A Bill commemorating bison, America’s largest land mammal, has been reintroduced in the US Senate. Led by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the bill recognizes the cultural, economic, historical and ecological contributions of bison.
WASHINGTON (September 15, 2015) – The Vote Bison Coalition applauded the re-introduction of the National Bison Legacy Act in the U.S. Senate to officially recognize bison as the National Mammal of the United States.
The bill was introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) along with a bipartisan group of original co-sponsors, with the support of more than 50 organizations, businesses and tribes in the Vote Bison Coalition. The bill joins a companion version in the House of Representatives that was introduced earlier this year by Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and José Serrano (D-NY). The legislation has previously been introduced in the Senate in the 112th and 113th Congresses.
Bison have an important role in America’s history, culture and economy. Before being nearly wiped from existence by westward expansion, bison roamed across most of North America. The species is acknowledged as the first American conservation success story, having been brought back from the brink of extinction by a concerted effort of ranchers, conservationists and politicians to save the species in the early 20th century. In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison Society began this effort by shipping 15 animals by train from the Bronx Zoo to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Many Native American tribes revere bison as a sacred and spiritual symbol of their heritage and maintain private bison herds on tribal lands throughout the West. Bison now exist in all 50 states in public and private herds, providing recreation opportunities for wildlife viewers in zoos, refuges and parks and sustaining the multimillion dollar bison ranching and production business.
Bison currently appear on two state flags, on the seal of the Department of the Interior, and on U.S. currency. In addition, bison have been adopted as the state mammal of Wyoming and the state animal of Oklahoma and Kansas. The bison is the nation’s most culturally recognizable mammal and as such deserves recognition through designation and celebration.
John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, said, “The bison is quintessentially American. What better way to celebrate the bison’s remarkable history in U.S. culture than to make it the national mammal? We thank our Congressional champions and all those committed to officially making the bison part of our national iconography.”
Bison continue to sustain and provide cultural value to Native Americans and Indian Tribes. More than 60 tribes are working to restore bison to over 1,000,000 acres of Indian lands in South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, and other states. Today, bison remain integrally linked with the spiritual lives of Native Americans through cultural practices, social ceremonies and religious rituals.
Jim Stone, Executive Director of the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, said: “The Inter Tribal Buffalo Council and our 60 Member Tribes have a long standing relationship with the buffalo that is based on honoring and respecting the buffalo. The NBLA is consistent with that relationship and we are very proud to be a part of this effort and thankful for the support shown by everyone involved in this effort.”
Bison production on private ranches is in its strongest economic condition in more than a decade. The total value of privately owned bison on more than 2,500 bison ranches in the U.S. was estimated to exceed $280 million in 2013. Bison ranches in states including South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, and Montana create jobs, provide a sustainable and healthy meat source, and contribute to our nation’s food security.
Dave Carter, Executive Director of the National Bison Association, said: “No animal has done more to shape the ecosystem and sustain the people of North America than bison. Designating bison as our National Mammal not only honors the historical significance of the animal, but also helps spotlight the growing importance of bison on private, public and tribal lands. Bison ranchers are proud of the role they are playing in restoring bison to the American landscape and to the American diet.”
The bison, North America’s largest land mammal, once roamed the continent freely, helping sustain plains and prairie ecosystems as a keystone species through grazing, fertilization, trampling and other activities. Bison shaped the vegetation and landscape as they fed on and dispersed the seeds of grasses, sedges, and forbs. Several bird species adapted to or co-evolved with types of grasses and vegetation structures that had been, for millennia, grazed by millions of free-ranging bison.
Keith Aune, WCS Senior Conservationist, said: “Vast herds of American Bison were essential to healthy prairie ecosystems for tens of thousands of years biologically engineering the plant and animal communities we recognize and cherish today. Few other animals have had such a far-reaching and lasting ecological impact. The National Bison Legacy Act provides a great opportunity to formally recognize that important influence on America’s grasslands.”
The Vote Bison Coalition, led by steering committee members the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association and Wildlife Conservation Society, formed in 2012 to make bison the National Mammal and to celebrate National Bison Day annually on the 1st Saturday of November. The coalition counts more than 50 businesses, tribal groups and organizations who have banded together to support efforts to celebrate bison.
The Inter Tribal Buffalo Council is a federally chartered Tribal organization dedicated to the restoration of buffalo to Tribal lands in manner that is compatible with their spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices. ITBC has been working on this mission since 1992. Visit: http://www.itbcbuffalo.com
The National Bison Association brings together all stakeholders to celebrate the heritage of the American bison, to educate, and to create a sustainable future for our industry. Visit: http://www.bisoncentral.com
WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.