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Partners announce Bison Conservation Initiative

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News from U.S. Fish  and Wildlife Service

WASHINGTON D.C. — Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt recently announced the Bison Conservation Initiative, a new cooperative initiative that will coordinate conservation strategies and approaches for the wild American Bison over the next 10 years. The Department of the Interior and its partners have been successful in restoring the populations of the American Bison and supporting healthy herds. With unprecedented interest and cooperation among partners, including states, tribes, nations and non-governmental organizations bison conservation is well equipped to move beyond the confluence of strong analytical assessments and toward coordinated conservation action.

This 10-year plan will guide our collaboration with states, tribes, private conservationists and managers across public lands to advance conservation efforts and honor iconic wild bison.

Bison were hunted to near extinction in the late 19th century. Today, there are about 11,000 plains bison in 19 herds on 4.6 million acres of public land across 12 states because of successful public-private conservation partnerships. In 2016, Congress recognized the importance of the American Bison to the country’s history, celebrating it as our national mammal.

“We are doing something that has never been done. It shows what is possible when business, philanthropy, and government work together to create multiple bottom line initiatives supporting the environment, people, fiscal responsibility, and Native nation building,” said Rosebud Economic Development Corporations CEO, Wizipan Little Elk.

“The bison looms large in the culture and traditions of Native nations,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. 

“Launching a collaborative strategy for the ecological and cultural recovery of our national mammal, a symbol of unity, resilience, and health, could not come at a better time for the American people and our unique natural heritage,” said Director of U.S. Conservation for Wildlife Conservation Society, Cristina Mormorunni.

The DOI Bison Working Group, comprised of representatives from the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has worked with its partners to strengthen resource coordination, institute a conservation genetics framework and publish investigations into metapopulation management and herd health.

The BWG will now: develop and launch a DOI bison metapopulation strategy; develop and implement a DOI bison stewardship plan; improve and expand mechanisms to support ecocultural restoration of live bison; and adopt low stress capture and handling practices. 

These actions will be organized around five central goals: commitment to conserve bison as healthy wildlife; commitment to an interagency, science-based approach to support genetic diversity across DOI bison conservation herds; commitment to shared stewardship of wild bison in cooperation with states, tribes and other stakeholders; commitment to establish and maintain large, wide-ranging bison herds on appropriate large landscapes where their role as ecosystem engineers shape healthy and diverse ecological communities; and commitment to restore cultural connections to honor and promote the unique status of bison as an American icon for all people. 

The 2020 Bison Conservation Initiative: page provides additional information about how the DOI is working to improve the conservation and management of bison.


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