The National Bison Association and other conservation groups are making a long-term push to more than double the number of bison in North America. Their goal? One million bison by 2027.
It’s been a good long time since there have been a million bison in North America. But some conservationists think it can happen again, in this century—with a bit of hard work.
This week, the National Bison Association announced a new campaign called “Bison 1 Million” at the International Bison Conference in Big Sky, Montana. The group—with the support of its Canadian counterpart, the Intertribal Buffalo Council, and the Wildlife Conservation Society—hopes to introduce and improve upon practices to bring the bison back at scale.
The groups have a lot of work ahead of them to reach the goal in 10 years. While the bison is doing much better than it was in 1880—around that time, there were fewer than 700 bison in the world, a number comparable to the number of human attendees of this week’s conference—the current estimate of 391,000 bison on North American lands means that the bison population would have to more than double in a relatively short period if the groups were to reach their goal.
But the coalition of bison groups seems ready for the challenge—as they have been for prior challenges, such as an initiative to build national recognition for the bison.
“Six years ago, many of us came together in the successful campaign to establish bison as the national mammal of the United States,” National Bison Association Executive Director Dave Carter said in a news release. “Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to continue to work together to restore bison in commercial, conservation, and cultural herds across North America.”
This effort will take many forms. The Wildlife Conservation Society, for example, has worked to expand bison herds via partnerships with public, private, and tribal bodies, and conservationists have worked on putting bison in open areas that are most like their natural habitat.
“We’re starting the conversation and looking for ways to support the efforts of ranchers and conservationists of zoos, wherever the bison can be expanded,” noted Mike Duncan, the former National Bison Association president, in comments to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.