Jason Baldes, Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative Executive Officer, Board President & Eastern Shoshone Tribe Buffalo Manager
“Buffalo was our food, our clothing, our shelter — but also central to our cultural and spiritual belief systems. It’s been missing for a long period of time, and so to restore that animal to our communities means we can begin to heal.”
Jason Baldes’ journey to restoring Buffalo began on a childhood trip to Africa with his biologist father. They visited Tanzania and Kenya together, and witnessed the wildebeest migration while tracking elephants on the Masai Mara and Serengeti plains — 1.5 million animals spread far and wide over hundreds of miles.
Jason realized then that it was merely a fraction of what the Buffalo herds of North America once were before near-extinction from eradication in the early 1900s.
“A lot of what drives me goes back to being a kid and hunting with my dad,
and talking about why we can’t hunt Buffalo.“
– Jason Baldes
His experience in Africa was an epiphany moment, and Jason came home with a newfound appreciation for his home and community. Realizing he would need academic credentials to pursue his dream of Buffalo restoration, Jason attended Montana State University and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences.
There, he published his graduate thesis titled, Cultural plant biodiversity in relict wallow-like depressions on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming, & tribal bison restoration and policy and contributed to a faculty publication, Incorporating Cultures’ Role in the Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Today, Jason is the executive director of the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative, and adjunct professor at Central Wyoming College and Wind River Tribal College. He sits on the board of directors for the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, and the board of trustees for the Conservation Lands Foundation.
He is also the Senior Tribal Buffalo Program Manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Partnerships Program, and has established resolution-based agreements and helped restore more than 100 conservation Buffalo to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes in Wind River since 2016.
A member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, Jason manages their herd and works closely with the Northern Arapaho Tribe on management of their Buffalo as well. He is always looking for ways to reacquire and expand habitat for the growing herds.
Jason resides on the Wind River reservation, on-site with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe’s Buffalo herd.
He is a caretaker, speaker, and oftentimes tour guide on behalf of the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative, and enjoys seeing the Buffalo right from his back porch.
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