In October 1871, U.S. Cavalry 1st Lt. George Smith Anderson, riding across the Kansas tallgrass prairie on his way to serve at Fort Lyon in Colorado, stopped to write a letter to his sweetheart, declaring, “I am safe in calling this a single herd [of bison], but it is impossible to approximate the millions that composed it. It took me six days on horseback to ride through it.”
Those hefty hordes would dwindle to a mere 300 bison by 1900. Today, about 350,000 bison are in the United States — about one percent of their prior population — with the largest herd living in Yellowstone National Park.
The Oniya Bison Rewilding Project, headed by Tara Shaehan, is located on 37.5 acres outside La Jara, Colorado, in Conejos County. The Rewilding Project’s goal is to have 44 million bison in North America by 2050.
On Saturday, Sep. 17, the “A Call to Rewild” fundraiser will benefit the Oniya Bison Rewilding Project, local artists, organizations and Indigenous people. The event will take place from 5 to 10 p.m. at 13 Moons Ranch, 6334 Highway 133, about four miles south of Carbondale.
The event sponsor is The Serious Type, founded by Nikki Beinstein about two years ago. The nonprofit’s mission is “empowering youth to express themselves to increase their overall mental health and sustainability of the planet.”
Beinstein drew inspiration from last fall’s Convergent Circus, held at 13 Moons Ranch, and reached out to Oriana Moebius. She and her husband, Tyler, “act as stewards” of the ranch property located at the base of Mt. Sopris.
Also a teacher at the Marble Charter School, Beinstein was looking for an opportunity to involve youth in a community festival and heard of Shaehan’s efforts with the Oniya Bison Rewilding Project. The three women connected, combining their grassroots activism and community organizing talents to create an event. In addition to raising funds, it aims to raise awareness of the environmental benefits of reintroducing bison herds to areas with nutrient-depleted soil.
Sheahan learned about the research of scientist and livestock farmer Allan Savory, whose holistic land management methods, taught at the Savory Institute in Boulder, have facilitated the regeneration of grasslands worldwide.
A research paper published in an August issue of PNAS, a peer-reviewed journal of the National Academy of Sciences, “found that reintroducing bison — a formerly dominant megafauna and the national mammal of the United States — doubles plant diversity in a tallgrass prairie… and these plant communities are resilient to an extreme drought.” The authors of the research article concluded, “Returning or ‘rewilding’ native megafauna could help to restore grassland biodiversity.”
The Serious Type, in association with 13 Moons Ranch and Conscious Global Leadership, is producing a full-length film, “Rewild Our Soul,” which will raise awareness about the benefits of bison rewilding.
Anders Carlson, director and cinematographer, has filmed a four-minute preview that can be viewed on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/740854569) and YouTube.
Mural artists Manuel Quirós and Elizabeth Argüello, who grew up together in Alajuela, Costa Rica, about 12 miles northwest of San José, were commissioned to paint an Airstream RV with a bison-themed design.
You may have recently seen the bison-beautified Airstream meandering throughout the Crystal River Valley, making stops at Carbondale’s First Friday event and the Redstone General Store for last weekend’s Redstone Art Show. The RV will be onsite Saturday night, and the artists will be on-hand to answer questions.
Quirós expects the Airstream will be driven around the country, to schools, nursing homes and Indian reservations, and that it “should be able to move and migrate just like the bison, to reach a lot of people who care about nature and each other and who are trying to bring back the bison.”
Saturday night will include a performance by singer-songwriter Dria Thornton, who has contributed as a featured and background vocalist in collaborations with American rappers Meek Mill and Logic. Thornton will be accompanied on piano by local singer-songwriter and music instructor Jimmy Byrne.
In addition, the Porcupine Singers, traditional Lakota singers from South Dakota, will perform along with a group of Native American drummers.
Other Rewild event participants include the Marble Charter School, Sustainable Settings, Sweet Root, Wild Mountain Seeds and the Redstone General Store.
The evening begins with a farm-to-table dinner from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by music and dancing from 8 to 10 p.m.
To purchase tickets, go to www.bit.ly/rewildtix