Plains Bison


As a keystone species, bison affect the distribution and reproduction of prairie vegetation, aerate soil with their hooves, and create wallows that can sustain ecosystems of their own during wet seasons. While bison originally numbered in the tens of millions, demand for bison hides and materials in the east, combined with the easy transport afforded by the railroad,. Since then, conservation efforts have helped the bison population rebound to 500,000 animals. However, only around 30,000 are in conservation herds; the rest are livestock. While livestock bison have provided invaluable contributions to the species’ survival, conservation herds present the purest opportunity to return bison to the expanses, and Grasslands Unlimited hopes to restore the bison to its native grasslands across Colorado.

Bison are not currently recognized as wildlife in Colorado. This means that bison are not allowed to roam freely across the state in the way that elk, deer, and antelope can. Grasslands Unlimited hopes that by working with state agencies, livestock interests, and conservation groups, progress can be made towards allowing bison to take their rightful place as the wild kings of the grasslands. No state in the country has wild bison that are wholly unconfined by fences or arbitrary boundaries. Colorado can, and should, be the first.

Grasslands Unlimited is working to have some bison in Colorado reclassified as wildlife instead of their current classification of livestock. Herds of bison across the border in Utah occasionally cross over into Colorado. Unfortunately without legal protections they are killed quickly and not allowed to exist in Colorado. Grasslands Unlimited is working to change that.

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