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Mr ENZI. Mr. President, today I join with my friend and colleague from the state of Colorado to introduce S. 2641, the Bison Nickel Restoration Act of 2004, and bring the image of the American Bison back to the 5-Cent coin.

The American bison is one of the most powerful symbols of the American West. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark encountered many bison on their western expedition. Native Americans in the Great Plains States have held the American bison as one of the most sacred animals, as it represents a spiritual being supplying everything necessary to survive. The bison also is an enduring symbol of the growth of the United States westward. The symbol of the bison is so powerful that the State of Wyoming has put its image on the state flag and the US Department of the Interior uses the bison image on its official seal.

Many don't realize how close we came to losing this important animal. At one time, the American bison population was conservatively estimated at 60,000,000 strong. In the early 1900's, the worldwide bison population fell below 1,000 and was virtually extinct. At that time, less than 100 free-range bison existed and there remained only 29 bison under federal government control, 21 in Yellowstone National Park and eight in the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

However, the restoration of the bison herds is one of the most shining examples of conservation efforts of our nation's history. From the dwindling number of bison in the early 1900's, it is anticipated that the North American bison herd will surpass half of a million in the next year. In addition, the bison herd of 21 in Yellowstone National Park has now grown to more than 4,000 bison. It is the largest free-range bison in the United States.

The conservation effort of the bison began in the early 1900's. At that time, the American Bison Society was formed with President Teddy Roosevelt as its honorary president. In addition, we are quickly coming upon the centennial anniversary of the signing into law by President Roosevelt the creation of the National Bison Range in Montana in 2008. While federal efforts to restore have been beyond our expectations, a very large part of the successful restoration of the bison herd is due to the private sector. Today, bison can be found in all fifty states, including Hawaii. Many anticipate that the bison population may pass 1 million by the end of the decade.

A fitting honor for the American Bison would be to restore the image on the back of the nickel. This not only would honor the restoration of the bison herd but it would a symbol of the West. It is my hope that the millions of bison nickels would inspire school children to recognize the importance of our western heritage, the importance of the bison in Native American culture, and the importance of the public/private efforts to restore the American bison. While our nation's symbol is the bald eagle there is little doubt that the symbol of the west is the American Bison.

Today, the bison ranching sector has become a viable business for many small- and medium-sized ranchers. According to a recent US Department of Agricultural census, Wyoming ranches raised 12,580 bison for agricultural purposes during 2002. Restoring the bison to our coinage is a fitting tribute especially during this July which is National Bison Month.

Thank you Mr. President.