Newswise — WASHINGTON (OCTOBER 30, 2013) – The Wildlife Conservation Society, Intertribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association, and dozens of bison-friendly businesses and groups around the country are celebrating the second annual National Bison Day on Saturday, November 2. The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on October 29th that officially recognizes National Bison Day for the historical, economic, ecological and cultural contributions of bison across the American landscape.
At a time when Congress appears at its most divided, Senators of both parties came together to pass the National Bison Day Resolution by unanimous consent. Sens. Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) led a group of 25 co-sponsors, 13 Republicans and 12 Democrats, who helped push the resolution to full passage.
Sens. Enzi and Johnson introduced the legislation at the request of the Vote Bison Coalition, currently consisting of 47 diverse entities representing bison producers, Native Americans, conservationists, educational institutions, sportsmen/recreationists, zoological institutions, health organizations and businesses. The Vote Bison Coalition celebrated the inaugural National Bison Day on November 1, 2012, with events in South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Washington, DC. The Vote Bison Campaign is supported by an Advisory Council that includes Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation, and Ted Roosevelt V – the great-great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt. “National Bison Day is an opportunity to celebrate the bison as a living symbol of the United States,” said Senator Johnson. “Bison not only play a central role in Native American culture, they are increasingly important in South Dakota and across the nation as bison ranching and interest in this great mammal have grown.” The Campaign asks the public to “vote for bison,” while highlighting the many ways that bison have shaped America’s history, economy, culture, and landscapes. The public has an opportunity to follow the national campaign focused on making bison the National Mammal of the United States by visiting www.votebison.org. Steering members of the coalition are WCS, the Intertribal Buffalo Council (which has a membership of 57 tribes in 19 states), and the National Bison Association (which has more than 1000 members across all 50 states).
The bison—America’s largest land mammal—is celebrated for its cultural relevance and power to inspire. In the early 1900’s, bison numbered less than 1,100 individuals after ranging across North America in the tens of millions a century earlier. In 1905, William Hornaday of WCS (then the New York Zoological Society) and others convened a group of diverse stakeholders at the Bronx Zoo in New York City and formed the American Bison Society (ABS). With President Theodore Roosevelt as its honorary president, ABS set out to preserve and increase the number of bison in the United States by establishing a number of small herds in widely-separated parts of the country. The Society developed a new conservation ethic and helped save bison from extinction. In 1907, fifteen Bronx–born bison were sent by the Society to the first big game refuge in the U.S.—the Wichita Reserve Bison Refuge. Today, bison number in the hundreds of thousands in the United States and are found in state and national parks, wildlife refuges, and on tribal and private lands.
“The bison is quintessentially American,” said WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli. “What better way to acknowledge the bison’s remarkable contribution to U.S. culture than to designate a day of recognition and celebration? We encourage everyone to mark November 2nd on their calendars as a day to re-connect to this enduring symbol of America’s natural heritage.” Among other findings, the National Bison Day Resolution recognizes that bison are integrally linked to Native American culture, are a keystone species that benefit grassland ecosystems, hold significant value for private producers and rural communities, and are considered a symbol of the American West. WCS Senior Conservationist Keith Aune said, “Western science combined with ancient traditional knowledge describes many important relationships that large herds of bison maintained with other animals. Last year’s inaugural National Bison Day celebration provided an opportunity for people to go to events that explore those relationships and learn about the impact bison had on shaping the American landscape.” 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 coalition believes that the bison is the nation’s most culturally recognizable mammal and as such deserves recognition through designation and celebration. Based to some extent on the health benefits derived from consumption of bison as a red meat source, bison today are an economic driver as well. The total value of privately owned bison on more than 4000 bison ranches in the U.S. was estimated to exceed $280 million in 2012, creating jobs and contributing to the nation’s food security.
“The grassland environments of North America were all shaped by the hoof print of the American bison,” said Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association. “As we introduce healthy bison meat to a new generation of Americans, we are also restoring a vital part of the ecological health to our grasslands. Just as the bison are a proud part of our past, they are a growing part of our future as well.”
Bison continue to sustain and provide cultural value to Native Americans. Today, bison remain integrally linked with the spiritual lives of Native Americans through cultural practices, social ceremonies and religious rituals. ITBC member tribes have a combined herd of over 15,000 bison on more than one million acres of tribal land.
“The buffalo was once the center of life for the Native peoples and today, as we work to restore that relationship, we would like to pause and honor the buffalo on National Bison Day,” said Jim Stone, Executive Director of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative.”We would like to see this done in order to draw attention to the diverse groups that have played a role in restoration and that continue to work on restoring an original American icon.” Sens. Enzi and Johnson were joined as co-sponsors of the resolution by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). For more information, please contact Chip Weiskotten at 202-624-8172 or go to www.votebison.org.