WCS Applauds Department of the Interior’s Bison Report: Looking Forward

BOZEMAN, MT (June 30, 2014) -- The following statement was issued by Keith Aune, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Bison Program Coordinator, lead spokesperson for the American Bison Society (ABS), and Chair of the IUCN Bison Specialist Group for North America:

“WCS, ABS, and the IUCN Bison Specialist Group applaud the bison conservation strategy outlined today by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) in its Bison Report: Looking Forward that calls for restoration of bison to multijurisdictional landscapes. The proposal to restore and manage bison at scales where they can fulfill their ecological role as a keystone herbivore has positive implications for biodiversity, and in particular, for maintaining the ecosystem health of imperiled U.S. grasslands.

“Currently, American bison are on a path to recovery but much work remains. The DOI Bison Report: Looking Forward is a sizeable step forward, offering approaches for state, federal and tribal interests to work together to recover and conserve bison as a wildlife species.

“The DOI Bison Report: Looking Forward outlines the current status of 10,000 bison on DOI lands in 17 herds in 12 states. This constitutes about one third of all conservation bison herds in America today. New landscapes are proposed where traditional and non-traditional stakeholders can share stewardship of free-ranging, low-density conservation herds.

“In the tradition of the ABS more than a century ago, the DOI plan similarly aims to bring people together to achieve universally beneficial outcomes and the restoration of an icon of America’s natural heritage. In so doing, bison will range again on landscapes where they will fill unique ecological and cultural niches once thought gone forever.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society and Bison

In voicing its support and assistance to the DOI, WCS is informed by its in-depth history and experience with bison restoration. In the early 1900’s, plains bison numbered less than 1,100 individuals after ranging across North America in the tens of millions a century earlier. In 1905, William Hornaday of the New York Zoological Society, President Theodore Roosevelt, and others convened a group of diverse stakeholders at the Bronx Zoo in New York City and formed the American Bison Society. The Society developed a new conservation ethic and helped save bison from extinction.

Bison, which today number in the hundreds of thousands, mostly in commercial herds, remain a unique icon of North American culture and natural history. However, the bison’s important ecological roles in its former landscapes have not been restored.

In order to restore the ecological role of bison across their original range, WCS, an international science-based organization committed to conserving wildlife and wildlands, has set up a multi-stakeholder, transboundary initiative with the objective of working with partners to achieve ecological restoration of both wood and plains bison across North America.

Along with the National Bison Association and Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, WCS is a steering member of the Vote Bison coalition, which seeks to celebrate the historical, cultural, economic and ecological contributions of bison. The coalition is working with Congressional champions to pass legislation that would make bison the National Mammal of the United States and celebrate the first Saturday of each November as National Bison Day. The Vote Bison coalition invites the public to express their support at www.votebison.org

CONTACT:
Chip Weiskotten, 202-624-8172; cweiskotten@wcs.org
Stephen Sautner, 718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org


Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION:
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; facebook.com/TheWCS; youtube.com/user/WCSMedia; follow: @theWCS.

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