NEW YORK (August 14, 2012)
— The Vote Bison coalition applauded the news that Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would officially designate bison as the national mammal of the United States. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) added their names as original co-sponsors to the bill.
The bill, which was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Tim Johnson (D-SD), acknowledges the efforts that Native Americans, bison producers, conservationists, sportsmen, educators and other public and private partners are making in recognizing bison for its cultural, economical and ecological significance across the American landscape.
"I'm pleased to cosponsor H.R. 6304, important legislation designating the North American bison as the national mammal as the United States,” said Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. “Bison have a storied history in Nebraska and are an important part of our nation's frontier heritage. By naming bison as our national mammal, we are supporting the ongoing preservation of this majestic species.”
“Honoring the American Bison as our national mammal would encourage its protection and revitalization as a unique American treasure,” said Congressman José E. Serrano. “This noble creature, which was driven to the brink of extinction was saved by the Bronx Zoo, and now has made a remarkable comeback. Further population growth and introduction to selected prairie areas would enable us to learn more about the indigenous ecosystem that existed for thousands of years. I urge my colleagues to join us in honoring this shaggy and wondrous national treasure.”
In addition to news regarding the House bill introduction, momentum continues in the Senate. Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) became the latest senators to co-sponsor the bill. To date, 15 Senators and 2 Representatives have co-sponsored the bill.
“We are grateful to leadership shown by Rep. Clay and Rep. Fortenberry in introducing the National Bison Legacy Act in the House, and we are seeing momentum continue to build in the Senate,” said Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli. “The bill’s truly national and bipartisan support in Congress, from New York’s Long Island to the Hawaiian Islands, demonstrates the breadth of people coming together to recognize and designate an All-American icon.”
Dave Carter, Executive Director of the National Bison Association, added, “America’s bison ranchers are proud to stand with the conservation community, and with tribal leaders, to advocate recognition of bison as our national mammal. We are proud that the diversity of the sponsorship reflects the diversity of our coalition.”
Jim Stone, Executive Director of the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, said, “I find it refreshing that there is such a broad support for our effort and it shows that there is common ground that can be found at the congressional level and between the Tribes, producers and conservationists.”
In the early 1900’s, bison numbered less than 1,100 individuals after ranging across North America in the tens of millions a century earlier. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt, William Hornaday of WCS (then the New York Zoological Society), and others convened a group of diverse stakeholders at the Bronx Zoo in New York City and formed the American Bison Society (ABS). ABS developed a new conservation ethic and helped save bison from extinction. In 1907, fifteen Bronx–born bison were sent by the Society to the first big game refuge in the U.S.—the Wichita Reserve Bison Refuge in Oklahoma. Today, bison number in the hundreds of thousands in the United States and are found in state and national parks, wildlife refuges, and on tribal and private lands. Conservation efforts are underway to maintain viable bison populations and preserve this icon of our national heritage.
The coalition is asking the public to “vote bison,” while highlighting the many ways that bison have shaped America’s history, economy, culture, and landscapes. The public in turn will have the opportunity to follow the national campaign and be involved in the passage of the bill by visiting www.votebison.org
. Among other findings, the National Bison Legacy Act recognizes that bison are integrally linked to Native American culture, are a keystone species that benefit grassland ecosystems, hold significant value for private producers and rural communities, and are considered a symbol of the American West. The coalition plans to celebrate the first Thursday of each November as National Bison Day.
Supporters of the legislation now include Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Rep. José Serrano (D-NY), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). For more information or to schedule interviews regarding the campaign to make bison the national mammal, please contact Scott Smith at 718-220-3698 or Chip Weiskotten at 202-624-8172 or go to www.votebison.org