The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 17, 2014

Our View: Bring the bison home to roam

Why it matters A plan to bring bison to Minneopa State Park would be a positive new amenity to Mankato's burgeoning nature tourism.

A plan to bring a bison herd back to Mankato as a part of Minneopa State Park has great potential to add another unique feature to Mankato’s burgeoning nature tourism industry.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has proposed moving part of the bison herd from Blue Mounds State Park back to a 350 acre prairie in Minneopa State Park just outside of Mankato.

It turns out that part of the bison heard is likely descended from the herd that once inhabited Sibley Park. Animals from that herd were moved to Blue Mounds when the floods of 1965 made the park uninhabitable. Under the plan Mankato could get as many as 50 of the 75 bison at Blue Mounds.

But the bison would be more than a tourist attraction. They would actually help manage the native grasses in the prairie at Minneopa. Bison tend to graze and eat the undesirable weeds and growth that come with a prairie but leave the wildflowers. They also help replenish a prairie as their large hooves push seeds dropped by plants back into the ground.

The bison at Blue Mounds are also some of the most genetically pure in the country, making them an even more interesting tourist draw. The DNR also noted it could play a role in preserving the purity of the herd as a conservation matter by bringing bison to Minneopa.

The DNR will have a 30-day comment period in April and then an open house on the proposal, but it’s bound to be met with a lot of excitement. We hope it comes to fruition. A bison herd at Minneopa would give visitors a chance to see how the Mankato area once looked in the early days. It would be a great complement to the robust offering of state parks, trails and nature areas the Mankato region already offers.

We say, bring the bison home to roam.

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