I recently got to enjoy one of my favorite days of the year in South Dakota, the annual Buffalo Roundup. I appreciate each and every day that I have the privilege to serve you as governor, but the day of the Buffalo Roundup is truly special. It incorporates South Dakota’s culture, heritage, outdoor spirit, and love for freedom, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun to boot.
For those of you who don’t know, the event takes place every year on the last Friday in September in Custer State Park. The Park is home to a herd of about 1,400 bison, and every year they are rounded up so that we can tend to them and even sell some to help grow other herds. This year, I especially appreciated the opportunity to ride alongside my daughter Kassidy, my son-in-law Kyle, and a few champion rodeo cowboys as we herded the bison across fields and into the corrals.
This year’s Buffalo Roundup included a crowd of more than 20,000 people, with visitors from around the country. Many of them came to South Dakota because they heard that we’re open and wanted to experience it for themselves. The Buffalo Roundup was the perfect venue to help them fall in love with our state; there’s nothing more free than a bison herd thundering by. Several visitors came up to me, jaws dropped, to let me know just how awe-struck they were by the display.
When I was in Congress, I led efforts to name the bison as America’s National Mammal, and we got that bill passed in 2016. It’s estimated that in the late 1800s, fewer than 1,000 bison were alive in the United States. After more than a century of steady conservation efforts, those numbers have swelled to more than 500,000 in America today. Those efforts are largely thanks to the Custer State Park bison herd, because our herd has some of the best genetics in the country. Every year, we sell some of these bison to intersperse their genetics with those of other herds, improving the health of the species’ population across the country.
This fantastic event stands as a testament to the spirit of conservation in our state. We love South Dakota’s breathtaking landscapes and wide-open spaces. We love the wildlife that roams our state. We believe that we can conserve our natural beauty through careful management, while avoiding unnecessary government overreach.
In South Dakota, we hunt, we fish, and we care for our wildlife. We’re home to the beautiful Black Hills and the awesome Badlands, among countless other natural wonders. And we work to protect this natural beauty through responsible stewardship. But it doesn’t require a government takeover of the environment. One bright side to these last several months is that countless folks have headed back outdoors for the first time in a long while. And no event highlights South Dakota’s amazing outdoors as well as the Buffalo Roundup.