OST and Brave Heart Buffalo Pastures Damaged by recent Wildfire

Below is a story reposted from the Rapid City Journal about a recent wildfire on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This fire destroyed part of the fencing shared by the OST Tribe and the Brave Heart Family, allowing their buffalo to get loose. We are currently accepting donations to help support the reconstruction of this portion of the fence and the recovery of the buffalo.

To learn more read the article below.

Reposted from Rapid City Journal

Stampede Fire spares buffalo, scorches pasture

Anyone who sees stray buffalo should call the parks and recreation authority at 455-2584

By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal staff

Most of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s buffalo herd has survived a fire that has so far burned 23,000 acres on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

But the Stampede Fire — named for the herd’s response to the flames — has burned 17,000 acres of pasture that’s home to about 300 buffalo.

“All the grass burned, so we’re in the process of rounding them up and moving them to another pasture between Allen and Kyle,” Birgil Kills Straight, executive director of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Parks and Recreation Authority, said Tuesday. “But at some point, we need to find more of a permanent place for them.”

The parks and recreation authority manages the tribe’s herd of about 680 buffalo. About 300 have been living in pasture near Slim Buttes, with another 380 or so held in pasture land near Allen. The herd provides buffalo meat for wakes and funerals, school and elderly meals, diabetes programs and other needs.

The Stampede Fire, still burning west of Pine Ridge started Saturday. Kills Straight said it burned through the middle third of the Slim Buttes’ buffalo pasture first, then burned the rest of the land after the wind shifted later in the day. On Sunday morning, the fire was still burning in some of the pasture’s deep canyons.

Most of the buffalo appear to have survived the fire, though Kills Straight isn’t sure how. “They’re smart, so they somehow escaped,” he said.

He said crews had so far found just four older buffalo cows dead. They counted about 220 animals in the pasture area Monday, and on Tuesday, crews were conducting an aerial search to try to spot the rest.

Kills Straight said Page Baker, superintendent of Badlands National Park, had asked the Civil Air Patrol to help tribal authorities find any animals outside the burn area. Anyone who sees stray buffalo should call the parks and recreation authority at 455-2584.

Kills Straight said crews would use ATVs and horses Tuesday to move the herd toward an area where they could get hay and water. The animals will then be loaded into stock trailers and hauled 75 miles to the pasture near Allen, where they will join the rest of the herd.

“We might be able to hold them in that pasture for awhile,” Kills Straight said, depending how many buffalo survived. “We have another pasture that’s about 10,000 acres (near Oglala) that we need to fence immediately.”

That alone will be a big job. Kills Straight estimates they’ll need at least 4,000 new fence posts, plus lots of wire.

Meanwhile, Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation group, has donated some hay for the herd. The Tribal Land Enterprise from Rosebud has also offered its help to get the animals through the winter.

The Stampede Fire was about 80 percent contained by Monday night, said Daigre Douville, fire management officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Pine Ridge Agency Fire Management Office. No structures are currently threatened.

A setback for firefighters on the Alabaugh Fire at Hot Springs proved to be a benefit for crews fighting the Stampede Fire last weekend. Two heavy air tankers called in to help with Alabaugh were instead used to fight the Stampede Fire, Douville said.

With fires raging throughout the West and firefighting resources in short supply, the Pine Ridge fire might not otherwise have had the aerial support.

“We just got lucky that day because they got smoked in (at Hot Springs),” Douville said. “Visibility was too poor, so we got to use them.”

Without the tankers, he said, “it could have been worse.”

An investigation team arrived Tuesday to determine the cause of the Stampede Fire. Two 800-gallon single-engine air tankers are stationed at Pine Ridge, and Douville said a strike team of volunteer engines from Pierre, Kennebec, Parker, Renner and Colman was also on hand.

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