The story of the North American bison is the most successful conservation story in the history of the United States. The bison is America’s largest land mammal and a keystone species of the Great Plains ecosystem. Through behaviors like grazing, fertilization, and trampling the ground, bison help sustain this environment. Bison stewards and other livestock producers help continue this relationship by managing their animals in a way that regenerates the soil, in part by utilizing the bison’s instincts, which remain intact because bison were never domesticated.
Bison population was once estimated in the tens of millions and the species provided cultural, economic, and ecologic value to indigenous people across North America. Bison were threatened to the brink of extinction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as European-Americans moved west. Since the latter part of the 19th century, many have played an active role in bison conservation, including politicians, sportsmen, scientists, indigenous people, and cattle ranchers.
Our museum is dedicated to advocating for bison restoration and fortunately, we are not alone. Other organizations that support restoration efforts include tribal and conservation organizations, educational institutions, bison industry associations, as well as individual ranchers, producers, and related businesses. Some of these organizations include:
- The American Bison Society
- The InterTribal Buffalo Council
- The Wildlife Conservation Society
- The National Bison Association
- The National Buffalo Foundation
- South Dakota State University’s Center of Excellence for Bison Studies
Today, public parks and preserves simply don’t have sufficient carrying capacity to support restoring bison in large numbers. Approximately 90% of the almost 400,000 bison currently populating North America thrive on commercial ranches. Ranchers and producers are proud stewards of the North American bison. They use the natural inclinations and instincts of the animal to raise bison as nature intended.