The National Bison Legacy Act
The National Bison Legacy Act (S. 3248/H.R. 6304) would designate the American bison as the 'National Mammal of the United States.' Bison—our largest land mammal—embody our country's history, heritage and character. Once ranging from Oregon to New Jersey and Alaska to Mexico, bison herds inspired awe in western explorers, like Lewis and Clark. Bison were integrally linked with the economic, physical and spiritual lives of Native Americans, central to their sustenance, trade, ceremonies and religious rituals. Bison are a symbol of frontier culture in the United States and sustained early settlers and traders. A monumental effort to save bison from extinction began in 1905, initiated by men and women from all walks of life, including ranchers, Native Americans, industrialists, President Theodore Roosevelt, and citizens from across the nation. This grassroots campaign to save bison on small refuges in Oklahoma, Montana, and South Dakota served as the world's first successful wildlife restoration effort.
Bison are an important animal in many sectors of modern American life. Bison continue to sustain and provide cultural value to Native Americans and Indian Tribes. Over 60 tribes are working to restore bison to over 1,000,000 acres of Indian lands in places like South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Montana. 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 4,000 bison ranches in the U.S. was estimated to exceed $250 million in 2011. This trend bodes well for bison ranches in states like South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota and Montana, which create jobs, provide a sustainable and healthy meat source, and contribute to our nation's food security.
Bison are highly desired by the sporting public as a valued game animal. Utah, Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming are managing this species and hosting successful annual hunts helping to finance management efforts. Bison provide enjoyment and education to millions of visitors who recreate in America's great outdoors and tourists eager to view both public and private bison herds contribute to the economies of rural communities. Bison herds for public enjoyment and use are found on state and federal lands including Yellowstone National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, Caprock Canyon State Park, and Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.
Why Should Bison Be Designated as The National Mammal?
As an American icon, bison are profiled on coins, designated as the state mammal of Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Kansas, depicted on the Department of the Interior's seal, and featured on logos of sports teams, businesses, and academic institutions. In bison, we recognize aspects of our character like fortitude, boldness, and independence. More than any other animal, the bison symbolizes America.
Designating the bison as the National Mammal would celebrate the animal's special place in our national heritage, as well as the contributions bison make to American life now and will for centuries to come. The designation recognizes a time when people from diverse backgrounds and political leanings united to save something precious and uniquely American, and provides a platform for stakeholders to again come together in a common cause.
S. 3248/H.R. 6304, The National Bison Legacy Act Would:
- Designate the North American bison as the 'National Mammal of the United States' to recognize its historical, cultural, economic, educational, and ecological significance.
- Recognize that Native Americans, bison producers, conservationists, sportsmen, educators and other public and private partners will spearhead a national celebration of this American icon, the North American bison, annually the first Thursday of November.