When Kai Ryssdal announced on National Public Radio’s daily financial round-up Marketplace recently that “political gridlock is over,” he wasn’t talking about health care, the national debt, or immigration policy. He was referring to legislation to make the North American bison our National Mammal.

To celebrate the bison’s central place in the history and culture of the United States, conservationists, bison producers, sportsmen, and Native American tribes came together this spring to craft and advance the National Bison Legacy Act.

This legislation, introduced last May jointly in the U.S. Senate by Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota, currently enjoys equal numbers of co-sponsors from the Democratic and Republican parties, along with Independent Joe Lieberman. A companion bill was introduced in the House last week by Reps Clay (D-MO), Fortenberry (R-NE), Serrano (D-NY) and Noem (R-SD). The Act designates the American bison as our National Mammal and recognizes the first Thursday day in November as National Bison Day.

This excerpt comes from the first piece in a series about bison by John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs. To continue reading his blog about the National Bison Legacy Act, visit National Geographic NewsWatch.