We tend to get a little annoyed when legislators start naming things as state or national symbols. It's usually something legislators do when they are tired of twiddling their thumbs, and the things they designate don't always make sense. Does Minnesota really need a state muffin? (It's the blueberry muffin, in case you didn't know).
But we are solidly behind the legislation proposed by western congressmen to make the American Bison the "national mammal." The bison, or buffalo, is North America's largest land mammal. At one time it numbered in the millions, roaming the prairies in large, thundering herds. It was the mainstay of plains Indian tribes, who hunted it for food, clothing and shelter.
It was nearly hunted to extinction before President Theodore Roosevelt and others intervened to preserve it. From 1,000 bison in 1900, it now numbers about 500,000, most living on preserves and national parks.
In some ways, the bison is symbolic of the history of America and its rich resources, our tendency to waste those resources at one time, and our efforts now to restore and preserve them.
No one who has seen bison up close can forget their immense size and majesty. As a nation, we could do a lot worse than make the bison our national mammal.