S.D. tribal park could house 1,000 bison

Farm Forum

RAPID CITY (AP) – The South Unit of Badlands National Park could become home to more than 1,000 bison as part of a long-range plan to establish a new national park on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Ruth Brown, the Eagle Nest District representative for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, told the Rapid City Journal that the project is still in the planning stages, but that the animals could be reintroduced to parts of the 133,000-acre South Unit starting in 2015. ”There’s always been a dream of a lot of our elders. It’s part of our culture. Buffalo were our bread and butter for a lot of years,” she said. ”I’ve been working on this project for almost 20 years, and it’s going to be a reality now.”

Trudy Ecoffey of the Intertribal Buffalo Council of Rapid City said the tribe wants to manage the park in a partnership with the National Park Service.

”That whole initiative, no matter what alternative they were looking at, always mentioned reintroducing bison to the South Unit,” Ecoffey said.

The tribe currently has about 800 bison. Ecoffey said the demand for bison as a source of meat and as a symbol of Lakota culture is expected to increase as the population on the Pine Ridge grows.

”So this was the perfect opportunity to increase the tribal buffalo herd size,” Ecoffey said. ”This whole South Unit initiative is not just part of the Badlands South Unit but some extra tribal land adjacent to the park so it’s going to be a real cooperative effort between the National Park Service and the Oglala Sioux Tribe to make this work.”