in his grave. This is not how he envisioned the national parks that he created. It infurites me that my tax dollars are being utilized in this manner. Rest assured that Yellowstone will never receieve any of my tourist dollars. This should be national news. Shame on the officials and park rangers of Yellowstone!

  17. Veda Stram says:

    The title of your piece needs to be changed to ALDF Sues to Lift Park Service Closure of Yellowstone Park During Bison SLAUGHTER

    Why call it “capture” when it is about slaughtering bison at the whim of cattle ranchers? If people eat cows or sheep parts and pieces, they may be complicit in this “capture.”

  18. Millie O'Connor says:

    Yellowstone officials should be ashamed of themselves, I know I am ashamed of them and the employees.

  19. Kathie Mcelwain says:

    We need to save and take care of what we have left there will be no more of nothing if these things keep up

  20. vanessa james says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful work in protecting all animals!!!

  21. Teresa says:

    There aren’t too many Bison – there are too many people (who eat too many cattle who need too many acres of land for grazing). We have knocked the natural balance so out of whack that no amount of killing will set it right. The only way to achieve this is to eat a plant based diet and by reducing the HUMAN population – thus giving land back to the indigenous non-human animals who belong here.

  22. Beth McDermott says:

    Stop this senseless slaughter!!

  23. Dawn says:

    This is so wrong .why kill them .why I don’t under sta d the cruelty in your heart to even consider killing 900 bision .let the person document what are u hideing .

  24. Anna Stein says:

    Ban hunting of all God’s creatures!!!!

  25. juls says:

    Don’t you think the first time they were almost brought to extinction was enough?? WAKE UP….. AND DO THE RIGHT THING!!

  26. Marta Bastos says:

    How bizar is that a national park promote killing of wild animals instead of promoting their life . Isn’t it up side down procedure?

  27. Raquel says:

    I’m impressed, I must say. Truly rarely do
    I encounter a website that’s equally educative and interesting, and let
    me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.