US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Conservation Biology, Volume 22, No. 2, 252–266; DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00899.x


Many wide-ranging mammal species have experienced significant declines over the last 200 years; restoring these species will require long-term, large-scale recovery efforts. We highlight 5 attributes of a recent range-wide vision-setting exercise for ecological recovery of the North American bison (Bison bison) that are broadly applicable to other species and restoration targets. The result of the exercise, the “Vermejo Statement” on bison restoration, is explicitly (1) large scale, (2) long term, (3) inclusive, (4) fulfilling of different values, and (5) ambitious. It reads, in part, “Over the next century, the ecological recovery of the North American bison will occur when multiple large herds move freely across extensive landscapes within all major habitats of their historic range, interacting in ecologically significant ways with the fullest possible set of other native species, and inspiring, sustaining and connecting human cultures.” We refined the vision into a scorecard that illustrates how individual bison herds can contribute to the vision. We also developed a set of maps and analyzed the current and potential future distributions of bison on the basis of expert assessment. Although more than 500,000 bison exist in North America today, we estimated they occupy <1% of their historical range and in no place express the full range of ecological and social values of previous times. By formulating an inclusive, affirmative, and specific vision through consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, we hope to provide a foundation for conservation of bison, and other wide-ranging species, over the next 100 years.