National Mammal


U.S. National Mammal

U.S. National Mammal Seal

National Mammal of the United States

The many, many folks who helped this bill become law deserve the credit for not fearing themselves and accomplishing a United States of America housekeeping item and overdue symbolizing of the American buffalo for its sweeping contribution to American heritage. The American bison story is a gateway to lessons of the past, opportunities for today and possibilities for the future. Bison, which play an ecological role that’s undeniably intrinsic, evolved with this place, and they with it, but it’s more than that. The people of this place, with numerous and varied forms of civilization leaving foot prints as they went, did so with a ‘hoof-print’ in the mix that history shall now not dare to deny.

Looking back on the process and life of the bill, it emerged as a bold gesture and statement that was met with fear, apprehension and territorial squabble. You would think I am referring to other choices for the national mammal supported by interest group pressure. While at first there were actually conversations about other worthy mammals, I refer to the struggles among and between the various bison communities. I was among the reactionary that voiced concerns loudly about what it might mean to my choice in land use, my herd and the industry, albeit cottage or niche, that responds to my production. Then I read the bill and learned; ‘the rest of the story’.  The steering committee included the Wildlife Conservation Society [WCS], the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council [ITBC] and the National Bison Association [NBA]. This committee represented a ‘collaborative community’ conceived and realized for getting it right. Reading the language of the National Bison Legacy Act will cause any reasonable person to appreciate the diligence of the authors, not only on behalf of each separate entity to their own concerns, but to each other in kind. But it was more than that…

Each compartment of the steering committee had constituencies and complexities with messages that would be told in perpetuity as a matter of social precept.  Many individuals within these constituencies went to work providing support for the bison as the National Mammal. Legs for the campaign came with the ceremonial proclamation of ‘National Bison Day’ each November. Many groups celebrated this day and contacted representatives and senators spreading the message in their own way and telling the bison-story that fit their perspective. Historical documentation and scientific fact served as a factual stronghold, but the truth about bison often tends to be subjective and there were many to choose from in the media. But it became more than that…

The process of considering the Bison Legacy Act served as a chance for all to hear each other’s story and consider how “a” truth fit in with others, both respectfully and accurately. This is the spirit of collaborative-community and the timing of it happening today, is good. Imagine if this bill was passed by both houses 100 years ago. Legislation for a wildlife species consisting of 500 to 700 head from millions may have resulted in their protection based on sentiment. Bison restoration could have been left to rely completely on the management of public lands and public herds which currently represent about 5% of the head count in North America. Not becoming protected was about the only bullet bison dodged during that era, because currently bison live in a US-of-A that contains a highly diverse group of communities in support of the animal’s value and importance. These communities have come to openly and honestly include the consumer of bison meat.  They shop and vote with their dollar thereby supporting herds and conserving the species for future generations. This might not be [as] possible if they were protected. But it’s even more than that…

The bison brought communities together in 2016 to regard with honor, and symbolize, a native animal quintessential to many American heritages including those in the making yet today.  In a time of impossible congressional discord, bison becoming the National Mammal was accomplished. The list of people deserving credit will always remain impossibly incomplete, especially for those who worked their corner of the world when no one was watching.  They wrote letters, lobbied for support and compelled their respective entities and groups to say it forever by joining the coalition. As luck would have it, and make no mistake luck was involved, the third time was the charm. Everyone involved with bison, whether they were involved or uninvolved, are (!) now involved with preserving and restoring the National Mammal of the United States.  But it’s more than that now…

This legislation gives voice and ’15 minutes of fame’ to the bison-message more than 5,000 years in the making. Some will use it to feather a perspective, some will use it to capitalize, and some may use it with the help of the media to perpetrate controversy.  Most will use it to tell the most miraculous of all bison stories available, which is a story of wildlife restoration within which all are not only welcome, but wanted.  Private land owners, public lands, Native American, consumers of healthy food, science, agriculture, sportsmen, wildlife NGO’s and many others on a list becoming more and more hopelessly incomplete. I refer to it as miraculous for a reason. Believer or not; it’s nothing short of a miracle that bison still roam the American landscape today. They still inspire awe at a glance, as well as cause appreciation for all things wild and natural-world.  They are scientifically known in conservation biology for keystone species status, but I suggest that now, they are as much or more a gateway species. Bison provide a gateway through which people can enter the world of nature and find within that world ways to be ecologically sensitive and sustainable for profit.  Providing ‘gateways’ for attention to learning, requires something cool or awesome or big, and bison posses those qualities. But fortunately, it’s more than that…  

Bison [are] the National Mammal of the United States of America! Which means: nothing, accept being able to refer to them with that respect and pride. Congress added wording to secure the benign nature of the legislation pursuant to federal regulation.  They will not become protected as a result, and all known and credible aspects of the bison-story are included in the congressional findings.  It is well written and worth a look. It won’t affect how much grass my buffalo need or what it means to my wife and me to see them roam and do their thing on our land. It just means that on top of everything we think is cool, they are also the National Mammal.

But For Us, It Really Is – More Than That…       

 

                                                                       [The Beginning]