Newswise — The Vote Bison Coalition is joining bison-friendly businesses, groups and individuals around the country today to celebrate the third annual National Bison Day on Saturday, November 1. More than 19 events are occurring in at least 15 states to celebrate National Bison Day, with many more people weighing in on social media, to commemorate the historical, economic, ecological and cultural contributions of bison across the American landscape.
The Vote Bison Coalition, comprised of the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association, Wildlife Conservation Society, and more than 50 other organizations, businesses and tribes, supports National Bison Day as a way to celebrate the bison as an American icon.
On Saturday, November 1, bison supporters across the country will host events celebrating bison in their communities. On National Bison Day in 2013, Native Americans, bison producers, conservationists, sportsmen, educators and other public and private partners commemorated the day with events and promotional activities in: DC, FL, IA, KS, KY, ND, NJ, NY, OK, SD, TX, VA, and WY. The number of National Bison Day events has increased every year it has been celebrated.
This year, the coalition sponsored a social media promotion called Beards for Bison, where supporters are encouraged to snap a photo of themselves wearing a beard (real, or a fake one printed from beardsforbison.org) and post it to social media with the hashtag #beardsforbison.
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on October 29th that officially recognizes National Bison Day. The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) and attracted 20 other bipartisan co-sponsors. The resolution followed the passage of a similar resolution in 2013. The Vote Bison Coalition plans to continue pushing for a National Bison Day resolution each year as a way to celebrate bison annually on the first Saturday of November.
John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, said, “National Bison Day continues to grow every year as more and more Americans recognize and appreciate bison, which are as unique to our national heritage and identity as baseball, apple pie and the bald eagle. This National Bison Day, I encourage bison supporters across the country to get involved via social media or by visiting a bison herd in person at their local zoo or public herd.”
Jim Stone, Executive Director of the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, said: “I would like to once again express my thanks for the continuation of Bison Day and hope that one day there will be a permanent designation for the bison. The past year has shown an increase in the awareness of bison issues and an expansion of dialogue around bison. The Tribal communities continue to keep the bison close to them and encourage people to explore the rich bison cultures that continue to exist in this country.”
Dave Carter, Executive Director of the National Bison Association, said: “The American prairie, which long sustained the American bison, continues to be shaped by this magnificent animal as farmers and ranchers restore the bison to its native landscape in a sustainable and humane manner.”
Keith Aune, WCS Senior Conservationist and Bison Program Coordinator, said: “Western science combined with ancient traditional knowledge describes many important relationships that large herds of bison maintained with other animals and humans. This year’s National Bison Day celebration provides an opportunity for people to go to events that explore those relationships and learn about the impact bison had on shaping the American landscape and human cultures.”
In addition to Sens. Enzi and Johnson, the National Bison Day resolution was co-sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The Vote Bison Coalition also supports the National Bison Legacy Act, which would officially designate bison as America’s national mammal. The bill was introduced this Congress by Sens. Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Hoeven (R-ND) and Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). The House and Senate versions have each attracted 17 bipartisan sponsors.
About the American Bison, a National Icon
Bison have an important role in America’s history, culture and economy. Before being nearly wiped from existence by westward expansion, bison roamed across most of North America. 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 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison Society began this effort by shipping 15 animals by train from the Bronx Zoo to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. 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.
Bison currently appear on two state flags, on the seal of the Department of the Interior, and on U.S. currency. In addition, bison have been adopted as the state mammal of Wyoming and the state animal of Oklahoma and Kansas. The bison is the nation’s most culturally recognizable mammal and as such deserves recognition through designation and celebration.
Bison continue to sustain and provide cultural value to Native Americans and Indian Tribes. More than 60 tribes are working to restore bison to over 1,000,000 acres of Indian lands in South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, and other states. Today, bison remain integrally linked with the spiritual lives of Native Americans through cultural practices, social ceremonies and religious rituals.
Bison production on private ranches is in its strongest economic condition in more than a decade. The total value of privately owned bison on more than 2,500 bison ranches in the U.S. was estimated to exceed $280 million in 2013. Bison ranches in states including South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, and Montana create jobs, provide a sustainable and healthy meat source, and contribute to our nation’s food security.
The bison, North America’s largest land mammal, once roamed the continent freely, helping sustain plains and prairie ecosystems as a keystone species through grazing, fertilization, trampling and other activities. Bison shaped the vegetation and landscape as they fed on and dispersed the seeds of grasses, sedges, and forbs. Several bird species adapted to or co-evolved with types of grasses and vegetation structures that had been, for millennia, grazed by millions of free-ranging bison.
The Vote Bison Coalition, led by steering committee members the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association and Wildlife Conservation Society, formed in 2012 to make bison the National Mammal and to celebrate National Bison Day annually on the 1st Saturday of November. The coalition counts more than 50 businesses, tribal groups and organizations who have banded together to support efforts to celebrate bison. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfoot Nation, and Ted Roosevelt V, great-great grandson of President Roosevelt, serve as the Advisory Council to the coalition.
For more information on the Vote Bison Coalition, please visit VoteBison.org