Last week, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the release of the Bison Conservation Initiative (BCI), a comprehensive plan encouraging cooperation between Interior bureaus and their partners toward conserving American bison. The 10-year plan will apply to all 19 Interior Department herds which collectively contain 11,000 of the 21,000 bison managed as wildlife across the United States.
“Defenders welcomes this new commitment from the Department of the Interior to establish and maintain large, wide-ranging bison herds on appropriate large landscapes and to restore cultural connections to our national mammal,” said Chamois Andersen, Rockies and Plains senior representative at Defenders of Wildlife. “We look forward to working with the Department, our tribal partners and others as we continue our collective recovery of the iconic wild bison.”
Developed by DOI’s Bison Working Group — of which Defenders of Wildlife is an affiliate — the BCI helps illustrate ways DOI can collaborate with tribes, states and nongovernment organizations to build up and manage conservation herds, eventually forming a metapopulation—groups of spatially separated bison—from Canada to Mexico. Importantly, the BCI prioritizes bison as wildlife, commits to their ecological and cultural restoration and encourages genetic diversity among the herds, a necessity for long-term restoration.
Defenders has been a stalwart advocate for bison restoration for more than 20 years. In addition to partnering with the DOI Bison Working Group, Defenders has assisted with the political, financial and physical aspects of wild bison restoration. Defenders has helped translocate bison from Yellowstone National Park to Fort Peck Reservation, defeat anti-bison legislation and litigation and expand bison ranges and improve infrastructure at many restoration sites.