Johnson, Hoeven Introduce National Bison Legacy Act

Bill Recognizes the Cultural, Economic, Historical and Ecological Contributions of America's Largest Land Mammal

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) joined Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) today to introduce the National Bison Legacy Act, legislation that would officially recognize bison as the National Mammal of the United States.

“North Dakota’s history is closely associated with the bison, largely because of the influence of President Teddy Roosevelt’s early visits to our state,” Hoeven said. “His efforts to protect these majestic animals helped to retrieve them from the brink of extinction and established them as one of the most powerful and inspiring symbols of the American spirit, for Native Americans and settlers alike. I can think of no more noble an animal to name as the official mammal of the United States.”

“The bison has played an important role in our nation’s history, holds spiritual significance to Native American cultures, and remains one of our most iconic and enduring symbols,” Johnson said. “Bison production has also become an important agricultural endeavor in South Dakota and throughout the country as demand continues to grow. By adopting the North American bison as our national mammal, the National Bison Legacy Act recognizes their historical, cultural, ecological, and economic significance.”

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.

The bill has 12 original cosponsors in the Senate, including Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), as well as the support of 11 bipartisan cosponsors in the House of Representatives and more than 50 organizations, businesses and tribes in the Vote Bison Coalition.