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Bison to possibly become country’s first national mammal

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The bald eagle may soon have a companion as the animal epitome of the United States. The U.S. Senate passed a bill Friday titled the National Bison Legacy Act, which would establish the American bison as the national mammal. Sen.

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A bison grazes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park on July 8, 2014, south of Watford City, N.D. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The bald eagle may soon have a companion as the animal epitome of the United States.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill Friday titled the National Bison Legacy Act, which would establish the American bison as the national mammal. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is a co-sponsor of the bill, along with Sen. Mark Heinrich, D-N.M.

The bill has gone before three consecutive Congresses, but this is the first time it has passed either the Senate or the House.

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Hoeven said he was approached by the National Bison Association earlier in the year about co-sponsoring a bill to grant the bison the status of national mammal, to which he was intrigued.

“It appealed to me right away, and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll give it a swing,’” he said.

Now that it’s through the Senate, Hoeven said he felt the bill had a good bipartisan base support in the House of Representatives. If it’s approved there, the bill will land on the president’s desk.

“I’m hopeful that it won’t take too long in the House side,” Hoeven said. “I think the main point upfront is it’s a tremendous symbol for our country.”

He said the bison had a “remarkable story,” as it was a once-populous and important animal in the surrounding environment that came to the brink of extinction. There’s also a link to North Dakota, he said, in that Theodore Roosevelt was one of the main people who worked to save the species.

From this, the bison also serves as a model of conservation, Hoeven said.

Will the bison become as ubiquitous as the bald eagle in being a symbol for America?

“That’ll be interesting to see, won’t it?” Hoeven said with a chuckle.

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Dave Carter of the National Bison Association, which is based in Colorado, likewise said his organization was glad at the bill’s advance.

“We primarily represent the private ranchers who raise bison,” Carter said, which he later admitted was a minimal share of the livestock industry.

He said the movement for the National Bison Legacy Act began three years ago when his and other associations, connected to the bison, including conservation groups, sat down and agreed that the bison needed to be the national mammal.

Since then, he said the bill has gone before Congress each year, with former Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., sponsoring it before he retired in 2014.

Carter said he was glad Hoeven “took the reins.”

Since bison don't have the marketing resources that other players in the livestock industry do, Carter sees its possible ascent to national recognition as a boost for those who raise the animal.

“It gives us a great platform to talk about all of the great attributes of bison,” he said.

Related Topics: WILDLIFE
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