Officials in Dakota County are looking to reintroduce bison to a park near Hastings and Rosemont next year.
On Friday, community leaders broke ground on the project at Spring Lake Park Reserve. The county plans to introduce 15 bison to the area in fall of 2022.
The bison will help native wildflowers and grasses grow in the area, according to the announcement.
“Drought conditions across the state are highlighting the importance of grasses and biodiversity on the land,” Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said in a statement. “The multiple benefits that this is going to bring to this area and to this park are going to be seen.”
The project is funded with $560,000 from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which was approved by the state Legislature. The money will pay for fencing around the area where the bison are to roam.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, bison were once common in Minnesota prairies, but suffered significant population loss in the 1900s due to hunting and habitat loss.
Today, bison can be seen at Blue Mounds State Park and Minneopa State Park, along with the Minnesota Zoo.
The project is also supported by Upper Sioux Community and other Indigenous groups in the area, according to the announcement.
“We’re committed to honoring the important relationship between the bison and the Dakota people,” Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik said in a statement.