​Passage: Honoring America's Bison

It happened this past week ... recognition, at long last, for a beloved, but nearly decimated beast.

Both the House and Senate approved legislation designating the bison as the National Mammal of the United States.

The measure now goes to the President for his signature.

Once numbered in the millions, bison -- also known as buffalo -- long ruled the Great Plains.

But beginning in the 19th century, overhunting to the point of mass slaughter nearly wiped the bison off the face of the Earth.

shooting-buffalo-on-the-line-of-the-kansas-pacific-railroad-1871-620.jpg
This 1871 engraving depicts the shooting of bison on the line of the Kansas-Pacific Railroad. Library of Congress

By the time protective legislation was passed in late 1800s, only a thousand or so survived.

Still, the mystique of the bison never faded. It graces the seal of the Federal Department of the Interior ... not to mention the state flags of Wyoming and Kansas.

Nature: Bison

And from 1913 to 1938, there was a buffalo on the back of every nickel struck by the U.S. Mint.

Today, tens of thousands of buffalo roam the American West once more.

Some 200,000 others can be found in commercial herds.

Not quite a full restoration -- but a return of the bison to its rightful place by any measure.

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