Over the past few decades the High Plains have consistently been losing its population. So, in 1987 Doctors Frank and Deborah Popper introduced the idea of Buffalo Commons. They described this project as “A combination of literary metaphor, public-policy proposal, futurist prediction and ecological restoration project” (The Buffalo Commons: Its Antecedents). The essential focus of this project was to replace the ever decrease population by returning buffalo back to the Plains.
This plan was originally met by rejection, however, the idea eventually began to take a hold (The Onset of the Buffalo).
The name “Buffalo Commons” was actually a metaphorical name for this buffalo return plan. Buffalo was used because of the buffalo’s symbol of substance by both Native American’s and early settlers. Likewise, Commons was chosen because of the need to treat land in the same manner as the air and water, commonly rather than individually. As the popularity for the plans increased the metaphor “Buffalo Commons”, began to take the form of a term.
This metaphor, now term, is currently being used to describe the various plans that would allow for the creation of alternative futures for various regions (Buffalo Commons as Regional Metaphor). The region surrounding the Columbia River is one of the metaphors that can be found for the term “Buffalo Commons”. In this region a serious debate is taking place over the removal of some of the dams along the river. By shifting the economic dependency on the river to alternative sources there is a hope that the Native Salmon will be able to re populate and flourish in an area were they had once been plentiful (Ka-bye).
The video, “Regions and Economies-Oregon and U. S. Midwest”, focuses on the struggles between Native Americans and farmers who are both fighting for the use of the Umatilla’s water. Throughout the short film you are able to observe the many different elements that must be contended with in order to allow the dams to be either removed or limited in the amount of water being withhold. One of these elements include the farmers, who are in need this water to farm land that without it would be dessert.
Another key player are the Native Americans, who feel it is their right to remove the dams based on the fact that they ere using the Columbia’s resources before the farmer. The final major factor is the government officials and voters, who live locally and have a strong interest in what is happening and who live farther away and do not see the importance (Regions and Economics). With so many different groups each having their own view on how the water should be used, it is often very hard to come to a resolution. Rather, each, often, pushes their own agenda allowing no progress to be made that would allow for the discovery of alternative water supplies, allowing, all parties concerned to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Many times the influence of those directly involved in a restorative project, in this case it would be the Native Americans and farmers who both are in need of the water, apposing each other. However, as we saw in this video, when these opposing forces begin to work together, their voices will start to be heard and a resolution satisfactory to both will often be the result (Regions and Economics). Buffalo Commons and the shifting of water use in the Columbian region are similar in many different ways. First, both plans emerged from the shift in the environments surrounding them.
For Buffalo Commons, this shift in the environment happened as people began to leave the Plains. For the Columbian River Region the shifting came from the lack of Salmon that were able to ford the shallow portions of the rivers to make it back to the areas were they were hatched. The second similarity is the opposition that was met with the introduction of both plans from those who would need to face the changes that would come with the implementations of these proposals. However, both the Buffalo Commons and the Columbia River plans have since been looked upon with more favor.
Lastly, and most importantly, these plans both show the desire to provide regions with an alternative future. With the Buffalo Commons this future would allow for the plans to go back to their natural state with buffalo being allowed to flourish. Through this reintroduction of the buffalo it is also hoped that a profit can be made from the sale of their meat. In the Columbia River region this alternative future would also include a partial return of the Columbian to its natural state, with the reintroduction of salmon it is hoped that the region can achieve the rival of salmon stocks.
In conclusion, we see that Buffalo Commons does not only involve buffalo, rather it is a term used to describe a plan giving a region an alternative future. Although these alternative futures are often met with opposition it is important to persist in these efforts, as well as being wiling to compromise for the benefit of all involved. With a plan that would result in all parties involved being satisfied the plan will, in all likelihood, be met with success.