Tuesday, May 10, 2016

An Official National Mammal

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Before European settlement the range of the bison (Bison bison) extended from the arctic lowland taiga forests to the western grasslands of what is now Mexico and then east from what is now the great basin of Nevada to the mountain range now known as the Appalachians. It ranged over 22 major biomes.
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[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

H.R. 2908: Bison as National Mammal

On Monday, May 9, 2016 President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law. The American bison is now the national mammal of the United States. It joins the Bald Eagle as a national symbol. A fact-sheet with photographs prepared by the U. S. Department of the Interior may be found here.
H. R. 2908, beginning with "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled" passed the House of Representatives April 26, 2016. The designation of the American bison as the national mammal is the result of a coalition of conservationists, ranchers and the Inter Tribal Bison Council (ITBC).
The ITBC grew from a gathering of nineteen tribes in South Dakota 1991, united for a common mission: Restoring buffalo to the Indian Country, to preserve our historical, cultural, traditional and spiritual relationship for future generations. Currently it "has a membership of 58 tribes in 19 states with a collective herd of over 15,000 buffalo." ... "ITBC is committed to reestablishing buffalo herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration, and economic development."

The Destruction of the Bison

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via Wikimedia Commons
From a peak population of about 30 million, bison were hunted to less than 500 by about 1900. The hunting included a strategy by the U.S. Army to confine plains Indians and change their nomadic way of life, i.e., to force them to live on reservations. The history of the decline and its complex causes may be found in Andrew C. Isenberg's definitive and thoroughly researched book, The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History 1750-1920.
Elahe Izadi's story for the Washington Post provides a condensed history of the bison's near-extinction and of the effort that led to President Obama signing the National Bison Legacy Act.
And for information about bison, the Wiki entry on this iconic animal covers considerable territory.
Geary Hobson's poem about this once-free ranging mammal returns us to the spirit of a time when buffalo roamed freely, a time that buffalo or us will never know.

Buffalo Poem #1
On hearing that a small herd of buffalo has "broken loose" and is "running wild" at the Albuquerque Airport--September 26, 1975
---roam, on brothers...

What a story!

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