From USA Today (Gregory Korte) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:
President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law Monday, two weeks after both houses of Congress approved the bill by what appeared to be unanimous voice votes.
Sponsored by Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., the bill has just one purpose: To declare the bison the national mammal of the United States.
The law also makes clear that it’s entirely a symbolic action: “Nothing in this act or the adoption of the North American bison as the national mammal of the United States shall be construed or used as a reason to alter, change, modify, or otherwise affect any plan, policy, management decision, regulation, or other action by the federal government,” the last clause of the bill reads.
The bison was nearly wiped out during the westward expansion of the United States, as part of a deliberate policy of depriving Native Americans of a significant source of food, clothing and shelter. But a concerted effort by conservationists in the early 20th century brought the bison back from the verge of extinction.
The bill, which recognizes the bison for its historical, cultural significance, contains the following facts about the bison:
► A bison is portrayed on two state flags;
► The bison has been adopted by three states as their official mammal or animal;
► A bison has been depicted on the official seal of the Department of the Interior since 1912;
► The buffalo nickel played an important role in modernizing the currency of the United States;
► Several sports teams have the bison as a mascot, which highlights the iconic significance of bison in the United States.