Interior to use IRA funds to restore bison |

Interior to use IRA funds to restore bison

The American bison is native is to North America. Courtesy photo
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced today that Interior will use $25 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to restore bison across the country.“The American bison is inextricably intertwined with Indigenous culture, grassland ecology and American history,” Haaland said in a news release.
The American bison is native is to North America. Courtesy photo
“While the overall recovery of bison over the last 130 years is a conservation success story, significant work remains to not only ensure that bison will remain a viable species but also to restore grassland ecosystems, strengthen rural economies dependent on grassland health and provide for the return of bison to Tribally owned and ancestral lands,” Haaland said.
“New historic funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will help support the department’s efforts to restore this iconic species and integrate Indigenous Knowledge into our shared stewardship goals.”
After bison numbers fell from 60 million to about 900 during the settlement of the American West, President Theodore Roosevelt led conservationists and scientists to restore the bison. Today there are about 15,000 wild bison, and Interior manages 11,000 bison in herds across 4.6 million acres of U.S. public lands in 12 states.
Interior noted that bison remain functionally extinct to both grassland systems and the human cultures with which they coevolved.
“Today’s announcement will help advance bison restoration efforts to grasslands, which can enhance soil development, restore native plants and wildlife, and promote carbon sequestration, providing benefits for agriculture, outdoor recreation, and Tribes,” it said.
Secretary’s Order 3410 formally establishes a Bison Working Group, which will be composed of representation from the five bureaus with bison responsibilities:
▪ Bureau of Indian Affairs
▪ Bureau of Land Management
▪ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
▪ National Park Service, and
▪ U.S. Geological Survey.

The Bison Working Group will develop a Bison Shared Stewardship Plan to “establish a comprehensive framework for American bison restoration, including strengthening long-term bison conservation partnerships.”
“Central to the development of that plan will be robust engagement with Tribes, including prioritizing Tribally led opportunities to establish new large herds owned or managed by Tribes and Tribally led organizations,” Interior said.
The order also directs the Bureau of Indian Affairs to establish a Bison Management Apprenticeship program, in collaboration with the BWG, FWS and NPS.
“This new program will work to ensure that Tribes that manage bison herds on their own lands or through co-stewardship agreements will benefit from training and knowledge sharing to support talent and capacity in their communities, including opportunities for hands-on experience supported by national parks and national wildlife refuges,” Interior said.
The $25 million will go toward a variety of projects and initiatives, including establishing new bison herds, supporting bison transfers to Tribes, and entering into co-stewardship agreements with Tribes for bison management. The funding will also help improve the quality of grassland ecosystems, restore native plant communities, and support prescribed fire efforts.
Land Tawney, president and CEO of Back Country Hunters and Anglers, commended the Interior announcement, noting that more than two-thirds of U.S. grasslands already have been eliminated and that grasslands and sagebrush landscapes are critical to a range of wildlife species, including mule deer, pronghorn and upland birds, as well as bison.
“Today’s announcement by the administration outlines the most pressing conservation issues in our great country,” said Tawney.
“Secretary Haaland is presenting an approach that refines and sharpens current bison restoration efforts and sets the stage for a more cohesive strategy,” Tawney continued.
“Today’s announcement builds on the good work that tribes and other stakeholders have already done so we finally can undertake meaningful action to make free-roaming bison a reality once again.”
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