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Two bison and snow-capped mountains

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge | Community Relations

Home on the Range

The Challenge
On St. Patrick’s Day 2007, a herd of 16 wild American bison made a triumphant return to the land northeast of Denver. Although their journey from Montana to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge was a smooth one, preparing and building support for their arrival required a multiagency effort conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army and MGA Communications for Shell Oil Co.

The MGA Solution
Since the 1980s, the U.S. Army and Shell Oil Co. have been completing an environmental cleanup of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to transform it into a premier urban national wildlife refuge. The Refuge today encompasses more than 12,000 acres.

Because the Refuge sits within a densely populated urban area, it was important to answer residents’ questions about how the bison could be safely managed. The communications team began building awareness about the bisons’ impending arrival by leading an extensive community outreach program that included community briefings and a public meeting. The team also launched a media relations campaign and secured pre-event stories about the journey of the bison from Montana to Colorado. Highlighting the cultural and historical significance of the reintroduction by including Native American participation and involving the community also placed the species reintroduction within the larger context of a national conservation effort. 

At the End of the Day
The bison arrival garnered worldwide media coverage and attracted roughly 150 guests locally. The event became the signature celebration of a national conservation effort, evoking the majesty and mystery of the American West and sparking an unprecedented wave of community support for the bison and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Key Results

  • Hosted 18 pre-event community briefings, and a public meeting that netted 1,500 comments in support of the bison reintroduction.
  • Six national news outlets ran the story, including the Associated Press, Reuters and The Washington Post, resulting in more than 34 million media impressions spanning from San Francisco to London to Australia.
  • Visitation to the Refuge more than doubled following the event.

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