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News Article

Helping The Buffalo

Helping The Buffalo
SDSU Extension and American Indian Tribes Join Forces to Help Buffalo
Alvaro Garcia, SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Director & Professor - August 22, 2017

UNDATED - An adequate balance between healthy grasslands and well managed agricultural cropland is critical for the long-term sustainability of the Great Plains.
 
This vast area was once the habitat of 50 to 75 million head of buffalo, which roamed freely resulting in yearly cycles of partial plant defoliation and fertilization that helped maintain a stable and healthy ecosystem.
 
SDSU Extension recently brought together a group of interested individuals to meet at South Dakota State University to discuss the future of the American Bison.
 
The group included delegates from the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association, University of Saskatchewan, Canadian Bison Association, SDSU Faculty, SDSU Extension staff and allied industry representatives.
 
During this meeting, Jimmy Doyle, SDSU Extension Natural Resource Management Field Specialist along with myself and faculty members from the SDSU Natural Resource Management Department discussed how we are working with South Dakota Tribes to raise buffalo.
 
SDSU Extension continues to support American Indian tribes in their effort to bring back the buffalo to their natural grassland habitat. The buffalo has not only been revered by the American Indians since ancient times, but it also constitutes an important source of beef and revenue for tribal members.
 
Read on to learn more about two specific projects.
 
Sinte Gleska University
Faculty from SDSU and SDSU Extension staff are currently working with Sinte Gleska University to transition what was previously a 22,000-acre Todd County cattle ranch to raise buffalo.
 
Sinte Gleska is a four-year, private, American Indian tribal college, located in Mission, South Dakota, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. This is a Brulé Lakota Indian Reservation home to the Sicangu.
 
Plans are also underway for SDSU Extension to help with the ranch inventory and range management plan.
 
At the present time pastures are being identified and fences and wells repaired with the goal to introduce 150-200 buffalo in the fall.
 
Yankton Sioux Tribe
SDSU Extension is also working to help the Yankton Sioux Tribe.
 
In August 2017, Sandy Smart Professor & SDSU Extension Rangeland Management Specialist, Doyle and I visited the tribe's buffalo herd which is located south of Marty.
We met with tribal members Perry Little, Herd Manager and Sonny Hill, Yankton Sioux Tribe Economic Development Director.
 
Together we evaluated pasture conditions, the buffalo herd and facilities.
 
We then put together a report to address the constraints to future development of the herd and how to overcome them.
 
The overall objective is to improve pasture utilization and ultimately expand the herd, which is a local food source for the Yankton Sioux Tribe.


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