Park Officials Seek Public Input in Grand Canyon Bison Management

Apr 30, 2014

The National Park Service is holding a public comment period regarding the management of a bison herd on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, some wildlife advocacy groups are pushing for the animals to remain in the park.

Bison on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Credit AP/Kaibab National Forest

According to officials, more than 350 bison within the Grand Canyon’s boundaries have damaged archaeological sites and ecosystems in recent years. Now, they want to limit the bison’s negative effects by curbing the animals’ numbers, relocating them to outside the park, or even eradicating the population altogether.

Tom Martin is the co-director of the environmental group River Runners for Wilderness.

“We want to encourage the park to consider this small-herd option. And if that’s the direction that the Park Service is going, then we’re all hand-in-hand singing ‘Kumbaya’ … This species has a place in the North American continent, just like the condor does.”

Ranchers brought bison to the Grand Canyon region in the early 20th century. But, Martin says evidence shows the animals existed in northern Arizona thousands of years earlier.

In the 1990s environmental and human pressures caused the bison to migrate from the House Rock Wildlife Area near the Vermillion Cliffs. Recently, the herd has resided almost exclusively within Grand Canyon National Park’s boundaries. Since few large predators exist in the area and hunting isn’t allowed in the Grand Canyon, bison numbers have surged, along with damage to the park.

After the public comment period, the National Park Service will draw up an environmental impact statement followed by a bison-management plan, which is expected in 2016.