Bison is our National Mammal

National Mammal

April 30, 2016

We’re pleased to share the news that last night the U.S. Senate, led by Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) passed the National Bison Legacy Act (NBLA) by unanimous consent, clearing the bill through Congress and sending it to the President for his signature. Thursday’s action followed House passage on Tuesday of the bill, which was engineered by Representatives William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Kristi Noem (R-SD), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and José E. Serrano (D-NY).  

This is big news for our country; we’ve made history – the bison is America’s new National Mammal.  But while we expect President Obama to approve the bill, a formal signing ceremony isn’t a “given.”  We need all Coalition members to write into the White House today – asking for a White House signing ceremony generating the widespread public attention and place in the public record that our success deserves.

We’d like to share some statements from our NBLA champs in Congress.

“The bison, like the bald eagle, has for many years been a symbol of America for its strength, endurance and dignity, reflecting the pioneer spirit of America,” Senator Hoeven said at the press conference in the Capitol Wednesday.  


“Recognition of our new national mammal will bring a new source of pride for Americans…and also bring greater attention to ongoing conservation and species recovery efforts,” stated Sen. Heinrich at the press conference.  “I hope that in my lifetime, thanks to a broad coalition of conservation ranchers, wildlife advocates, and tribal nations, we will see bison return to the prominent place they once occupied in our nation’s shortgrass prairies.”


Rep. Clay opened the House voting session, stating:  “No other indigenous species tells America’s story better than this noble creature. The American bison is an enduring symbol of strength, Native American culture and the boundless western wildness. It is an integral part of the still largely untold story of Native Americans and their historic contributions to our national identity.”  He also described the personal meaning of the Act in reference to his own heritage, with his great-great grandfather—a Buffalo Soldier.     


From across the aisle, Rep. Noem added in support:  “The Tatanka is important both physically and spiritually in Native American culture.  This bill recognizes that.  Bison are a cultural example of how to live in a healthy and productive manner.  There are also lessons to be learned about resilience from these animals, which were nearly being wiped from existence at one point.  Through the efforts of tribes, ranchers, conservationists and others, the species has survived and can once again be lifted as a literal and cultural example of productivity from which each of us can learn.”


House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) concluded the appeal to House Members by commenting on the majestic nature of the bison and places like Yellowstone National Park where they can be enjoyed by America’s public.


All 6 Members of Congress joined VBC Steering Committee members John Calvelli from Wildlife Conservation Society and Dave Carter from the National Bison Association in the press conference.  John covered VBC principles underlying the national mammal naming:   “As an ecological keystone, cultural bedrock and economic driver, the bison conveys values such as unity, resilience and commitment to healthy landscapes and communities.” 


Dave described how America’s landscape bears “the indelible hoofprint” of generations of bison, with grass and wildlife species evolving “in concert with the bison.”  “It’s what we call sustainable agriculture,” he said, emphasizing the sizable role ranchers have played in bison restoration.  Americans are “embracing the taste and nutritional value of bison,” as “the economic development story” of bison ranching unfolds.


InterTribal Buffalo Council Executive Director and Yankton Sioux Tribal Member Jim Stone adds:  “The buffalo and our tribes have been intertwined since time immemorial and we are very pleased to see this being represented through this effort. This will allow us to share or story and provide education about this relationship for years to come.”

Likening the bison to salsa and Hip Hop as iconic American culture emanating from New York, Rep. Serrano said at the press event:  “The bison has a special place not only in U.S. history, but also in the Bronx community. It is the largest land mammal native to the United States and thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Bronx Zoo, which took the lead in saving the bison from extinction more than a century ago, we can still enjoy its majesty today.”

“In the midst of such a difficult political environment, it is good to pass legislation that is important to the American narrative.”  Rep. Fortenberry added.  “Bison have a storied history in Nebraska and are an important part of our nation's frontier heritage.”

The Coalition has another chance to act in support of the NBLA – ask President Obama to sign the Act in a formal ceremony at the White House.  We don’t have much time to influence the decision. The White House needs to hear by Monday that a signing ceremony is vital


Please use the template below or your own words and prepare a letter to the White House today.  The most expedient way to reach White House decision-makers is to email it to me to pass along.  This also allows us to track who has sent in letters for our recommended list of invitees to related commemorative events.  If you could please send the letter, addressed to President Obama, to me at, I will make sure it gets to our contact at the White House the same day.


Please express the value of a signing ceremony from your own perspective.  The letter can be short and to the point and sent within the body an email or as an attachment:


 President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:


As a partner in the Vote Bison Coalition, I am proud to share with you that Congress has passed the National Bison Legacy Act adopting the American bison as our country’s national mammal.  The bison represents aspects of treasured American values—unity, resilience and healthy landscapes and communities.  Please consider a formal White House ceremony when you sign this important act into law in the next couple weeks.  Such an event would bring deserved public attention to this historic moment.


From my perspective as a [type of bison supporter], a White House ceremony would help make the public aware of the great comeback of bison after a previous century of demise, celebrate bipartisan leadership on legislation during your term, and share the variety of ways bison are meaningful in everyday American life.


Thank you.




[name, title, organization, address, email, phone]


Thank you for taking action on this critical appeal to the White House.  Please also consider ways your organization can stimulate press and public attention through social media, and innovate to get the message out and raise the profile of our new national mammal.  Feel free to utilize the new bison seal and elements of our VBC press release found at


The NBLA passage has resulted in massive media response.  A sampling of top hits are highlighted below, and more appear daily.  Please share with us any coverage you may come across.  And it’s not too late for new Coalition members to join; we aim to double the Coalition’s membership in the months leading up to National Bison Day on November 5.


Thank you for your involvement!




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