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Route 66 News

Midewin Tallgrass Prairie may reintroduce buffalo

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, located off Route 66 near Chicago, may reintroduce native bison there as early as December, reported the United States Department of Agriculture blog.

The blog said the park may bring in 20 to 30 of the buffalo, which once roamed the Plains by the millions less than two centuries ago. Buffalo were hunted to near-extinction by the early 20th century, until conservationists intervened.

The blog said:

The Midewin, the first national tallgrass prairie, covers 19,000 acres of the former Joliet Arsenal in northeastern Illinois. It is the largest piece of contiguous open space in the Chicago metropolitan area and is located just an hour’s drive from the Windy City.

“Establishing a herd of bison on Midewin will bring more visitors to the site to view these iconic symbols of our heritage,” said Wade Spang, supervisor on the Midewin.

It will also help enhance the local economy along the nearby historic U.S. Route 66.

Along with the bison herd, the proposal will also restore 1,200 acres of non-native grasslands to more desirable habitat for grassland birds by planting a diversity of native tallgrass species such as little bluestem, Indian grass and big bluestem.

The proposal also lays out a system of multi-use trails with elevated overlooks that will surround the bison pasture. Hiking trails will be within portions of it and only opened for trail use when bison are not present. Long-term plans include a visitor tram system that travels within the pastures.

Other than the occasion bison raised by hobbyist farmers, the closest place where Route 66 can see a herd of buffalo is at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska, Okla. — more than an hour’s drive north of Route 66.

So the sight of native buffalo much closer to the Mother Road would be very enticing to travelers — especially foreigners.

(Image of a bison herd at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve by Travel Aficionado, via Flickr)

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One thought on “Midewin Tallgrass Prairie may reintroduce buffalo

  1. Linda Colby

    So where does this stand as of now. Are we going to get to see the bison restored to Midewin or not?

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