It’s been about 30 years in the making, but bison have returned to the State of Illinois, and they’re bringing positive economic and environmental news with them.
Cody Considine, the restoration ecologist at Nachusa Grasslands, a non-profit organization, said he can’t quantify the exact economic impact of the bison’s return, but he is seeing a larger number of people coming out to the “Autumn on the Prairie” Annual Celebration.
“We usually averaged around 500-700 people prior to the bison, and as soon as we got the bison, that number doubled the very next year,” Considine said. “The evidence clearly shows the attraction, the impact of just people’s interest in wanting to come out and see a glimpse of what Illinois used to look like.”
Considine also said recreating an environment that benefits the bison has had a positive impact on Illinois.
“They are also providing us people with clean air, clean water, and they are doing that essentially without having to create large industrial air cleaners or sewage treatment plants.”
Nachusa Grasslands has spearheaded efforts to recreate an environment suitable for the bison’s return. Considine said his non-profit organization has made great strides in bringing the bison back in the past several years.
“It took probably two-and-a-half to three years of planning, and fundraising, just to get our heads around figuring out how they would do on this landscape,” Considine said.
Bison repopulating has occurred elsewhere in the state, but with some local resistance by the agricultural community. Efforts by the USDA to repopulate the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, previously knows as the Joliet Ammunitions Arsenal, with bison meant cattle farmers that had leased the land for decades were forced out.
–Illinois News Network