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Growing bison popularity for the birds, says national association

NBA calls bison production good news for grassland species

The growing popularity of bison can play a positive role in reversing the decline of bird populations across North America, according to the National Bison Association.

A recent federal report released by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar calculated that nearly one-third of the more than 800 bird species in the United States are endangered, threatened or in decline due to climate change, habitat loss, and invasive species. According to the report, grassland birds are among the fastest declining birds in North America, with 48 percent of the species listed as a conservation concern and 55 percent showing significant declines.

"Grassland bird species are struggling because the grasslands of North America are disappearing," said Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association. "The best tool for protecting these bird populations is to restore healthy grasslands with grazing livestock, especially bison."

Carter noted that the North American grasslands evolved through "tens of thousands of years of grazing by bison and other ruminants."

"The native species of plants, birds and animals across North America evolved in concert with bison. The conversion of productive pasturelands to crop production has disrupted the ecological balance and contributed to the decline of bird species, wildlife, and healthy landscapes," Carter said.

"Growth in the production of bison, and the proper management of other livestock species are valuable tools in restoring that ecological health. Healthy grasslands require interaction with grazing animals. Those grasslands in turn provide wildlife habitat, and play an important role in removing carbon from the atmosphere," Carter said.

The increasing popularity of bison meat is providing the incentive for ranchers to build their herds, and to keep grasslands intact. That, in turn, is good news for grassland bird species, and for the environment."

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