New York Senator Becomes Co-sponsor of Bill to Make North American Bison the National Mammal of the United States

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NEW YORK (July 18, 2012)— The Vote Bison coalition applauded the news that New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand became a co-sponsor of the National Bison Legacy Act in the U.S. Senate, which if passed would officially designate bison as the national mammal.

The bill, which was introduced by U.S. Sens. Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Tim Johnson (D-SD), acknowledges the efforts that Native Americans, bison producers, conservationists, sportsmen, educators and other public and private partners are making in recognizing bison for its cultural, economical and ecological significance across the American landscape. To date, 15 Senators have co-sponsored the bill.

“The story of the American bison is the story of America —our history, and our ability to grow stronger every day,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud that my home state’s largest upstate city holds the namesake of the bison, and I am proud that New York’s own Bronx Zoo led the effort to save them from extinction. That’s why I support naming the bison as America’s National Mammal.”

John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, said, “We’re very happy to have Sen.Gillibrand as a co-sponsor of this bill. This endorsement is an important step that will help bring people together from all across the nation to celebrate an All-American icon.”

In the early 1900’s, bison numbered less than 1,100 individuals after ranging across North America in the tens of millions a century earlier. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt, William Hornaday of WCS (then the New York Zoological Society), and others convened a group of diverse stakeholders at the Bronx Zoo in New York City and formed the American Bison Society (ABS). ABS developed a new conservation ethic and helped save bison from extinction. In 1907, fifteen Bronx–born bison were sent by the Society to the first big game refuge in the U.S.—the Wichita Reserve Bison Refuge. Today, bison number in the hundreds of thousands in the United States and are found in state and national parks, wildlife refuges, and on tribal and private lands. Conservation efforts are underway to maintain viable bison populations and preserve this icon of our national heritage.

The coalition is asking the public to “vote for bison,” while highlighting the many ways that bison have shaped America’s history, economy, culture, and landscapes. The public in turn will have the opportunity to follow the national campaign and be involved in the passage of the bill by visiting The coalition plans to celebrate the first Thursday of each November as National Bison Day.

Among other findings, the National Bison Legacy Act recognizes that bison are integrally linked to Native American culture, are a keystone species that benefit grassland ecosystems, hold significant value for private producers and rural communities, and are considered a symbol of the American West.

Other co-sponsors of the legislation include Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT).


For more information, please contact Chip Weiskotten at 202-624-8172 or Scott Smith at 718-220-3698, or go to

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit:

The Inter Tribal Buffalo Council is a federally chartered Tribal organization dedicated to the restoration of buffalo to Tribal lands in manner that is compatible with their spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices. ITBC has been working on this mission since 1992. Visit:

The National Bison Association brings together all stakeholders to celebrate the heritage of the American bison, to educate, and to create a sustainable future for our industry.