President Obama signs measure to declare bison as official mammal

Bison in Yellowstone National Park. Photo from Daniel Mayer / Wikimedia Commons

It's official -- the bison is now the national mammal of the United States

President Barack Obama signed H.R.2908, the National Bison Legacy Act, into law on Monday. The measure sailed through Congress last month with bipartisan support and with backing from the Intertribal Buffalo Council.

“The Ihanktonwan people and the Tatanka Oyate were placed on this earth together and have survived as one, beating tremendous hardships through our resiliency,” Robert Flying Hawk, the chairman of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, said in a press release last month.

The new law recognizes the efforts of the ITBC in restoring bison to tribal homelands. But it does not change federal or state policies -- most notably, those in Montana -- that make it difficult for tribes to carry out that goal.

It also does not end the slaughter of bison that leave the Yellowstone National Park and wander into Montana. Some tribes participate in treaty hunts there but some Native activists and groups like the Buffalo Field Campaign have questioned the practice due to the sacred and unique nature of the species.

"Nothing in this Act or the adoption of the North American bison as the national mammal of the United States shall be construed or used as a reason to alter, change, modify, or otherwise affect any plan, policy, management decision, regulation, or other action by the Federal Government," the text of the bill reads.

The new law does not authorize any appropriations for bison management.

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