Northern Arizona is home to a herd of bison that attracts tourists, but worries environmentalists. Here’s what you need to know about the bison herd near the Grand Canyon.
The National Park Service is seeking comments on bison herd reduction.
The agency has struggled with the growing herd for more than a decade as the bison, which are popular with tourists but generally not considered a native species, took up permanent residence in the park, where they damaged watering holes, archaeological sites and other resources.
The animals, which are found on the North Rim of the Canyon, are descended from buffalo brought to northern Arizona in the early 1900s and cross-bred with cattle.
The agency has struggled to make a decision on various thinning options that include trapping and moving the animals and culling them with sharpshooters or hunters.
A bison herd reduction Environmental Assessment is now available for public review and comment.
The study was prepared by a coalition of government agencies who have overlapping jurisdictions in the area, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the InterTribal Buffalo Council. The groups have clashed at times over how to deal with the problem. They have even clashed over a fundamental question: Are bison native to Arizona?
Biologists estimate that the herd has grown from “approximately 100 bison to between 400 to 600 bison that currently roam the Kaibab Plateau,” according to a Park Service press release.
“Estimates also show that this bison herd could grow to nearly 800 bison in the next three years and as large as 1200 to 1500 animals within 10 years if further management actions are not taken.”
Learn more about the arrival of the American bison to Arizona and their migration to the Grand Canyon National Park.
The Park Service is concerned about damage to park resources, such as water, vegetation, soils, and archaeological sites, and hopes to quickly reduce the bison population through “lethal culling with skilled volunteers and non-lethal capture and removal.” It hopes to reduce the size of the herd in three to five years.
The agency has opened a 30-day comment period, which will close June 7.
The Park Service will have three meetings during the comment period:
- May 16, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 1175 West Route 66, Flagstaff.
- May 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. , at the Ben Avery Facility-Activities Center, 4044 W. Black Canyon Blvd., in Phoenix.
- May 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. (Utah time), 5 to 7 p.m. (Arizona time), at the Holiday Inn Express and Hotel, 217 South 100 East, Kanab, Utah.
The NPS also plans to hold one informational web-based meeting on May 30, from 5 to 6 p.m. That meeting is not open to public comment.
To read the Environmental Assessment, or to make comments electronically, go to parkplanning.nps.gov/grca_bison. Comments may be mailed to Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Attn: Bison Management Plan EA, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023.
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