Gaining ground for the buffalo

  • Buffalo

    Kathleen Marie Menke, Crystal Images

The prophecy of the return of the American buffalo to the Great Plains has lingered like a whisper among Plains tribes since the emergence of the Ghost Dance in 1880. In the past few years, the Great Plains Restoration Council, a group whose aim is to repair vast tracts of prairie ecosystems for free-ranging buffalo, has given a stronger voice to the movement to re-establish buffalo herds (HCN, 2/2/98: We have no elders, we have no leaders).

Jarid Manos founded the council in 1997 after learning about "Buffalo Commons," a concept developed by Frank and Deborah Popper that promotes prairie ecosystem restoration in place of dwindling agriculture (HCN, 1/15/01: Plains sense).

The council plans to acquire land from a variety of sources - private, state and tribal - to create a million acres of contiguous prairie ecosystem in the Northern Plains. But the goals of the group also include social and cultural healing. "The Buffalo Commons is a model metaphor for an evolved society where we can live alongside animals and each other," says Manos.

The Great Plains Restoration Council is gaining momentum. In August, the Rosebud Sioux officially endorsed the group's Million Acre Project, the first statement of support from any community or government.

Currently, the group is establishing offices in the Northern and Southern Plains, and drafting the Buffalo Commons Neighbor Certification Program, which will outline a list of goals and agreements for people interested in donating or lending their land to the cause.

For more information about the Great Plains Restoration Council, check their Web site at, write GPRC, P.O. Box 46216, Denver, CO 80201, or call 303/575-1760.