One of the Yellowstone bison protesters arrested last Friday in Yellowstone National Park has plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.
The pair were arrested after chaining themselves to cement-filled barrels with slogans written on them, calling on officials to cease the slaughter of bison and honor treaties with Native Americans.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Joshua Rivera, 29, of Colorado, plead guilty to two charges of trespassing and interfering with an agency function. Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman, Rivera was ordered to pay $1,936 in restitution—along with a $50 court fee. He is banned from Yellowstone National Park for three years and will undergo unsupervised probation.
The other bison protester, Mark Wolf, 26, has plead not guilty to charges of trespassing, interfering with an agency function and entering a closed area of Yellowstone National Park. He left the court on an unsecured $2,500 bond. He is currently scheduled to appear again in court Wednesday, April 4, 2018.
We previously reported the pair belong to Wild Buffalo Defense, a bison advocacy group seeking to highlight living conditions for Yellowstone bison and protest their treatment under the Interagency Bison Management Plan. They were previously identified as “Wolf” and “Coyote.” You can see a picture of the pair below, courtesy of Wild Buffalo Defense’s Facebook page.
Enacted in 2000, the IBMP calls for Yellowstone bison to be hunted and slaughtered to keep their numbers at or below 3,000, to prevent their spread outside the park. They are hunted and slaughtered out of fear they’ll spread brucellosis to cattle, although there has never been a documented case of bison-to-cattle brucellosis transmission.
According to the Chronicle, the pair positioned themselves on the only road to and from Stephens Creek and delayed the shipment of some Yellowstone bison for hours. According to park spokeswoman Vicki Regula, the shipment was delayed a couple hours until a path was cleared around the pair.
Per the Chronicle, Rivera’s restitution will go toward damages wrought by the path making and overtime pay for equipment operators. If Wolf is sentenced, said restitution will be split between them.
Rivera and Wolf are the fourth and fifth people arrested at Stephens Creek in connection with Wild Buffalo Defense in the past month. Two weeks ago, a trio of Wild Buffalo Defense members were arrested after they appeared at the site to protest. Two of the protesters chained themselves to the Stephens Creek squeeze chute, where biologists take blood samples of bison before they’re shipped for slaughter.
The trio were held in jail for six days prior to a hearing Monday, March 12. All three plead guilty and were ordered to pay fines and are banned from Yellowstone for five years.
Prior to these arrests, there had been several incidents involving the release of corralled/quarantined bison at Stephens Creek. In January, an unknown person cut fences at the facility, releasing 52 bison. In February, fences were cut again, releasing over 70, although most returned before crews patched things up.
The National Park Service has opened criminal investigations into both occurrences.
Alongside hunting and slaughter, quarantine is a contentious topic among environmental and bison advocacy organizations. Some see quarantine as an alternative for slaughter, since it could lead to bison being allowed to leave the park more freely or shipped to other wild/conservation herds around the country. Others, like Wild Buffalo Defense, criticize quarantining as an attempt to domesticate bison.
Under this year’s IBMP, officials sought to cull 600 to 900 bison from the Yellowstone herd. At last count, over 550 Yellowstone bison have been killed by hunters or shipped to slaughter, putting officials comfortably on track toward meeting this goal.
Bison operations are expected to continue through March. As of writing, the park has held back 98 bison, which it plans to keep in quarantine.