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Bison. iStock photo

Senate passes Hoeven's Legacy Act making bison the national mammal of U.S.

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the United States Senate unanimously passed the National Bison Legacy Act, legislation he introduced with Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) that designates the American bison as the national mammal of the United States.

The National Bison Legacy Act recognizes the historical, cultural and economic significance of the bison, which is the largest land mammal in America. Many Native American tribes revere the bison as a sacred and spiritual symbol of their heritage.

“The bison, like the bald eagle, has for many years been a symbol of America for its strength, endurance and dignity, reflecting the pioneer spirit of America,” Hoeven said. “It makes sense for this noble animal to serve as our national mammal. The National Bison Legacy Act recognizes the important cultural and economic role the bison has played in our history, in North Dakota and across our nation.”

Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a co-sponsor on the Legacy Act, said, “Bison have roamed the North Dakota prairie for thousands of years, and they continue to remain intertwined in our state’s heritage and traditions.”

“As a symbol of strength and resilience, bison also continue to play an important role in Native American culture, and have had a great impact on our American history and heritage. It’s fitting that the bison be recognized as the national mammal of the United States as we continue to take pride in its impact to our culture,” Heitkamp added.

More than 40 million bison once roamed across most of North America. But 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 successfully establishing bison back into its native habitat. Bison now live 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.