Bison released in Badlands NP to explore expanded territory
BADLANDS NP, S.D. — Our nation’s mammal, now roaming through more of the Badlands. After years of planning and multiple partnerships with agencies advocating for their return, bison now have an extra 22,000 acres to explore.
It was a bitter morning turned sweet when four, 2,000 lb. bison sprinted down the hill near Pinnacles Overlook. They return to the area for the first time since 1877. The acreage now totaling over 80,000 and shared by over 1,200 bison.
Representatives from agencies who’ve worked to see this day, say this effort will help bison across the nation and help the iconic and symbolic species continue to come back from near extinction.
“What we witnessed earlier today represents a critical part of the long-term recovery and survival of this most unbelievable and important species,” said Raymond Sauvot, National Park Service Associate Director.
The Badlands sit in the heart of the bison’s native lands. The expansion allows the herd to grow, strengthening the foundation laid out in the western side of the park.
“It’s going to be good for the health of the herd, for the genetics, it’ll be great for the health of the native mixed grass prairie which evolved with the bison on the landscape and it’s going to provide outstanding opportunities for visitors to see and learn about the bison in their natural habitat,” said Mike Pflaum, Superintendent of the Badlands National Park.
For the Native American community, the return of the bison hits a personal note.
Oglala Sioux Tribe member, Waoilon Gaddie, says the return is like redemption. The bison fought extinction, just like his ancestors.
“The buffalo are supposed to be extinct but today, the buffalo still live and so do our relatives,” said Gaddie.
Now the bison can roam and explore the area, uncharted for this new generation.
The 43 miles of fencing added around the expansion was made possible with a partnership between the National Park Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Badlands Natural History Association, and the Badlands National Park Conservancy. Over $743,000 was donated with a contribution from the National Park Service Centennial Challenge fund of $475,000.