MISSION, SOUTH DAKOTA–Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), the economic arm of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, has secured nearly 28,000 acres of native grassland for the creation of a new plains bison herd with the support of the Rosebud's Tribal Land Enterprise. With a capacity to support 1,500 animals, the Wolakota Buffalo Range will become North America's largest Native American owned and managed bison herd. The project is being advanced by a partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and with support from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).
The Wolakota Buffalo Range combines Lakota-based regenerative agriculture and social impact investment to generate socioeconomic opportunity. "We are doing something that has never been done. It shows what is possible when we create multiple bottom line initiatives supporting the environment, people, fiscal responsibility, and Native nation building," REDCO's CEO, Wizipan Little Elk said.
In a strong show of support for the project, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt today announced the DOI's 2020 Bison Conservation Initiative. The Initiative is the 10-year direction for the Department and is organized around five goals: wild, healthy bison herds, genetic conservation, ecological restoration, cultural restoration, and shared stewardship. In a strong show of commitment to those goals and to the principles of the Wolakota project, DOI will send hundreds of bison over the next five years from public conservation herds managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the newly created range on the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota. The historic project will increase the overall number of Native American owned bison by seven percent nationally.
"Interior is uniquely positioned to lead the way for shared stewardship of this iconic American species," said Secretary Bernhardt. "This 10-year plan will guide our collaboration with states, tribes, private conservationists and managers across public lands to advance conservation efforts and honor iconic wild bison."
Over the past five years, WWF has invested more than $2.2 million in bison restoration efforts with indigenous communities in the Northern Great Plains. This new opportunity, which aligns strongly with Lakota foundational values and beliefs, will become a model for cultural and ecological restoration efforts by Native American nations across the U.S.
Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund said, "The bison looms large in the culture and traditions of Native nations. This announcement matters for several reasons: it represents a homecoming for this iconic species, and it's also a reunion with the communities who lived with them for centuries in a symbiotic relationship. We are honored to be partners in this effort with the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Department of the Interior, and we look forward to seeing the bison return to the Rosebud Reservation later this year."
The first transfers of bison from DOI herds to Rosebud are expected to occur in the fall of 2020. DOI will maintain their bison distribution protocol for other eligible candidates. Visit rosebudbuffalo.org to learn more.
REDCO MEDIA CONTACT: Aaron Epps | (715) 896-1051 | [email protected]
WWF MEDIA CONTACT: Susan McCarthy | 978-853-7752 | [email protected]