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In this file photo a pair of yearling bison bulls charge into the sale pen of the refuge corrals during the 49th annual Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge bison auction.

A 49-year tradition at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is coming to an end.

The refuge has joined the Bison Conservation Initiative implemented by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt earlier this year. At the time of his announcement, Bernhardt reaffirmed the U.S. Department of the Interior’s commitment to conservation and restoration of wild American bison.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, along with other public lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, plays a vital role in the conservation of American bison. Consistent with the Bison Conservation Initiative and ongoing bison conservation efforts, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge has ended its annual bison auction.

The annual Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge bison (or buffalo) auction operated for 49 years and offered surplus bison for sale to the public.

“I know this may come as a disappointment to some of our public, as the bison auction is a beloved tradition. However, this transition supports the long-term preservation of the species and bison herds throughout the nation. Through the (Bison Conservation Initiative), the refuge continues its commitment to a healthy, genetically diverse bison conservation herd for all Americans,” Refuge Manager David Farmer said.

In 2020, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge joins the rest of the National Wildlife Refuge System in providing 100 percent donation of surplus bison to conservation partners, including tribes or intertribal organizations.

This provides for the consistent management of surplus bison throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System, supports conservation of the species and assists in the restoration of self-sustaining bison herds on conservation partner lands, including tribal lands.

The Bison Conservation Initiative will coordinate conservation strategies and approaches for the wild American bison over the next 10 years. The Interior Department and its partners have been successfully restoring populations of bison and supporting healthy herds across the nation. This plan is poised to guide collaboration between the Interior Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with states, tribes and other conservationists and land managers to advance the conservation of bison across the nation.

For more information on the BCI and American Bison conservation, visit https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/interior-and-partners-commit-long-term-initiative-conserve-american-bison.

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