Restoring wild populations of American bison would benefit ecosystems in their historic range from the desert grasslands of northern Mexico, through the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, to the lowland meadows of interior Alaska, finds a new publication from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN.
Published Tuesday after three years of work, the comprehensive study features contributors from federal government agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico; state agencies from bison range states in all three countries; and bison experts from nongovernmental and tribal organizations and universities.
Bison, also called buffalo, have a profound influence on ecosystems, but for restoration to occur, more land must be made available for herds to roam free, government policies must be updated and the public must change its attitude towards bison, according to the study, written under the auspices of the IUCN American Bison Specialist Group.
Bison on a ranch near Bozeman, Montana (Photo by Nicholas Boullosa)
"Although the effort to restore bison to the plains of North America is considered to be one of the most ambitious and complex undertakings in species conservation efforts in North America, it will only succeed if legislation is introduced at a local and national level, with significant funding and a shift in attitude towards the animal," says Dr. Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN's Species Survival Commission.
"No other North American species holds such great cultural and political significance," the study states.
Five hundred years ago, tens of millions of American bison roamed free on the plains of North America, from Alaska to northern Mexico. Now the American bison - which includes both plains and wood bison - is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species.
As of 2008, there were about 400,000 bison in commercial herds in North America, some 93 percent of the continental population. But little progress has been made in recent decades to increase the number of animals in conservation herds, which are managed for their genetic diversity and ecological roles. READ MORE...http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2010/2010-03-03-01.html