Global Courant 2023-03-06 01:30:59
The U.S. Department of the Interior said Friday it is working to restore populations of American bison in tribal areas by using indigenous knowledge.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is the first Indian to serve as secretary of the US Cabinet, said recovery efforts will be funded with more than $25 million from the Inflation Reduction Act.
FILE: Bison awaiting handover to Native American tribes walk in a herd at a corral in Badlands National Park, on October 13, 2022, near Wall, SD (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)
“This holistic effort will reconnect this powerful, sacred animal to its natural habitat and the original caretakers who know best how to care for it,” Haaland said in announcing her order Friday at an event on World Nature Day at the National Geographic Society. in Washington, DC
“When we think of Indigenous communities, we must recognize that over many generations they have observed the seasons, tracked wildlife migration patterns and fully understood our role in the delicate balance of this Earth,” she added .
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American bison, also known as buffaloes, have bounced back from their near extinction due to commercial hunting in the 19th century. But they remain absent from most of the grasslands they ever occupied, and many tribes have struggled to reestablish their deep historical ties to the animals.
Haaland said bison’s overall recovery over the past 130 years is “conversational success,” but the animals remain “functionally extinct.”
In the US, from New York to Oklahoma to Alaska, 82 tribes now have more than 20,000 bison in 65 herds. The numbers have grown in recent years along with the desire among Native Americans to reclaim management of the animals.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, speaking at a press conference on July 22, 2021 in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Many of the tribes’ bison came from U.S. agencies, which over the past two decades have transferred thousands of animals to lean, government-controlled herds so they don’t outgrow the land. The transfers were often made in conjunction with the South Dakota-based InterTribal Buffalo Council. The group’s director, Troy Heinert, said Haaland’s order is an acknowledgment of the work the tribes have already done.
Haaland’s order puts the interests of the Native Americans at the center of the Department of the Interior’s bison program. It is also adding a yet-to-be-named tribal leader to a group researching how to establish new herds on both tribal and federal lands.
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About half of the $25 million announced Friday will go to the National Park Service. The remainder is distributed among the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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