Could the bison become the national mammal of the United States? If Congress passes the National Bison Legacy Act, the bison could become as familiar a symbol of the country as the bald eagle.
The idea has bipartisan support, with Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., as a co-sponsor of the bill in the House and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., as a co-sponsor of the Senate version. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., also supports the measure.
West River residents are familiar with the American bison since Custer State Park has one of the largest herds of wild buffalo in the nation, and Wind Cave National Park is home to its own herd of bison. Rapid City has been referred to as the heart of buffalo country, thanks to the sizable number of area ranches that have taken up raising buffalo for meat production.
We have to wonder if this is really worth Congress' time to debate making the bison the national mammal.
Of course, we say that every time the South Dakota Legislature creates another state symbol -- at last count, there are 16 state symbols: state animal (coyote), state fish (walleye), state fossil (triceratops), state insect (honey bee), state soil (Houdek), state dessert (kuchen), etc.
The Vote Bison coalition (www.votebison.org) is pushing for the designation and making the first Thursday in November National Bison Day.
Congress should go ahead and pass the National Bison Legacy Act as long as it doesn't spend a great deal of time on the legislation. Congress has a lot left on its plate, and it's not a buffalo steak.