Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Colorado and South Dakota Contemplated for Yellowstone Bison Relocation

Bison outside Yellowstone National Park

Earlier in one of my posts, I had written about an article in which tribal groups lent their support to Yellowstone's bison relocation on a couple Indian reservations up in Montana. This time, it appears that this project will possibly extend further in the states of Colorado and South Dakota in an effort to decrease periodic slaughter of these animals leaving the Yellowstone National Park. Although this idea marked for the first time in decades that the federal government is considering to move the wandering animals elsewhere in the nation, it did not sit well with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. He condemned the proposal stating his concern that the effort would allow diseases such as brucellosis and chronic wasting diseases to spread across the nation. Instead, he proclaimed to have the animals transferred to Montana's National Bison Range near the town of Moiese.
The view of the badlands in the northern section of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

However, the Interior Department rejected Governor Schweitzer's proclamation stating that the plan would stigmatize the animals that are already there and would make it harder to transfer Yellowstone's bison to other states that are worried about the spread of diseases. In addition to that, wildlife officials stated that Governor Schweitzer's rule of blocking the department's fish and wildlife shipping could affect the federal trout hatcheries that produce more than a million fish annually. Among the active members in pushing forward this bison relocation effort is Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who told Governor Schweitzer in a letter that the agency is looking into possible relocation sites in Colorado and South Dakota. Among these sites include Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park, and a portion of the Badlands National Park in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The relocation of the animals could be done in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy, who owns the Zapata Ranch adjacent to the Great Sand Dunes while those in South Dakota would be managed in alliance with the local Oglala Lakota Tribe.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park of Colorado

I'm very much proud to see that the conservation effort has taken a new turn into looking at other possible relocation sites for Yellowstone's increasing bison population elsewhere in the nation. Not only do they include Indian reservations, but also other national parks where they had once roamed centuries ago. I firmly believe that Yellowstone's bison should be relocated in other places in the nation's Great Plains region where they had long disappeared. These places could include Indian reservations, since the animal has been the major component of the culture and history of the Native Americans for generations. Not only did these people rely on the animals for food, but they also worshiped them as representatives of their spirit and reminders of how they lived their lives in harmony with nature. By bringing the bison, it would be a way of reviving that spirit that had long been affiliated with Native Americans for generations. In addition to that, these animals are a keystone species whose grazing has shaped the ecology of the region. Therefore, reintroducing the animals in such places will help in the rejuvenation of patches of lands where they had long disappeared. Also, before attempting any relocation processes, it would be useful to check any animals for brucellosis. The bison maybe an animal who has received a great deal of attention regarding the disease, but there is also a similar problem with Yellowstone's elk population which should also be looked at.

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