Bison Funding Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park Funds Bison Conservation with $7.4 Million from Inflation Reduction Act

SAN LUIS VALLEY, COLORADO – In an ambitious move to bolster bison conservation, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, along with Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, have been earmarked for a significant financial boost. A total of $7.4 million, allocated from the Inflation Reduction Act, aims to revitalize the bison populations and grassland ecosystems within these parks.

The announcement, which echoes a commitment made by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in March 2023, underscores the profound connection between the American bison, Indigenous cultures, and the nation’s ecological and historical landscape. The funding is a step towards addressing the complex challenges facing bison conservation, including habitat restoration, species viability, and the reintroduction of bison to tribal lands.

In 2022, The Nature Conservancy facilitated the expansion of the bison’s habitat within Great Sand Dunes National Park by transferring 9,362 acres of the Medano-Zapata ranch into the park’s care. This newly acquired land, which harbors essential water sources and diverse life, sets the stage for the introduction of a genetically pure bison herd, initially numbering between 25 to 50, with the potential for growth to 580 individuals.

This conservation effort is part of a broader National Park Service (NPS) initiative funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, aimed at preparing for climate change impacts, species protection, ecosystem restoration, and the creation of conservation jobs. NPS Director Chuck Sams highlighted the investment as a historic commitment to combatting the climate crisis and enhancing the resilience of America’s cherished natural landscapes.

The plight of the American bison, once on the brink of extinction due to overhunting and policies aimed at undermining Native American tribes, is a stark reminder of our environmental stewardship responsibilities. From a mere few hundred in 1890 to over 15,000 today, the recovery of the bison is a testament to the concerted efforts of conservationists, scientists, and policymakers. However, the species remains “functionally extinct” in terms of its ecological and cultural roles, necessitating continued conservation endeavors.

The ecological benefits of bison restoration extend beyond species preservation. By enhancing soil quality, promoting native flora and fauna, and facilitating carbon sequestration, bison can play a crucial role in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change on grassland ecosystems. This initiative not only supports the health of rural economies but also honors the deep historical and cultural ties between Indigenous peoples and the bison.

As the National Park Service embarks on this vital conservation journey, it continues the legacy of conservation pioneers like Theodore Roosevelt, ensuring that future generations can witness the majestic bison roam America’s vast and wild landscapes.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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