Interestingly, current scientific evidence suggests that this was not at all the "natural state" of North America, and that it was actually a temporary ecological imbalance lasting for a couple centuries after smallpox and other diseases wiped out ~95% of Native Americans after contact from the Europeans -- and suddenly the bison went essentially "unchecked".
Obviously this doesn't change the evil of their almost-extinction or the need for bison as a proper balance -- just that the gigantic hordes of bison that Europeans first witnessed likely isn't the right baseline either.
See "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" for a highly readable account of evidence on both sides from 2006.
He once investigated raising bison. Doing his due diligence, he visited a bison farm. The fences were telephone poles drilled ten feet in the ground, and highway guardrail instead of wire. Dad backed away slowly and stuck to Black Angus.
Regular fences work, as guidance really. If a bison wants to get through, they're weak as water and won't stop them.
You need telephone post thickness fence preferably cemented into the ground if you want to really stop a bison from getting out. If they are in stampede mode, you're screwed, would have to drive I beams into the ground.
Bison treat fences as guidelines really, they'll move around it if they're not in the mood to care, but if they are in a "screw this" mood, that fence is going down.
Note, when I say regular cattle fence, I mean 8 foot posts driven into the ground, with barb wire every foot to 8 inches apart. Anything less and they tend to work their way through it trying to get at grass on the other side and then no more fence. And that wire has to be taut, like string on a guitar play a note tight.
As an anecdote, even with fences like that, he had about 4-5 bison that escaped. Each one got put down to make sure the rest of the herd didn't get escape into their blood.
Where I live, there is a race literally called "The Buffalo Run" , a few miles outside Salt Lake City. There are bison everywhere including on the race path.
One of them nearly killed a runner a few months ago. 
My dad was attacked there too. (And no it didn't happen quite like the article said; he didn't stick around to give his name or tell the story.) 
* I have not looked up the numbers recently, but I recall that we could fit the entire population of the United States in to Texas with a resulting population density less than that of Manhattan. Obviously doing this is not feasible, for a number of reasons.
"For 13,000 years, many Indigenous tribes, including the Hupa, Karuk, Miwok, and Yurok lit controlled fires across northern and central California. This created a mosaic of habitats with a high diversity of species that California is known for today. Through multiple progressions of these practices, many species, such as acorns and huckleberries became associated with these deliberate, low-intensity fires. Despite their fire resistance, they are ill-equipped to tolerate the high-intensity nature of modern wildfires in California."
You might be thinking of moving the entire world's population to Texas, which would result in 56.7% of the Manhattan density (by 2017 estimates).
Of course we would still need to grow food in fields, which surely is the most space consumptious part of the population.
To compare, land we use to grow crops that we directly eat account for for ~77MM acres.
Tundra maybe, but its not really a desert. And the plains are a great spot for grazing critters like Bison. The land there is their old stomping grounds, they fit in there like jelly on peanut butter sandwiches.
Point being, a lot of people who grow up in the Eastern Half of the US think the Western half has a similar climate, when it really doesn't. It really is an arid climate and the difference between East and West is rather stark.
Here you can take a look at a map of precipitation:
They aren't convertible to cropland in the same way. Even in terms of "rewinding," one acre doesn't equal another, for most interpretations of "wilderness value."
This is why the amazon-2-pastureland problem is so serious. Every acre of amazon rainforest reoresents a lot of habitat.
City-sized sci-fi’ish pyramids, containing all the residential and non-polluting commercial and workspace needs of an average human’s entire lifetime.
Surrounded by natural wilderness that people can escape to at their leisure.
Food supply (that can’t be grown inside the arcology), energy generation (beyond the arcology’s own renewable capacity) and heavy manufacturing will still have to come from elsewhere though.
I did see the head line about Gates funding something like Argosanti.
Where are the train stations? What services at are there? Who works there? Where do they live? Where do their kids go to school? How do they get their food? Who takes care of them for medical issues?
You can recurse a few times on all that, and then you’re just in a similar situation we’re in now, except we’ve got high speed trains going everywhere. That I can agree with, but then let’s save some time and just connect existing cities by bullet train and better preserve the existing nature.
In the not-so-distant past, the term "desert" would have included what is now referred to as grasslands, savanna, or steppe environments.
Anyway, there are 10 states in the US with a lower pop density than the least densely populated country in Europe (norway, which is already quite empty). Half of the US states have less than 40 inhab per square kilometer.
Sure some are farm land but it's far from all of it https://map.onesoil.ai/2018#3.89/38.32/-98.67
But you could look at something like Bangladesh that's more of a real country rather than a city and see how they do the density. Extreme fertility for farming and high poverty helps.
Loss of life does not mean that people mislaid their mortality down the back of the sofa.
Worth going check out what they are doing at trying to reset how the prairie was. We lost such a treasured natural wonder when we destroyed the flora and killed the fauna when we "won" the west.
Dan Flores has a great book called the American Serengeti that dives into how diverse it was. We literally had something on the level of the African Veldt and all the ecological riches that we've turned into a series of unsusaintable agricultural deserts punctuated with cities and suburbs. Here is a Joe Rogan interview with Dan that is worth the listen on this and coyotes in America. Conversation meanders a bit but really is a great episode.
How does this work, thermodynamically speaking? Is it that by being culled, the plants engage in more photosynthesis overall, so there’s a net gain? What about nitrogen?
And I guess from skimming the article, that’s sort of what really happened. We just lost nearly an entire animal group (I don’t remember the proper taxonomy ranking, forgive me) because of excessive hunting.
The difference in the ecology with and without the bison is fascinating. I’m curious what other changes have happened in other parts of the world due to manmade extinction of an animal or organism group.
The damned thing is HUGE.
I cant imagine how terrifyingly amazing it would be to witness a herd of the big bastards running across plains.
He and his wife spotted a hole in the wire netting fence enclosing the lions.
They assured each other it couldn't really be a hole - after all, the park owners would be sued up the wazoo if they actually left a hole in the fence, such that a lion could potentially escape and maul a visitor.
So they crept closer and closer until they realised that yes, it really was a hole and no, there was nothing else restraining the lion within.
I explained to him after all this that sueing people was not really a thing here, and he should assume that any such holes were just that - an actual hole.
Modern zoo design largely uses things like moats to contain the animals, as they can be hidden from visitors and need dramatically less maintenance.
I guess also you just want to make sure that they don’t feel motivated to leave.