Western lawmakers want to elevate the Plains bison to a status similar to that of the iconic bald eagle with legislation to declare the burly beasts America's "national mammal." Bison advocates launched a "vote bison" public relations campaign yesterday to coincide with the bill. The National Bison Legacy Act introduced in the Senate is backed by lawmakers from Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota, along with Rhode Island.
The largely symbolic measure would provide no added protections for the estimated 20,000 wild bison in North America. And the bald eagle would still hold a somewhat loftier role as the national emblem, as declared by the Second Continental Congress in 1782. But supporters said the bison legacy bill would afford overdue recognition to a species that has sweeping cultural and ecological significance.