The bison could soon be the national mammal of the United States. The bill, passed by the House and Senate, now awaits the signature of the President.
Supporters of the bill say it will afford overdue recognition to a species that has been of such importance to the culture and history of the US.
“No other indigenous species tells America’s story better than this noble creature,” said Rep. William Lacy Clay. “The American bison is an enduring symbol of strength, Native American culture and the boundless western wildness.”
Tens of millions of bison, also known as buffalo, once ranged across North America. A century later, only a thousand remained. Concerned citizens, including President Teddy Roosevelt, formed the American Bison Society to help relocate 15 bison from the Bronx Zoo to a refuge in Oklahoma. There the bison could begin to repopulate the West. The current number is about 30,000, with the largest population in Yellowstone National Park. Bison are considered the first major conservation success story on Earth.
“We would like all of our children to be able to see a herd of several thousand bison roaming freely across some of these areas. That is really the vision of what the American West was and could be,” said Cristian Samper, president of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.
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