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Collaborative Restoration Workshop: Working Toward Resilient
Landscapes and Communities
Submitted by: Dr. Keith Aune, Bison Program Director and Julie Anton Randall,
National Bison Coalition Coordinator ([email protected]; (703) 8647770
An Emerging Model of Collaborative Landscape Restoration:
Opportunities and Obstacles to Wild Bison Recovery on Landscapes Involving
National Forests and Grasslands
The North American bison once ranged the continent, numbering 30-50 million. For
12,000 years as the dominant herbivore, the bison’s grazing patterns influenced the
structure of grass species, mosaics of vegetation, fire dynamics and human survival.
In large herds, bison are an ecological keystone species and in myriad ways benefit
other native species. Bison numbers dropped to <1,000 by 1880; combined with the
transformation of grassland habitats by rapid agricultural development, other species
declined. America’s grasslands today are the most threatened and least protected
Bison populations regenerated to about 300,000 in production and <30,000 in
conservation, with varying genetic integrity. Bison recovery involves multiple partners
motivated by a diversity of perspectives and both public and private investments in
bison habitat. Utilizing a landscape-scale approach, U.S. Forest Service lands can
connect nearby federal, state, tribal and private lands with wild bison (or potential for
bison restoration) to recreate a contiguous grasslands ecosystem with a herd size large
enough to restore ecological benefits to other species like grassland birds and
predators. Outcomes explored include National Forests and Grasslands as repository
sites and progeny sources of high-genetic integrity bison, and bison as a climate
change-resilient species contributing to food security.