The American bison is on its way to becoming the US national mammal after the US House of Representatives passed the National Bison Legacy Act on April 26 to make the designation official. Under the bill, the first Saturday of November will be celebrated as the National Bison Day.
“It’s a way to do good things for bison in North America without a massive regulatory hammer,” explains Keith Aune, director of the bison conservation program for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It’s a symbolic thing, but it really brings a lot of opportunities to raise the profile of this species for the American public.”
The Senate is expected to agree upon the slightly different House version of the bill later this week before it gets President Barack Obama’s final approval. Introduced on June 25, 2015, the National Bison Legacy Act won’t affect any policy or action by the US federal government.
According to Sen. John Hoeven, one of the senators who introduced the bill, the National Bison Legacy Act will not impose any restrictions for bison ranchers. So, breeding the animals for food or for other uses will not get banned once the bill gets approved.
Before its newfound status, bison populations were reduced to 1,000 at the turn of the 20th century. The species was saved slowly thanks to the efforts of the American Bison society founded by conservationists that included former US President Theodore Roosevelt, marking the first successful major animal conservation campaign.
The population even exploded when the bison became a massively popular food choice in the mid-20th century. The animal’s healthy red meat contains high amounts of omega-3s but has low cholesterol.
Currently, the Wildlife Conservation Society works alongside the InterTribal Buffalo Council and the National Bison Association to maintain the growing bison population in the Western US.