Will the bison become America’s official “national mammal?”

Bipartisan coalition in U.S. Senate supports “national mammal” status-

S. 3248, the Bison Legacy Act, was introduced in the U.S. Senate May 24 by two senators, a Republican from Wyoming (Mike Enzi) and a Democrat from South Dakota (Tim Johnson).

This might seem surprising because so much of the bison news is about hatred of the animal by the Montana State Department of Livestock and the Montana livestock industry that begrudges any grass eaten by bison that might have instead ended up in a cow. As a result, we tend to forget that bison are loved as a symbol of America and for their own right in most states. The only exceptions seem to be Idaho and Montana, where extreme variants of the cattle industry hold sway along with a miscellany of of nullificationists, secessionists, county supremacists, and cow flop confederates.

Showing the national and bipartisan love of the bison, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Wyoming’s Senator Mike Enzi was quoted in The Hill “I ask my colleagues to help me support and pass this legislation honoring the bison and designating it as our national mammal, . . .” “The bison has and will continue to be a symbol of America, its people and a way of life.”

An Associated Press article on the measure referred to its opponents as “livestock producers and property rights advocates.” The latter, property rights advocates, is an ironic twist because the Montana Department of Livestock has shown no interest in respecting the property rights of those folks near West Yellowstone who want bison to be able to use their property, and do not want legions of MTDOL livestock troopers stampeding the bison across their land nor their heavy vehicles smashing down their vegetation.

Honoring the bison is a great idea for the Memorial day holiday that honors American soldiers who fought to protect American values such as property rights for everyone and the country’s magnificent outdoor and wildlife heritage.



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  1. CodyCoyote Avatar

    My Wyo Senator Mike Enzi is co-sponsor of this National Bison bill ? news to me, but it’s a slew of hypocrisy . Wyoming has as its state flag emblem a white Bison on a red-white-blue backing. I wonder how the heck that got by the Wyoming Stockgrower’s Association in the early days, since the ranchers have always been more than a condescending towards bison . If all those wandering Yellowstone bison were making their way into Wyoming instead of Paradise Valley or the surrounds of West Yellowstone, you would see a rancher-driven bloodbath that would pale Montana’s bisoncide as the only acceptable remediation of the brucellosis spectre ( a false bogey as we all know ) .

    Enzi is just grandstanding .

    1. Jon Way Avatar

      The bison are probably collectively thinking “with friends like this who needs enemies”. But on a serious note, maybe this will give bison more protections and force agencies like MT DOL to back the *^(& off.

  2. Savebears Avatar


    With so much condemnation for the state you live in, I have a question.

    Why do you continue to live there?

    1. mikarooni Avatar

      I can’t answer for Cody; but, I can answer for myself. I continue to live in the inter mountain west because the people from whom I’m descended have been here for tens of thousands of years. Why are you here? Couldn’t your ancestors find jobs or something to steal where they were? Did they really need to come here to find easy pickins?

      1. Savebears Avatar

        And what easy pickins would that be Mika?

  3. mikarooni Avatar

    This sounds nice and I want to be enthused about it; but, I don’t know what it really means and I’m plagued by its apparent incongruity. It certainly is a good PR step forward for bison; but, what will it actually do in terms of changing things on the ground? Is there some specific viable plan for using this designation as leverage to change the hazing policy on Horse Butte or lift the court actions against transferring genetically pure animals from Yellowstone to the tribes? Will the support from Bennet and Mark Udall mean that Boulder will rethink taking some of the Turner animals? Does Enzi’s support mean that WY will allow bison to roam outside the northwest WY national park area or will they stay bottled up in that area the same way WY wants to keep the wolves? What I worry about is that, when election season rolls around, politicians tend to try to think up “gestures” that really don’t mean anything, but “appear” to soften the extreme positions of their core constituencies and instead make them look more appealing to the larger “center” vote. Then, when the electorate has been fooled and the election is over, they go right back to the extreme positions that they really never left in the first place. Enzi and Thune both have strong histories of doing that.

    1. SEAK Mossback Avatar

      The cynics may be right about the short and even medium term. With the bald eagle as the national bird, the territory of Alaska was able to keep an exemption that allowed continued killing under bounty until about 1953, even after the national Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940.

      However, that’s all ancient history now, and eagles are strictly protected here, despite great abundance, and eagle nest trees are marked by the USFWS and protection buffers from development maintained around them with a lot of review and permitting is required for any commercial development that might disturb a nest (A friend here played a completely evil April 1 joke on another friend by replicating an official eagle tree protection sign, posting it on a tree in the middle of a small, very expensive beachfront lot his friend had just purchased, and inducing a 3rd person to inpersonate USFWS with a call to inform him of the posting). There is even a group of enthusiastic volunteers locally here who are ready to take in, house and feed and any eagles that fall on hard times — probably a better safety net than homeless humans have.

      There’s another analogy in that the central rationale of the respective state/territorial campaigns against both bald eagles and bison represent a near complete red herring. Eagles were ignorantly portrayed as an economic threat against the salmon fishery (despite being as much scavenger as predator and eating mostly post-spawning salmon and carcasses, plus marine fish species that are mostly non-commercial here), in much the way bison are portrayed as a huge disease threat against cattle via brucellosis (which was introduced from cattle and is now found in more abundant and widely distributed elk).

      In both cases, I suspect there are ulterior motives. Any increase in Bison represents a cultural threat — a reversal of the taming and cultivation of the west, which many ranchers find intensely disturbing. Besides being based on ignorance, the eagle bounty was championed by a Juneau Democrat (Eagle Bill Egan, whose son is now our local state senator), I suspect partly as a social program providing something to do for income in the winter.

      In the long-term, I don’t think being the national mammal could hurt.

      1. JB Avatar

        “In both cases, I suspect there are ulterior motives. Any increase in Bison represents a cultural threat — a reversal of the taming and cultivation of the west, which many ranchers find intensely disturbing.”

        Well said, Seak.

    2. Ted Clayton Avatar
      Ted Clayton

      And bison do have a considerable history as an ‘American Symbol’ … plenty of it unflattering and regrettable.

      The head-dressed Indian, the Indian Arrowhead, and the Buffalo. This trio were a casually abused set of symbols, for nigh on 100 years.

      Creating a campaign-slogan is one thing, but sweeping history’s baggage under the rug could be tougher.

      Agreed: this looks less about (the long-term well-being of) bison, and more about (short-term) politics.

  4. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    smoke and mirrors

  5. Mike Avatar

    Any positive bill about animals, or any discussion at this level in D.C. is good, period.

    It simply moves us closer to an apex of enlightenment that is of course our evolutionary destiny.

    Everyone who isn’t a jerk loves bison. Them’s the facts, ma’am.

    1. SEAK Mossback Avatar

      “It simply moves us closer to an apex of enlightenment that is of course our evolutionary destiny.”

      If we were in the student commons instead of on computers and mobile devices, I’d swear we’ve already “progressed” forty years back to the 1970s. Admittedly, I find very limited doses of that thinking refreshingly nostalgic after the sagebrush rebellion and much of what has passed since. It’s just a small part of what keeps me coming back, being partly a product of the 70s myself — never buying the full spectrum, but definitely the eco, “back-to-the-land” parts. I never adopted the fashionable 70s level of liberal guilt about being human, quite enough to observe in the mirror a despicable, gortex-clad alien whose ultimate moral destiny should be to exist on hydroponic agriculture on some distant, barren planet containing nothing of consequence to screw up. Nowadays, I sense a dull silence about the earth as we frogs have stopped croaking so much, being privately and selectively engrossed in a bonanza of digital entertainment while the water in our pan has risen to a more comfortable temperature . . .

      1. Mike Avatar

        Guilt is a level of self-awareness most people don’t obtain. 😉

      2. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        “Nowadays, I sense a dull silence about the earth as we frogs have stopped croaking so much, being privately and selectively engrossed in a bonanza of digital entertainment while the water in our pan has risen to a more comfortable temperature . . .”

        Seak, a brilliant analogy.


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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