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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Celebrate a Noble American Species

Oct 25, 2016 08:28PM

Photo Courtesy US Forest Service / Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

National Bison Day will be observed from 9 a.m. to noon, November 5 at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (fs.usda.gov/midewin) to honor the first national mammal, as designated in May. At Midewin, the grazing activity of a small herd of bison is helping to restore the prairies. Bison and ecology specialist Duane Lammers will deliver the keynote address at 11 a.m. at the Iron Bridge Trailhead. American Bison Coalition National Coordinator Julie Anton Randall and Keith Aune, bison program director with the Wildlife Conservation Society, will also speak.

         Guests will be able to ask questions and there is an area for children with games and information about bison. It’s recommended to bring binoculars and wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots. Because the herd’s grazing pattern is unpredictable, there is no guarantee of a bison spotting.

         Representatives of federally recognized Native American tribes will be present. Jim Stone, executive director of the Rapid City, South Dakota-based InterTribal Buffalo Council, will talk about work they are doing to restore buffalo and to preserve Native American historical, cultural, traditional and spiritual relationships for future generations. “Our goal is to re-establish healthy buffalo populations on tribal lands and to re-establish hope for Indian people,” says Stone.

         Lammers, a bison consultant and director on more than 60 film projects around the world, will speak about the economic aspects of the bison. He also specializes in wildlife management, landscape ecology, bison husbandry and humane handling methods and has 40 years of experience working with bison herds of 2,000 animals. He has also helped develop several bison products and has used their grazing to enhance other wildlife, plants and water sources. Lammers will bring items for display that are made from bison byproducts, such as socks, gloves, a hat, a baseball glove and boots. “Over the years, I have marketed every part of the bison, including even the noise they make,” Lammers says.

         Lammers works with Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie as a bison consultant through the National Forest Foundation, and was a consultant when a small herd of bison was introduced at Midewin in October 2015. The herd is a 20-year experiment to restore the landscape to native tallgrass prairie because the herd’s grazing activity is significant in reinvigorating a diverse habit for birds and wildlife. The U.S. Forest Service is working with volunteers, nonprofit groups and federal partners to restore 18,500 acres to as close to historic prairie as possible. “We are working to show people what the Illinois prairies might have looked like hundreds and thousands of years ago, and the bison herd is essential in that mission,” says Prairie Supervisor Wade Spang.

For more information, visit NationalMammal.org/facts and Tinyurl.com/BisonTallgrassProject.