Cultural, Economic, Historical and Ecological Contributions of Bison
The National Bison Legacy Act was just re-introduced in the U.S. Senate to officially recognize bison as the National Mammal of the United States.
Lead sponsors of the bill are Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM). There are many bipartisan co-sponsors, and more than 50 supporting organizations, businesses and tribes in the Vote Bison Coalition.
The House of Representatives introduced a companion bill earlier this year, with lead sponsors Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Jose Serrano (D-NY).
The legislation failed to pass in the 112th and 113th Congresses.
Bison Were Almost Extinct
Bison, which roamed across most of North America, almost became extinct due to westward expansion. They are the first American conservation success story, after coming back from the brink of extinction thanks to a concerted effort by ranchers, conservationists and politicians in the early 20th century.
Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison Society began this effort in 1907, by shipping 15 animals by train from the Bronx Zoo to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Bison can now be found in all 50 states in public and private herds, including in zoos, refuges and parks. They sustain a multimillion dollar bison ranching and production business.
“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.” – John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society
Images of Bison
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.
“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.” – Jim Stone, Executive Director of the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council
There are more than 2,500 bison ranches in the U.S., and the Vote Bison Coalition says private bison production is in its strongest economic condition for more than ten years. In 2013, an estimate put the total value of privately owned bison at more than $280 million.
“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.” – Dave Carter, Executive Director of the National Bison Association.
“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.” – Keith Aune, WCS Senior Conservationist