New National Survey Says Public Reveres Bison

Americans love bison, but don’t know they are in trouble-

New National Survey Says Public Reveres Bison. From Science Daily.







  1. SmokyMtMan Avatar

    Bison are in trouble? Not according to this article on MSNBC news:

    Sadly, environmental issues always trail far behind most others. The U.S. population becomes more urbanized every year. As a result, the gap between Americans and environmental awareness is constantly growing.

    Check this out, visitors to National Forests are way down:

    Heck, in most political polls, the environment doesn’t even register.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    There are some points to make about this WCS survey:

    1) While Americans may revere the bison, they are in love with the cow. As long as the latter is the case, bison conservation cannot proceed in an ecologically appropriate way. It is our job to get the public to see cows and the livestock industry for what they truly are, rather than for what the ideologies of American history (manifest destiny, private property, free markets) claim them to be.

    2) It certainly isn’t the answer to turn bison into cows. There has never been a case where “market solutions” have proved beneficial to ecological restoration or even conservation. Market solutions invariably require profits, and as Aldo Leopold recognized long ago, the profit motive is no path to conserving land and wildlife. It’s only a path to the demand for greater profits, which requires more intensive exploitation of the resource and even greater artificial selection pressures; natural selection is virtually non-existent. There goes biodiversity.

    3) If we think through the history of conservation, it’s clear that problems of land and wildlife have come out of various civilized perspectives and endeavors: private property, social castes, commercialization, exploitation for markets, colonialism, imperialism, cosmopolitanism. If we are to truly conserve and protect land and wildlife, it will, as Leopold quixotically realized, a fundamental change in culture and the evolution of communities that seek vital needs, not frivolous ones. The primary characteristic of such communities is that they are indigenous to specific places.

    4) As Leopold realized, the development of such communities will be a long time coming, and indeed may never come. But it’s what we have to work for. In the meantime, we have to create practical institutions of conservation where land and wildlife are seen as public goods, a public trust, to be exempt from from the ravages of commerce but which must paradoxically paid for by commerce. The approaches of the new field of ecological economics seem most appropriate.

    5) In short, he public trust is a pathway to Leopold’s long-term goal of a land ethic, in which the natural ground of our spiritual and practical existence is considered first and foremost sacred.


  3. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I agree with you on most all you say. I also want to add that public lands in this country are also being abused extensively. At least we, as being part of the public, have input to try and change the way these public lands are managed.

    Thus, maybe a public trust ethic will finally recognize what truly allows for ecological compatibility when it comes to hunting on our public lands. When it comes to big game there is not a single state that focuses hunting quotas to herd infrasrtucture needs. Everything is population densities and “carrying capacity”. Nothing is known about animal evolutionary requirements or that this need for social order is the only way there can be ecological enrichment. Every time you, Robert, or me go out to kill a deer or elk we are killing part of a family.
    If everyone goes out and does as we do then the herd becomes dysfunctional..and ecological systems are harmed. Thus, no matter how you or I try to better our world all those people…hunters just like us…collectively, as guided by state G&F regulations, do untold damage to what we think we are saving. I do not hunt ducks any more because of this and on my farm the deer population, as part of family infrastructure, is number one on my mind before I shoot any of them.

    Ecological restoration can and does occur on private lands. If one raises herd animals with their social order as number one in importance there is no way there can be abuse of the land. To abuse the land means dysfunctional herds happens. If Ted Turner only knew how to manage for social order bison herds he could have his ecological cake and eat it (economics) to.

  4. vickif Avatar

    All the things mentioned above are very relevant. But what is more needed is a push, using this reverence, to assure change occurs.

    The changes on environmental levels of late have been both need based (people wigged about war in Iraq and high gas prices) and advertisement backed. There has been a monumental amount of money spent to back environemntal change.

    Those changes are backed by indusrty and concern. So how do you get industry and concern to fall behind bison?

    Little will be done for our environment or it’s inhabitants until we can make it publicly perceived as proftable and necessary. So what process needs to occur to assure that this happens?

    Now is certainly the time to effect this change. But there seems to be a common perception that because there are bison in a national park, they are not at risk.

    I think we need to flip the views of our national park from a “zoo” of sorts, to a model for public lands in general.
    Ofcourse that would require having parks and supers that have a scientific and sincere concern for wildlife and habitat. It would the require a move toward exposure and education. We need to let the country, especially the youth and government, see what a good environment and balance should be like. (Yellowstone has some work to do too.) The only way we will change things is by spending advertising money,, moving politicians into action, and placing the pride and responsibility of ownership in the hands of our children.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan