Return of the Bison: A Story of Survival, Restoration, and a Wilder World

Mountaineers Bks. Sept. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9781680515831. pap. $21.95. NAT HIST
Di Silvestro (Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands) brings his outlook as a historian of the Great Plains and writer for conservation publications to the story of the calamitous decline and troubled restoration of bison. The seemingly infinite herds that grazed the prairies of North America were nearly wiped out in the late 19th century. That’s due to sport and trophy hunting, habitat conversion to ranching for agriculture, and a military policy to remove a keystone of Indigenous peoples’ cultures and livelihood. Bison were protected first by those alarmed at their imminent extinction and then by the government’s establishment of national parks and refuges. By the early 20th century, most existed in captivity in scattered commercial herds. Today, even after efforts from coalitions of government, Indigenous, and conservation groups to restore wild populations of bison, most herds remain confined to small habitats by real or legislative boundaries, their numbers too small to be independently sustainable, and their susceptibility to diseases, disasters, and domestication increased. The book includes an index, bibliography, and lists of conservation organizations and sites where wild bison can be seen.
VERDICT A cautiously optimistic tale of recovery for historians and a call to action for nature lovers.
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