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Department of the Interior Bison Conservation Initiative 2020

Detailed Description

Since the late 19th century, the Department of the Interior, in collaboration with others, has been a leader in shared conservation stewardship of bison and manages...

  • 11,000 plains bison
  • 19 herds
  • On 4.6 million acres of the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, & Bureau of Land Management
  • In 12 states including Alaska

Map displaying fenced and unfenced bison hers in the lower 48 states and Alaska. 

By the late 1800s, there were only several hundred bison left in the United States, owing to the great westward expansion and unregulated market hunting.

Image Source: Bison along Rose Creek in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone. Photo by Neal Herbert, National Park Service.

For 120 years, bison conservation has been built on collaboration among the Department of the Interior, states, tribes, and private conservationists. With the 2020 Bison Conservation Initiative, DOI reaffirms its commitment to shared stewardship for ecological and cultural restoration of our national mammal. DOI is committed to...

Wild, Healthy Bison
Herds Conserving bison as healthy wildlife.

Genetic Conservation
An interagency, science-based approach to restore appropriate gene flow across DOI bison conservation herds.

Shared Stewardship
Shared stewardship with states, tribes, and other stakeholders is essential to bison conservation and restoration.

Ecological Restoration
Establishing and maintaining large, wide-ranging bison herds on appropriate large landscapes where their role as ecosystem engineers shape healthy and diverse ecological communities.

Cultural Restoration
Providing opportunities to restore cultural connections to honor and promote the unique status of bison as an American icon for all people.

Image Source: Bison standing in the snow at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

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DOI Bison Conservation Initiative 2020
The Department of the Interior (DOI) has delivered substantial progress in bison conservation, science, and partnerships since the 2008 issuance of the Bison Conservation Initiative (BCI). That document chartered the DOI Bison Working Group, commissioned a genetics workshop, promoted investigations into metapopulation management and herd health, encouraged open communication and partnerships, and established a vision for Bison conservation in the DOI has now arrived at a rare place of confluence of strong science products, active local-level management engagement, and supportive bureau and Departmental leadership. Active interest and cooperation among bison conservation partners – including states, tribes, nations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – is ready to move beyond assessment and toward coordinated conservation action. The DOI remains uniquely positioned to play an active role in developing the next stage in bison conservation by working with others to accomplish linked ecological and cultural restoration goals that are both broader and more meaningful than DOI could accomplish on its own.

With this new 2020 BCI, the DOI reaffirms its commitment to both leadership and partnership to ensure the conservation and restoration of this true American icon in perpetuity. We offer this updated vision for advancing collaborative approaches to ecological and cultural restoration of bison at multiple scales across their historic range in North America.