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American bison on track to becoming national mammal

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American bison is well on its way to becoming the country's national mammal.

The National Bison Legacy Act, which makes the designation official, was passed Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate passed an earlier version of the bill in December, and it is expected to agree with the slightly different House version later this week before the bill heads to President Barack Obama's desk for final approval.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., one of the senators who introduced the bill, explained in December the bill won't add any restrictions for bison ranchers, who might breed the animals for food or for other purposes.

"Carson Wentz isn't the only bison getting national attention this week," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Democrat and co-sponsor of the Senate bill, said in a statement Tuesday. "As a symbol of our heritage and a proud part of many Native cultures, the 500,000 bison that roam the continent exemplify the spirit and traditions that make the United States great."

Rep. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican and co-sponsor of the House bill, said it's a particularly important designation for the state of North Dakota.

"The bonus for me is that we have this rather fantastic mammal that represents a really cool university and serves as a great, majestic mascot," he said. "There's a little extra value in North Dakota for this."

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