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Staggering wildlife population rebound shows the incredible power of nature: 'Part of a healing process'

"Now look at where we're at today."

"Now look at where we're at today."

Photo Credit: iStock

The return of bison on tribal lands in Montana has had a remarkable effect on the local landscape.

According to EarthJustice.org, 30 wild bison were transferred to the Fort Belknap Reservation in 2013, but since then, the population has grown to around 200. 

With that, the large bovines have helped improve the ecosystem, allowing for the growth of grass and native plants, creating nesting environments for birds, attracting amphibians, and even bringing back formerly native animals.

The endangered black-footed ferret and the swift fox can now be found wandering around Fort Belknap, demonstrating nature's resilience as long as we allow it to thrive.

Furthermore, the reintroduction of bison has been a huge boost for tribes, including the Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre Tribes (Aaniiih), allowing for a return of culture that was long dormant after the animals were hunted to near extinction. 

"Two hundred years ago, those animals were taken and removed off the landscape almost to extinction, at the same time tribes were being put on reservations," Mark Azure, the former buffalo program manager at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and a member of the Nakoda Tribe, told EarthJustice.org

"Now look at where we're at today: For tribes across Indian Country that have buffalo, you've got something back that was taken from you, forcefully. That was a huge part of your life as an Indian 200 years ago, and now you have it back. It could be looked at as part of a healing process." 

It's not only bison that are being reintroduced to historic lands. Gray wolves are also being released into areas like Colorado that had long been home to the animals. Red wolves have also been reintroduced in North Carolina, helping to maintain the balance of predators and prey and allowing for the growth of previously overeaten plant species. 

England has also been welcoming back animals that had previously been lost, with beavers returning to multiple locations across the country to build dams that are crucial to the ecosystem and help prevent flooding. 

It's hoped that more bison will be reintroduced to native lands in the coming years, with a council of 80 tribes working on restoration plans.

"Still here, still trying to get what was taken," Azure said. "So, we're all open to the idea of putting buffalo back on the landscape. That's my hope, it's coming true. I think this is going to carry us into the future as long as we do this in a positive, scientific way."

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