The Dallas Morning News
U.S. bison restoration to focus on tribal herds
Interior head issues order for Indigenous knowledge to be used
DENVER — U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland that calls for the government to tap into Indigenous knowledge in its efforts to conserve the burly animals that are an icon of the American West.
Haaland also announced $25 million in federal spending for bison conservation. The money, from last year’s climate bill, will build new herds, transfer more bison from federal to tribal lands and forge new bison management agreements with tribes, officials said.
American bison, also known as buffalo, have bounced back from their near-extinction due to commercial hunting in the 1800s. But they remain absent from most of the grasslands they once occupied, and many tribes have struggled to restore their deep historical connections to the animals.
As many as 60 million bison once roamed North America, moving in vast herds that were central to the culture and survival of numerous Native American groups.
By 1889, only a few hundred bison remained.the return of bison in some locations is considered a conservation success. But Haaland said they remain “functionally extinct” and more work is needed to return the animals to tribal lands and restore the grasslands they depend on.
“This holistic effort will ensure that this powerful sacred animal is reconnected to its natural habitat and the original stewards who know best how to care for it,” Haaland said in announcing her order Friday, during a World Wildlife Day event in Washington, D.C.
The Interior Department oversees 11,000 bison in herds on public lands in 12 states.