The prairie evolved with the bison and the bison with the prairie. We’ve gone from the near total destruction of our national mammal to bringing bison back to the Great Plains. Through our collective acts of world-class conservation, Americans have recovered bison to tribal lands, national parks and wildlife refuges, with more to come.
Jamie Rappaport Clark
06:00 PM

For Immediate Release

Tribes and Conservation Groups Unite to Celebrate National Bison Day

This Saturday, Nov. 4 is National Bison Day, an annual commemoration of the ecological, cultural, historical and economic contribution of the American bison (also known as buffalo), our national mammal, to the United States.

National Bison Day has been observed annually on the first Saturday in November since 2012. In 2016, President Barack Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, making the North American bison the national mammal of the United States.

Conservation groups, Native American tribes, federal bison managers and local producers have joined together in recent years to continue to make progress in the restoration of this species that once numbered in the millions across much of the continent. Recent collective efforts include restoring new conservation herds of wild bison on tribal and public lands, expanding these areas over time to allow for larger herds, conducting scientific studies, and engaging the public in educational and volunteer opportunities. While more work remains to conserve wild bison herds at an ecologically significant scale, this day is intended to celebrate the milestones of such collective efforts, and to signify the role bison have played in American history and the ecology of North America.

For more information on current bison initiatives, reach out to the above listed contact.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:

“The prairie evolved with the bison and the bison with the prairie. We’ve gone from the near total destruction of our national mammal to bringing bison back to the Great Plains. Through our collective acts of world-class conservation, Americans have recovered bison to tribal lands, national parks and wildlife refuges, with more to come.”

Mark Azure, president of the Fort Belknap Indian Community Council, issued this statement:

“We are all elated that this magnificent animal has been recognized here amongst the people of this great country. And now through the recognition of National Bison Day, this animal can once again speak for itself, and stands tall, Indian Country stands tall with the buffalo.”

Glenn Plumb, chair of the American Bison Specialist Group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, issued this statement:

"This day reminds us all that the era of big conservation is not over. Looking forward, we can still envision restoration of bison and their ecosystems as national and international priorities, so as to strengthen our communities, economies and shared values."

Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, issued this statement:

“National Bison Day commemorates the fundamental role buffalo play in our history, cultures and ecology. Not only do buffalo hold a special place in our hearts and minds, but they are a keystone species that signals the health of our wildlife and wild places. The National Wildlife Federation commits itself to doubling its efforts to bringing buffalo back in large numbers across the West.”

Robert Magnan, director of the Fort Peck Tribes Fish and Game Department and buffalo program, issued this statement:

“I’m so proud of the role the Fort Peck Tribes have played in bringing buffalo back. Since we welcomed back the first Yellowstone buffalo, we’ve seen the ecosystem revive. Grassland birds have returned, native grasses are thriving.”

Dennis Jorgensen, bison initiative coordinator for the Northern Great Plains Program at World Wildlife Fund, issued this statement:

“On National Bison Day, World Wildlife Fund would like to acknowledge the tribal communities that are helping the bison to return to their ancestral home in the Northern Great Plains. When bison are once again part of the daily lives and traditions of these communities, this iconic species will truly be saved.”

Jason Baldes, buffalo representative for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, issued this statement:

“After 1885, there were no more buffalo left for the Eastern Shoshone. In the last year, we have restored twenty-one buffalo to our lands after more than 130 years of absence. The return of buffalo has been a momentous occasion and a very fitting reminder of the animals’ importance to our people as we commemorate National Bison Day.”

Julie Kunen, vice president for the Americas for the Wildlife Conservation Society, issued this statement:

“Bison are returning to fulfill the cultural, spiritual and ecological roles they once held. WCS is proud to have led the bison restoration movement for more than 100 years, and we are excited to continue this success with our partners. National Bison Day is a fitting commemoration of what we have accomplished, and a reminder of the goals we continue to work toward.”

Ervin Carlson, president of the InterTribal Buffalo Council and bison manager of the Blackfeet Nation, issued this statement:

“The buffalo has had a special place in the lives of tribal people since time immemorial and played important roles in our culture, religion and lifestyle. Now buffalo have become a part of the fabric of tribal life once again.”


Recent Success Stories

  • This week: the U.S. Senate passed a resolution led by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to commemorate November 4, 2017 as National Bison Day.


  • Bison range at Badlands National Park in South Dakota expanded by an additional 22,000 acres of grassland, allowing for a conservation herd of greater than 1,000 to be managed across 80,000 acres of National Park Service land.
  • Ten bison were released at Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, bringing the cultural herd there to 21 animals across 300 acres with future expansion planned. This herd began with 10 bison released in 2016.


  • A total of 88 bison from the Elk Island historic lineage originally inhabiting the Blackfeet Reservation restored to these tribal lands, with plans for significant future expansion. The grassroots Iinnii (bison) Initiative draws on the power of the Blackfeet cultural and spiritual connection with bison to foster support for their restoration across the four tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
  • Congress passed and President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, a bill that made bison the official National Mammal of the United States, supported by the American Bison Coalition, a group of 105 bison-friendly organizations and businesses led by the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association and Wildlife Conservation Society.


  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock provides Yellowstone National Park bison access to an additional 400 square miles of land adjoining the park, allowing for improved bison management.
  • A total of 12 bison of Yellowstone origin released at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, managed as a conservation herd by the City of Fort Collins, Colorado, now numbering more than 30 on nearly 2,000 acres with future expansion planned.


  • A total of 136 bison of Yellowstone origin released at Fort Peck Reservation to augment a new tribal cultural herd that began with 61 Yellowstone bison released in 2012, now numbering 300 across 13,000 acres with future expansion planned.


  • A total of 34 bison of Yellowstone origin released at Fort Belknap Reservation to begin a new tribal cultural herd, now numbering 50 across 1000 acres with future expansion planned.


  • Prior to European settlement, about 30 million bison inhabited North America. By the late 19th century, bison were driven to near extinction, with fewer than 1,000 individuals on the continent and fewer than 25 left in the wild in the American West.
  • In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison Society began this effort by shipping 15 animals by train from the Bronx Zoo to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
  • Through efforts by private interests, conservationists, politicians, parks and refuges, today there are about 500,000 bison across North America. Of these, approximately 21,000 Plains bison are in “conservation herds” – those herds used for display, education and outreach, Native American cultural herds, or wild herds living in protected areas.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.