Thanks to a land swap involving the 22,000-acre Don Kelly Ranch, bison have returned to portions of South Dakota’s Badlands for the first time since the 1870s. Engineered by the US Forest Service and the World Wildlife Fund among others, the land trade facilitates migration of bison from the western portions of Badlands National Park into the central area of the park’s North Unit. According to Smithsonian magazine, the agreement expanded the bisons’ range by 22,000 acres to more than 80,000 acres, an area more than one-and-a- half times the size of Manhattan. Prior to the arrival of European settlers and their descendants, bison were the most numerous single species of large wild mammals on earth. Although they numbered in the millions, by the close of the 19th century, they had been hunted to the brink of extinction.
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