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DENVER (KDVR) — The 36th and final Genesee-based Bison Auction was recently hosted by Denver Parks and Wildlife, and now they have launched a replacement program aimed at returning the bison to their natural habitat.

The Parks and Recreation Department of Denver is giving 13 bison to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma to increase the natural diversity across their tribal lands.

A single bison was also gifted to the Tall Bull Memorial Council of Colorado and will be the first iteration of these annual donations scheduled to occur until 2030.

“Bison restoration efforts teach us how to be better stewards of the land, improve prairie landscapes and ecosystems, ensure the genetic diversity of the species, and ensure a legacy of cultural understanding,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

DPR manages two ‘conservation bison herds’ that consist of the descendants of the last wild bison in North America.

At the turn of the 20th century, the North American free-range bison population had been whittled down to less than 1,000. However, things are improving, and that number has increased to 31,000.  

Denver’s American Indian Commission, the Tall Bull Memorial Council, and the InterTribal Buffalo Council partnered with DPR to help get the donation into capable hands most likely to help increase the species population.

According to City Councilwoman Jamie Torres, this program is part of the ‘Land Acknowledgement’ policy adopted in 2020 by the Denver City Council that aims to “dismantle ongoing legacies of oppression and inequity.”

“This donation is the result and culmination of a very long, storied history and relationship with the State of Colorado,” said Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Governor Reggie Wassana. ”The Tribes plan to use the donated bison as a cultural, conservation and educational resource.”