Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Plan to reintroduce genetically pure bison could put the wild back into America's Wild West

New herds of genetically pure wild bison may once again roam vast expanses of the American West – where the iconic animal has been absent since the end of the 19th century – under a tentative federal plan.

The proposal, for which Yellowstone National Park officials started seeking public comments this week, is almost sure to draw staunch opposition from ranchers concerned about disease, competition for grass, and property destruction from straying herds. Yellowstone is home to more than 4,000 bison (also known as buffalo), constituting the bulk of the country’s last pure-bred population of the animals.

Dozens from the park’s herd have been relocated to two Montana Native American reservations in recent years. Park officials, wildlife advocates and Native American groups are now eager to restore wild bison to more of their native habitat. A recent US Interior Department report on bison concluded they could potentially be reintroduced to swathes of public lands it manages in states such as Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska and South Dakota, without posing a risk to livestock.

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