When European settlers first arrived in North America, the plains bison population numbered about 40 million animals. By the late 19th century, there were approximately 25 bison left in the wild.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has played a significant role in saving the North American bison from extinction, stabilizing its population, and protecting and promoting the species’ genetic diversity. Federal lands now support 17 bison herds in 12 states for a total of approximately 10,000 bison over 4.6 million acres of Interior and adjacent lands — one third of all bison managed for conservation in North America.
“The Interior Department has more than a century-long legacy of conserving the North American bison, and we will continue to pursue the ecological and cultural restoration of the species on behalf of the American public and American Indian tribes who have a special connection to this iconic animal,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
“DOI Bison Report: Looking Forward,” released by the Department June 30, outlines plans to work with tribes, states, landowners, conservation groups, commercial bison producers, agricultural interests and others to restore the nation’s bison population to a proper ecological and cultural role on appropriate landscapes within its historical range.
“This report reaffirms our commitment to work with many partners to ensure healthy, ranging bison contribute not only to the conservation of the species, but also to sustainable local and regional economies and communities,” said acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Rachel Jacobson.
The report also underscores the department’s commitment to working with American Indian tribes to restore the buffalo, as it is commonly referred to in Indian Country, on both public and tribal lands because of its cultural, religious, nutritional and economic importance to many tribes.