Wednesday, May 25, 2016

National Bison Legacy Act

The law was signed by President Obama on May 9, 2016 making the North American bison (Bison bison), or buffalo as it is commonly known, the United State's national mammal.  The buffalo joins the bald eagle as an iconic symbol of our nation, and is a worthy recipient of the honor.  It is a long way from near extinction at the hands of western settlers and the US Army to a national symbol of strength and fortitude that can be embraced by politicians on both sides of the near-impassable political divide. Conservationists including US Person {13.06.12; National Mammal: the Bison, a Good Idea} are very happy with the designation since they hope it will aid their efforts to renew wild herds that once roamed the western landscape in thirty millions.  Only about 30,000 wild buffalo remain, most in Yellowstone National Park. About 300,000 hybrid buffalo-cows exist in private livestock herds. The designation does not give the mammal any more legal protections.  So, for example, the annual cull at Yellowstone will go on until more enlighten conservation policies are put in place.

The buffalo is inextricably bound in the history of this nation's western expansion; consequently its story is a tragic one of exploitation, genocide, abuse and neglect, but hopefully the buffalo's future will have a happier retelling now that it is America's national mammal.  Buffalo once played a significant ecological role in maintaining America's prairies, now tourists pose for selfies with them.  The goal of conservation should be to return the buffalo to a functioning part of a healthy ecosystem.  Native Americans are and should play a large role in restoring them to their biological place on the western landscape; the Inter-tribal Buffalo Council represents sixty-three tribes that are engaged in re-establishing the animal at the center of their cultures.  As the Army once so brutally observed, "If we kill the buffalo, we [whites] will conquer the Indian."