We often joke to friends that as part of outcrop restoration in the upper Minnesota River Valley, we'd like to see buffalo--as bison are called in the vernacular--returned to the ecosystem. where once they kept the cedars in check.
In the Mankato Free Press, Tim Krohn reports that bison may be making something of a come on a tiny slice of the prairie river. In Bison may soon roam on Minneopa prairie, Krohn writes:
Minneopa State Park's expansive prairie could become home to a bison herd if approved by the Department of Natural Resources following a public comment period.
"If we get bison, it would increase our prairie management efforts (at Minneopa)," said Molly Tranel Nelson, regional resource specialist for parks and trails. "And we want to increase opportunities for visitors. It would allow visitors to have that experience and interpretation, to see a little of what the area looked like prior to settlement." Most importantly, the effort would help expand and protect genetically pure bison.
The bison would come from Blue Mounds State Park in southwestern Minnesota, which has a unique herd that is among the most genetically pure in the nation. If the bison come to Minneopa, it would be a homecoming of sorts. Sibley Park in Mankato once had a zoo that was home to bison. When the zoo was destroyed in the 1965 flood, those bison were moved to Blue Mounds, meaning their genes are among those at Blue Mounds today.
Under the plan, the 350 acres of prairie would be fenced. The size of herd that could be supported won't be determined until grass clippings and other surveying can be done to see how many bison could be sustained from the grasslands.
. . .Nelson said bison also will have a major benefit in ongoing, but often stymied, efforts to restore the Minneopa prairie to its natural state. The prairie is filled with cedar and especially invasive sumac that the DNR has cut or burned in a largely losing battle. Nelson said they suspect the bison will help keep sumac in check as they rub on it and walk over it with their massive hooves.
Read the rest at the Mankato Free Press.
When the DNR posts the plan for public comment--most likely in early or mid April, Krohn reports--we'll let readers know so that they can comment.
Photo: Bison in Blue Mounds State Park. Via CNN. There's a bipartisan effort to make these bad boys our nation mammal, and they do belong more on the prairie than the back of a nickel.
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