The end of the cattle industry looms now, as overly-manipulative agriculture practices continue to degrade beef herds. At the same time, there is taking place a resurgence in bison numbers, in tandem with a perspective that holds reverence for the bison’s principle shepherd and guardian, the wolf.

In terms of the spiritual ecology of human nature, it could be said that those aspects of the soul within us that are aligned with the essence of the Bison, qualities of endurance, vigilance, stamina, and vigor are arising to counteract the destitution of the mass-meat industry.

The depletion of the land through non-organic processes, plus the depopulation of the prairies, have set the stage for the inevitable return of the most fitting animal populations, with the bison holding the center of the eco-region. (See also an upcoming article from Earth Vision on the re-assertion of the natural boundaries, those borders that shall inevitably replace our current national and/or state and provincial borders, which now grow increasingly meaningless.) Thus, “The Buffalo Commons,” or strategy to re-populate and rescue the degraded terrain at the heart of the North American continent.

Averaging 2,000 pounds, the largest mammal in the western hemisphere, bison have the tremendous evolutionary advantage of being adapted to the plains environment. Evidence of its inter-connection with the land on an elemental basis is revealed in an evolved synergy. For example, some of the original prairie grasses can only reproduce by passing through the bison’s digestive tract.

It costs about half as much to raise a bison compared to a cow, while bison meat can bring in almost twice the profit. Bison can sustain themselves on an intact ecosystem without grain or medicinal supplements. On a continuum that measures etheric vitality of an organism, ranging from feeble to powerful, the position of the bison would register on the high end, in the arena of remarkable vitality. Interesting to note is that relocation of bison has begun in Siberia (July/2007), where they had died out 5,000 years ago.

Although still viable in enclosed fields, the bison’s optimal situation is one of open-range, north-south corridors. This is a migratory animal. Corridors of substantial size will best facilitate the ultimate forum of return.

Part and parcel of this renaissance includes the wolf, which can be restored to its role as shepherd and strengthener of the bison. The slaughter of wolves and the demise of the cattle industry go hand in hand. There is no way around this. Without wolves to complete the tableau, it’s a waste of land and resources to maintain any herd, domestic or wild.

Numerous accounts in natural history reportage depict a feeling of rapture in the human experience of the Great Plains. From the perspective of spiritual ecology this experience can be seen as an inversion, a turning inside-out, of the landscape’s key natural inhabitants.

Beneath the snow, across the broad grasslands of the bison’s range, there sleeps an extraordinary exuberance of prairie green and herb. Though dormant this time of year, the landscape is possessed of an uncommon vitality poised in superb balance. On the Great Plains it is too wet for desert, too dry for forest, and thus arises the grass-stalk sea of chlorophyll.

Among the over 140 species of grasses and sedges we find:

The tall - blue stem/turkey foot, switch grass, and Indian grass.
The mid-sized - needle and thread, rough fescue, and bluejoint.
The low, creeping diminutives – blue grama, galleta, and buffalo grass.

And every herbaceous plant, despite its simplistic label, is a doorway into a rarefied being:
crocus pincushion cactus primrose
harebell bluebonnet paintbrush
wood lily sunflower prickly poppy
milkweed blue vervain vetch

By adapting to limitations, the array of prairie flora has long risen to the region’s weather challenges. To the stress of evaporative forces, the sea of grass conserves water, grows cilia, shapes into non-porous, thin forms. Even so, this photosynthetic vault represents an affluence that is only a fraction of the total biotic essence. Because 70% of the plant mass lies below ground, as we gaze across these fields, our vision needs penetrate into the subsoil.
Passage into the intertwine of the deep grassroots leads to an inverted forest growing in the darkness, a complex multi-facetted realm, populated with teeming microbial organisms - mites, springtails, nematodes, fungi, protozoans, bacteria, and a compendium of others.

And Great Plains weather:
Four winds, as contending air masses, orchestrate a mixture of influences. At times, there persists dramatic turbulence with subtle energy interchanges proceeding between earth and atmosphere. Skies stretch broadly, over-doming consciousness. Here, the highest incidence of tornadoes dances their mad dervish upon Earth. Frontal thunderstorms, moody fogs, periodic drought, colliding cloudbursts, and the clash of opposing systems can counterpoint searing light, bracing cold, or mild, serene passages.

And a potent re-agent, rising upon kindle, empowered by lightning, sweeps through from time to time with its fiery embrace, reducing ground cover to life-giving ash. However renascent this influence, trees that dare try to inhabit here will be eradicated, if not by aridity, then surely by flame.
Various associates of the bison, mobile plains dwellers - pronghorn antelope, elk, raccoon, fox, owl, blackbird, sage, grouse, prairie chicken, deer mouse, striped skunk, meadowlark - each presents itself as a volume to study and explore.

Here is prairie dog, beaver of the grasslands, re-arranging the flora, feeding an array of predators, housing the burrowing owl, singing in high-pitched tones that visit the horizon of our subconscious perception with intricate expression.
Above soars the broad-winged hawk, circling over its biotic empire. And below, the pronghorn races across our audacity, hurtling with utmost speed, as visions of zephyr swim in its eyes. What invisible wing lends it flight? What forces of counterpoise permit it to consume the solvent-bearing sagebrush? Against what inner complacency can our antelope momentum ever fail?

Coyote darts, a golden streak, trickster yellow fur and amber eye. And in the afternoon of America’s fall from decorum, coyote and badger join as friends, cohorts in partnership, at times patrolling the bottomlands, a duet of carnivore hunting down conjecture, instigating a harmony to counteract the dissonance strewn across the land from human frailty, the dis-ease of materialism.

And at the heart of the eco-region? - pawing beneath the snow with the hoof of constancy, lowing a song of staunch bearing, as a mantra floating across the prairie, shouldering an entire ecosystem upon its ample withers, there ranges a bovine Atlas.
All in all, a biotic dynasty spreads out here. And beneath the understory, beneath the ground of unconscious questing, across the deep-rooted strength of character, and within these chambers of illustrious and immutable loyalty to ecological resplendence, there thrives evidence that a future earth, uncontainable and transcendent, waits to be tapped.

Prairie lends itself to broad vision - in a compendium of ways and meanings. It invites existential farsight and windows to the future.

Despite oppression, First Nations wisdom and vision continue to permeate the substrate, to weave an understanding of eco-sensibility across the land. . . Pawnee. . Lakota. . .Omaha. . . Crow. . .Arapaho. . . names that comprise an earthen phraseology, names that sound as nature-music, prayers rising in pentatonic counterpoint.

And in this arena, where, to the unawakened eye the land appears flat and featureless, sacred places, such as “Pahaku” wait in faultless patience, for their lifeblood to flow again, for their breathing to respire into a vessel for slaking human spirit longing.

Pahaku, and others, endure as retreats for spirits of prairie beings - like earth lodges, where a tale of a boy brought back to life foreshadows a terrain waiting to be reborn. In shamanistic drama, magical animal spirits, residing in a sacred earth chamber, cure a person of a chronic malaise, or help to mend tears in the social fabric of a community.

In summary:
A long hard look at beef reveals:
Over-domestication/ long term degeneration/ treatment with pharmaceuticals/ high fat content/ overly-coddled/ removal of the strengthening force of predation leading to continual degeneration of the cattle spirit and constitution.
If you wanted to degenerate a species you would start by eliminating its principle shepherd of strength, the predators. Then you would coddle its weaknesses, put it on antibiotics, and other artificial substances to prop it up, toy with its biotic form (hormones, etc.), confine it to over-crowded conditions, ignore its spiritual aspect, treat it as a commodity, and feed it non-organic, mono-culture crops, even worse, GM fodder.
Of course, above and beyond all such considerations related to its relationship with animals, humanity, as it raises its countenance to a new dawn, will be consuming less meat.
Population dynamics indicate dwindling human habitation across the Great Plains. An older demograph remains, as the young have been intuitively turning away, ostensibly to seek a better life in the city, yet at least in part to escape from the mindset of an entrenched lifestyle.

Recent activity by the human community, a rise in gestures of compassion toward the animal kingdom, indicate a gain in momentum, as “progress” (and such related mythologic notions) re-frames its focus.

A growing base of liberated land begins, also, to build momentum, land put aside for ecological reserves, or for bison range. At present, ten large areas (over 4,000 square miles) can be identified. It’s a good beginning.

Here, in the heart of the continent, where the center must be re-won by eco-activists through all means possible, the spiritual forces of past and present biotic beings await a transfiguration. In time, once the center is held, occupied with all strength, by the forces of life and nature’s power, the whole of the continent can be accessed. In all directions the restoration of nature can proceed, once its hub can be relied on as a base.
Like the strategy of a sport played on field or court, whoever occupies the center shall prevail.

Across the Great Plains, through countless deep and holy winters, the bison and wolf populations thrived, and evolved an intricate relationship, along with numerous prairie flora. The process was interrupted, subjugated by human activity that undertook a failed experiment in “modern” agriculture.

Now, the more we envision the dismantling of fences, and the return of bison and wolf and prairie vegetation, the more we empower it. Let humanity across the Great Plains move forward by embracing the visionary stance of the Lakota, who were aware that of those who aspire to walk a path that leads to the ways of White Buffalo Calf Woman: only the pure of heart can survive a direct encounter with such a spiritual being.

This report was prepared by Josef Graf of the Earth Vision project - bringing spiritual ecology to environmental issues.
Earth Vision – http://www.evsite.net

Further information and resources on the return of bison and wolf:

By 1890, herds were reduced to less than 1,000. As of 2007, over ½ million bison now inhabit the continent on over 5,000 farms.

What’s wrong with this picture: there are fifty million dogs in America, but only 10,000 wolves.

Links to explore:

“Return of the Bison - Renewing Amerindian Guardianship of the Environment”:
“Cattle grazing must be permanently off limits on public lands in the interest of present and future generations of Americans. Cattle is destructive to the environment while bison improve the land.”
http://www.uneco.org/return_of_the_bison.html

Bison Grazing Increases Biodiversity in Grasslands:
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=102889

The Return of Bison to Sauk Prairie:
http://www.muscodabison.com/Bison/Articles/The_bison_will_return_to_Sauk...

Heart of the West:
http://www.wild-earth.org/cms/page1113.cfm

Conservationists Creating Bison Preserve (ENN):
http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/3049

Once Hated Gray Wolf Thrives in the Rockies (ENN):
http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/720

Eating Bison over beef is said to waylay diabetes. Return of Bison to Wyoming tribal lands.
“Tribal organization is committed to reestablishing buffalo herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes economic development, cultural enhancement, ecological restoration, and spiritual revitalization.”
-InterTribal Bison Co-operative:
http://www.itbcbison.com/links.php

More bison resources:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/buffalo/resc.html

Author's Bio: 

Dubbed “a modern Thoreau” by one reviewer, Josef Graf’s diverse background was bound to culminate in the Earth Vision project. A split degree in Sociology/Ecology was followed by work as a trail guide, co-ordinator of a nature interpreting program, assistant to Native cultural enhancement, radio host, and Waldorf teacher. Blending this array of experience with graduate study in the “university of wilderness,” plus two decades of anthroposophical research to penetrate to the heart of both human and wild natures, has generated the spiritual ecology of Earth Vision