WASHINGTON — "Where the buffalo roam" may take on new meaning in Wyoming and across the nation if legislation passes to make North American bison the national mammal.
The National Bison Legacy act, proposed by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. and Sen. Tim Johnson D-S.D., would give bison wings to fly nearly into the reverenced heights occupied by the national emblem, the bald eagle. Senators from Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska and Rhode Island stepped forward to co-sponsor the legislation.
The bison already figures prominently in western and plains states. It is the primary subject of Wyoming's flag and is also on the Kansas flag in a less prominent role. It is also Wyoming's state mammal, a status it shares in Oklahoma and Kansas.
"The North American Bison is an enduring symbol of America, its people and a way of life," Enzi said in a release. "Bison are linked to the economic and spiritual lives of many Indian tribes and this animal, through our history, has been used to represent the strength and will of the American people."
Largely symbolic, the legislation, if passed, would do nothing to change regulation on wild herds of bison estimated at 20,000 head nationwide.
Various groups have rallied around the legislation, even setting up a website, votebison.org
, which offers easy access to send letters to local senators on behalf of the bison in a move to drum up additional bipartisan support for the lumbering beasts.
"Bison were a force of nature and served a key role in maintaining an entire ecosystem while providing important ecological services to mankind," said Senior Conservationist Keith Aune from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
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