The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is working to restore the bison population in Minnesota. Alexander Watson from the DNR explains how lottery dollars have gone on to benefit Minnesota State Parks and bison in Minnesota. The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which receives a portion of Minnesota Lottery proceeds, has supported this project.

"Two hundred years ago, there were tens of millions of bison in North America. Within a human lifespan, they had been slaughtered and reduced to just handfuls. Nobody knows exactly how many bison survived, but it's thought that all bison living today descended from as few as 100 individuals. 

The Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd was able to be created because of this grant from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. This project allowed us to return bison to Minneopa State Park after they've been absent for at least 150 years, perhaps 170 years since a bison had passed through Minneopa State Park. There's a lot that needed to happen to get the park ready. This project funded a handling facility and the restoration of a wetland so that the bison can always find water year-round. The project also funded improvements to roads so visitors can drive through the range at Minneopa State Park and have a unique experience viewing the bison at the park. It funded critical signage to let visitors know how to safely view the bison and it funded exhibits to let people know about the herd, why the herd exists, and what it means to people throughout the state. 

We've seen an increase of about 70 percent in the attendance at Minneopa State Park since bison have arrived. At Blue Mound State Park the project funded a unique vehicle that allows us to take participants, including visitors who need a wheelchair, into the prairie to get first-hand experiences on what a prairie feels like, what it smells like, what it looks like, and because it goes into the bison habitat we may at times even get very close to bison. 

Bison can be a symbol of how in a heartbeat resources that are large and extremely common can nearly disappear if we're not careful. This project allows these bison to be symbols of hope that if we work hard enough, we can restore and we can manage our resources wisely."

More than $2.9 billion in lottery proceeds have helped our state, including more than $1.2 billion to preserve, restore and protect Minnesota’s environment and $1.7 billion to help fund state programs including education, public safety and health & human resources.