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Bison recovery used as example of cross border conservation

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(MTN News photo) (MTN News photo)
EAST GLACIER -

While the unique collaboration of Glacier and Waterton Lakes National parks are a symbol of international conservation, attendees at a conference this week are being told there's still work to do -- and free roaming bison could be the signpost for the next phase of cooperation.

"It's working across these boundaries with something that nobody has worked with before which is reintroducing a species to a large landscape," said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow.

The Hands Across Borders conference has brought together a unique mix of world conservation leaders to East Glacier. And part of the discussion has touched on a long-range project which could restore one of the last missing pieces to the Northern Rocky Mountain ecosystem, free-roaming bison. 

This year, the Blackfeet Tribe returned a herd of bison to the tribe's range west of Browning, closing a "loop" which saw the buffalo's genetic ancestors taken to Alberta for decades. 

Conference attendees were told restoring free roaming bison will take both future cooperation, and an appreciation of the past.

 "These buffalo are very much intertwined with the Blackfeet people's identity; the Blackfeet people are Buffalo people so their existence is very much tied to the buffalo," said Iinnii Initiative Field Coordinator Leona Tracey.

While it will take many years of planning before the bison are fully restored, the tribe and the parks' leaders say the Peace Park model will help work out those future management agreements. 

- Dennis Bragg and Nicole Miller

RELATED: Glacier, Waterton Lakes national parks celebrate unique relationship

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