Roaming Buffalo in Montana

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Since grade school I've been told that because of game hunting and poaching on the part of the Americans, the American buffalo that roamed the grasslands of the American Prairie are all but a myth. The numbers are so low that one day the American buffalo would become an extinct species. In grade school, other than the few endangered animal projects that were handed out there was never any real activism done, only awareness. Thankfully, there are organizations created to preserve the buffalo.

The American Prairie Reserve (APR), works to, well... preserve the American prairie. I wouldn't have known about this organization if it weren't for a tab on the World Wildlife Fund's website that is dedicated to the Northern Great Plains (there are other great orgs on the website as well).

 The organization is devoted to the "The American Serengeti", and saving the land and wildlife by buying land so that there is open land for the animals of that biome to roam without fear of extinction. In Montana, where the APR is stationed, there is a buffalo ranch dedicated to releasing calves from the Elk Island Reserve in Canada into herds of wild buffalo.  Last month they reintegrated close to 75 calves into a herd, much to the delight of the Salish and Kootenai tribes that were there to witness.

In 2025 the APR is projected to be responsible for close to 5000 buffalo, and be the largest conservation group in the world. Although this number is far from the 60 million that roamed the American prairie 200-years ago, it is amazing to know that there are groups set up to maintain the American buffalo.

 

WWF page dedicated to The Northern Great Plains - http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/ngp/projects.html

American Prairie Reserve - http://www.americanprairie.org/

Buffalo releasing in Montana - http://www.economist.com/node/21550292

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It’s odd how the decimation of the American buffalo is seen almost as a national tragedy. White Americans swept across the plains like a plague and with precise and brutal efficiency brought the buffalo population to almost nothing. Next to the bald eagle the buffalo might be the most recognized national symbol, at least to some. This idea that it should be recognized as a symbol of old America, I think, fuels the need to reintroduce it. The American Prairie Reserve seems to think this. I couldn’t find any environmental benefits to reintroducing the buffalo to the Great Plains on their website. Reintroducing the buffalo seems to serve only a sense of historic nostalgia. That and as a sort of apology to the native people who were so dependent on buffalo. I can’t say that I don’t like the idea of wild buffalo herds being able to roam again and feeling a slight awe at their majesty, but just doing something for the sake of doing it seems like a waste of time. I am far from an expert on the subject; there may be more benefits to having more buffalo than I can think of. But perhaps the resources going into bringing back this animal can be put to better use elsewhere.

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