KMSP - Move over bald eagle, you have to make room for the bison. Yes, the buffalo may soon have the same stature as our long time national emblem. Legislation, called the National Bison Legacy Act, will name the bison the national mammal of the United States. The senate gave final approval to the bill Thursday and is now sitting on the president’s desk ready for a signature. With President Obama’s sign off, the bison will join the bald eagle, a national emblem since 1782, as America’s symbolic animal.
Lawmakers are calling North America’s largest land animal, the embodiment of American strength and resilience saying it reflects the nation’s pioneer spirit. “No other indigenous species tells America’s story better than this noble creature,” says Representative William Lacy Clay from Missouri. “The American bison is an enduring symbol of strength, Native American culture and the boundless western wilderness.”
The president of the Wildlife Conservation Society calls this a major milestone in the effort to prevent the bison from going extinct. He says “The bison will serve as a great national symbol for the United States as it is as strong as the oak, fearless as the bald eagle, and inspiring as a rose.”
This may come as a shock for some, but the buffalo has long influenced how we live today. It’s already on the Wyoming and Kansas state flags, has had currency named after it (the buffalo nickel and a specialty quarter), and is on the official seal of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Tens of millions of buffalo once roamed across central North America from northern Mexico to central Canada. But 100 years of commercial hunting, the majestic beasts were on the brink of extinction before conservation efforts began in the late 1800’s to keep them around. Now some 30,000 wild bison roam free nationwide, the majority of those in Yellowstone National Park. Roughly 300,000 are now herded for commercial use and sold for their meat.