Environmental activists drive Badlands bison expansion

Bison clear invasive grasses at Wind Cave National Park.

Back in 2010 then-Democratic Senator Tim Johnson tried to make a portion of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland adjacent to Badlands National Park part of the Tony Dean Wilderness Area. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) tried to revive it in 2011.

Environmental activist and rewilding advocate George Wuerthner wrote about it.
America has very little of its native prairie in any protected status. Most of the plains have been carved up by till farming, and the rest is grazed by livestock. Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act would correct this by designating 48,000 acres as wilderness in the Indian Creek, Red Shirt and Chalk Hills areas of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland on the borders of Badlands NP. Walking these vast open breathing spaces reminds me of being on the vastness of tundra in Alaska. It’s a sense of freedom that is more difficult to experience in more forested terrain. As with any designated wilderness, livestock grazing will continue. This is particularly ironic since Tony Dean, who was an outdoor writer in South Dakota, railed against welfare ranchers and their impact on the state for decades.
Led by The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit that began buying land there in 2007, sold some land in 2012 to Badlands National Park. Conata Basin is on the top ten ecotourism sites chosen by the University of Nebraska's Great Plains Center.

The World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife and the Nature Conservancy teamed up with the National Park Foundation, Badlands Natural History Association, Badlands National Park Conservancy and the National Park Service Centennial Challenge fund to expand the bison range at Badlands National Park by nearly 35 square miles.
Bison have long roamed the wilder, western part of the park’s North Unit. But the park’s rugged topography allowed no convenient place for the park’s 1,200 bison to migrate toward the central part of the North Unit, where most of the park’s visitors are concentrated on the Badlands Loop Road. [Bison charge into bigger Badlands range]
Had Sen. Johnson been successful in passing S. 3310 as a part of the doomed Omnibus Wilderness Bill the land burned by the Cottonwood and Wolf fires would have been placed within the stewardship of Badlands National Park and much, if not all, of the federal land scorched by the Cottonwood Fire would have been burned off prescriptively in increments instead of being managed by some careless rancher or passing motorist.

Patrick Springer wrote about the Last Great Hunt on the Standing Rock Reservation as part of his series published at the Inforum news service.
Dakota Wind Goodhouse, who teaches history at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck and is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said the sudden disappearance of the buffalo came as a surprise to the Lakota. "The people, they probably felt a sense of elation, excitement," he said. "Reliving the old days. There isn't a sense of dramatic despair that it was going to be the last. They couldn't have known." [The great northern buffalo herd came to an end during the ‘Last Great Hunt’ at Standing Rock]
A South Dakota state park named for a war criminal keeps a drove of allegorical mooching donkeys as a slap in the face to the South Dakota Democratic Party and stages an annual mock bison roundup appropriated from the hunting practices of some indigenous peoples.

Sure, the Lakota acquired horses around 1742 then used them as weapons of mass destruction conquering most of the northern plains and the Black Hills region. But, likely with help from dogs for some ten thousand years before that the ancestors of the Crow, Arikara and others drove bison over cliffs and into sinkholes like the Vore site near Beulah, Wyoming.

It's difficult to imagine a spectacle like that before a herd of gawking tourists.

Rewild the West!

1 comment:

larry kurtz said...

These animals lived in the Black Hills before ponderosa pine arrived there. "Between 1993 and 1995, a team of archeologists undertook an excavation of prehistoric animal bones in the Deerfield area of the Black Hills. They found bison, mountain lion, deer, elk and a range of smaller animal bones. Work on the age of the specimens is still underway, but researchers estimate some of the bones date as far back as 8,000 years." [Pierre Capital Journal]