WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) today announced that they are introducing bipartisan legislation, the National Bison Legacy Act, to make the American bison the national mammal of the United States. The bill also recognizes the historical, cultural and economic significance of the bison, the largest land mammal in America.
"The bison has been an important part of our culture for many generations, especially in New Mexico, across the West, and in Indian Country," said Sen. Heinrich. "Bison represent resiliency and are an enduring symbol of American strength and history. Recognizing the bison as our national mammal will properly celebrate how this iconic species has shaped our country's natural heritage."
"The bison is one of the most powerful and inspiring symbols of America and it is only fitting that it serve as our national mammal," said Sen. Hoeven. "The National Bison Legacy Act recognizes the cultural and economic importance of the bison in North Dakota and across our nation. The noble creatures truly reflect the frontier spirit and rugged strength of our nation."
More than 40 million bison once roamed across most of North America. However, by the late 1800s, fewer than one thousand bison remained. The species is acknowledged as the first American conservation success story, having been brought back from the brink of extinction by a concerted effort of ranchers, conservationists and politicians to save the species in the early 20th century.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt and the American Bison Society led an effort to save bison from extinction by establishing a captive breeding program at the Bronx Zoo. Within a few years, the program, and others like it, were already successfully establishing bison back into its native habitat.
Many Native American tribes revere bison as a sacred and spiritual symbol of their heritage and maintain private bison herds on tribal lands throughout the West. Bison now exist in all 50 states in public and private herds, providing recreation opportunities for wildlife viewers in zoos, refuges and parks and sustaining the multimillion dollar bison ranching and production business.