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House Bill Re-Introduced to Make Bison National Mammal
Nebraska Ag Connection - 07/01/2015

The Vote Bison Coalition applauded the introduction of legislation, H.R. 2908, in the U.S. House of Representatives to officially recognize bison as the National Mammal of the United States.

The bill, titled the National Bison Legacy Act, was introduced by Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Jose Serrano (D-NY) 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 was first introduced in the House in the last Congress, along with a Senate version led by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and former Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD).

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.

Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO) said, ""No other indigenous species tells America's story better than this noble creature. The American bison is an enduring symbol of strength, native American culture and the boundless western wildness."

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) said, "Bison have a storied history in Nebraska and are an important part of our nation's frontier heritage. By naming bison as our national mammal, we are supporting the ongoing preservation of this majestic species."

Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD) said, "Bison are an ever-present figure within American history. Naming this iconic animal as our national mammal is an appropriate way to solidify their place as an enduring American symbol."

Congressman Jose E. Serrano (D-NY) said, "The bison has a special place not only in U.S. history, but also in the Bronx community. It is the largest land mammal native to the United States and thanks to the Bronx Zoo, which took the lead in saving it from extinction more than a century ago, we can still enjoy its majesty today. As a longtime supporter of natural preservation, making the American bison the national mammal of the United States would be an important reminder of the need for and effectiveness of conservation efforts."

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 importance of buffalo to tribal people cannot be measured and the recognition of the buffalo through the NBLA is one that would be appreciated and honored by all tribal nations."

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: "Tribal leaders, conservationists and private producers have all played an important role in restoring bison across the United States. The fourth partner in this success story is the American public. As more people embrace the great taste and quality attributes of bison, the herds will continue to grow. The National Bison Legacy Act recognizes the importance of this magnificent animal, and its important role in the cultures, the environment, and the food system of our nation."

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. 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.

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