Buffalo Restoration Debate
Restoration of the Bison is something that has been going on for the past two decades. As a matter of fact, several Native American tribes have come together to form the Inter Tribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) which has been set out to bring bison back onto the American plains in the midwest. Bison have an intimate relationship in the traditions and rituals of Native Americans. The importance of bison within the culture has made bringing back the bison an important issue in the preservation of wildlife. However, some of the arguments made by the ITBC show that the bison's economic value should be the main factor why they should be brought back. Yet others involved in this cause suggest that buffalo restoration could be an alternative to failing rural areas in the prairies. Opposition to this proposal comes mainly from those who reside in the affected areas. This topic does involve parties that have different interests in buffalo restoration.
Bison were considered a main part of the American economy. Prior to the Civil War, hunters would trade and sell buffalo hide. Although some were killed for meat, buffalo hide was in higher demand. However, after the Civil War, the extensions of the railroads made it easier to transport hides. The main desiccation of the bison came with the industrial revolution (Manning, WWW). Since machinery became a mainstay in factories, part of maintenance required belting. The demand of hide of bison, therefore, increased since buffalo hide could be used as belts that would drive the machines (Manning, WWW). Within a few decades only a thousand bison were left, after the slaughter of 50 million. The depletion of bison did however spark an interest in conservation and protection of wildlife. This new movement to preserve wildlife caused a law to be passed in which harsh market hunting of wild animals would be illegal (Manning, WWW).
One of the basic arguments for the restoration of bison back onto the prairies involves the economic benefits. Five of the nations ten poorest counties are located on Indian reservations (Manning, WWW). With decreasing beef prices and increasing land values, the margin of profit continues to narrow. A majority of the cattle industry that once was present in the midwest have sought greener pastures east in states such as Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky (Popper, D). Another possible opponent, the Forest Service also no longer seems to focus on maximizing their timber yields in the midwest, but rather in northern California, Oregon, and Washington (Popper, D). Bison offer a plausible solution due to their low cost (about half as much as cattle). Bison are also better adapted to the environment and produce the same amount of meat which is higher in protein, lower in cholesterol and fat, compared to cattle. In terms of land usage, bison graze and then move while cattle remain where they are thus damaging the soil. Bison also eat a greater variety of grasses,...