National Park Service extends public comment period on bison herd reduction

A bison from the genetically pure Henry Mountains herd in Southern Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Dustin Ranglack, St. George News

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — The National Park Service has announced it will extend the public comment period on the initial bison herd reduction environmental assessment, which evaluates management actions related to bison on Grand Canyon’s North Rim.

The environmental assessment will now be available for public review and comment from June 5-14.

The environmental assessment was prepared in collaboration with cooperating agencies – the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the InterTribal Buffalo Council.

The bison on the park’s North Rim descended from animals brought to northern Arizona in 1906. In the 1990s the bison herd, which the Arizona Game and Fish Department has managed in the House Rock Wildlife Area on the Kaibab National Forest since 1929, began venturing onto the North Rim of the park.

Most of the bison herd now spends a majority of its time inside the park.

Biologists estimate that since the early 1990s the herd has grown from approximately 100 bison to between 400 to 600 bison that currently roam the Kaibab Plateau. Estimates also show that this bison herd could grow to nearly 800 bison in the next three years and as large as 1,200 to 1,500 animals within 10 years if further management actions are not taken.

Given the current bison distribution, abundance and density and the expected growth of this herd, the park service is concerned about increased impacts on park resources such as water, vegetation, soils and archaeological sites, and on values such as visitor experience and wilderness character.

The purpose of the actions evaluated in this environmental assessment are to quickly reduce bison population density in collaboration with other agencies with jurisdiction for bison management on the Kaibab Plateau and to protect Grand Canyon National Park resources and values from the impacts of a steadily growing bison population.

Through the preferred alternative and by working together with cooperating agencies and partners, the park service would reduce the bison herd to fewer than 200 animals using lethal culling with skilled volunteers and nonlethal culling through capture and removal.

Considering the size of the current bison population, the proposed herd reduction could be achievable over a period of three to five years and is consistent with recommendations for a herd size that would reduce or prevent impacts on park resources.

The comment period is being extended because of an update to the National Park Service Planning, Environmental, and Public Comment website which is being used to accept electronic comments related to this environmental assessment. The website is expected to be back online by Monday.

Interested parties can still submit comments electronically on the PEPC website after June 5 at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grca_bison.

Parties can also submit comments anytime through June 14 via U.S. Postal Service to:

Grand Canyon National Park

Attn: Bison Management Plan EA

PO Box 129

Grand Canyon, Ariz., 86023

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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