U.S. Congress Recognizes Bison as National Mammal of the United States

Senate, House Approve National Bison Legacy Act to Recognize Historical, Cultural and Economic Significance of Bison

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Representatives Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and José Serrano (D-N.Y.) today announced that both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have now approved legislation to name the bison as the National Mammal of the United States.

The Senate passed the National Bison Legacy Act in December and the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version Tuesday night. The bill was introduced by Senators Hoeven and Heinrich in the Senate and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Clay, Fortenberry, Noem and Serrano. The Senate sponsors expect the Senate to concur with the House bill later this week and send the legislation to the president to be signed into law.

In addition to naming the bison as the U.S. national mammal, the National Bison Legacy Act recognizes the historical, cultural and economic significance of the bison, which is the largest land mammal in America and revered by many Native American tribes 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,” Senator Hoeven said. “Both the Senate and the House have now passed the National Bison Legacy Act, which names this noble animal as our national mammal. This is a fitting designation that recognizes the important cultural and economic role the bison has played in our nation’s history.”

“Bison are a uniquely American animal and are the embodiment of American strength and resilience,” said Senator Heinrich. “The bison has been an important part of our culture for many generations, especially in New Mexico, across the West, and in Indian Country. Recognition of our new national mammal will bring a new source of pride for Americans—just like the bald eagle—and also bring greater attention to ongoing conservation and species recovery efforts. I hope that in my lifetime, thanks to a broad coalition of conservation ranchers, wildlife advocates, and tribal nations, we will see bison return to the prominent place they once occupied in our nation’s shortgrass prairies.”

“No other indigenous species tells America’s story better than this noble creature. The American bison is an enduring symbol of strength, native American culture and the boundless western wildness. It is an integral part of the still largely untold story of Native Americans and their historic contributions to our national identity. I was proud to sponsor and help pass this legislation in the House and I truly appreciate this show of bipartisan support from my Senate colleagues as well,” said Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D) Missouri.

“The Tatanka is important both physically and spiritually in Native American culture. This bill recognizes that,” said Congresswoman Noem. “Bison are a cultural example of how to live in a healthy and productive manner. There are also lessons to be learned about resilience from these animals, which were nearly being wiped from existence at one point. Through the efforts of tribes, ranchers, conservationists and others, the species has survived and can once again be lifted as a literal and cultural example of productivity from which each of us can learn.”

“The bison has a special place not only in U.S. history, but also in the Bronx community. It is the largest land mammal native to the United States and thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Bronx Zoo, which took the lead in saving the bison from extinction more than a century ago, we can still enjoy its majesty today. The National Bison Legacy Act will help recognize the importance of Bison in American history, and will help bring attention to the unique role that the Bronx played in preserving that legacy,” said Congressman Serrano, a supporter of natural preservation and long-time supporter of this bill.

“The adoption of bison as our National Mammal represents a validation of the many meaningful ways this animal represents America. As an ecological keystone, cultural bedrock and economic driver, the bison conveys values such as unity, resilience and commitment to healthy landscapes and communities. Bison takes a place alongside the bald eagle as a national symbol to be revered,” said John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Executive Vice President of Public Affairs.

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.

The bill sponsors thanked the Vote Bison Coalition, which is led by steering committee members the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association and Wildlife Conservation Society, for their advocacy and support to make the bison the National Mammal. The coalition counts more than 50 businesses, tribal groups and organizations who have banded together to support efforts to celebrate bison.