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7:49 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

NPS seeking public comments on bison reduction plan

AZGFD wants hunting as a preferred method of removal

Buffalo on the Kaibab. These buffalo, or bison,  on the Kaibab National Forest are creating a problem for the Grand Canyon National Park, according to the National Park Service. NPS is asking for public input on how these animal numbers can be reduced.

RUSS JACOBY/For The Miner

Buffalo on the Kaibab. These buffalo, or bison, on the Kaibab National Forest are creating a problem for the Grand Canyon National Park, according to the National Park Service. NPS is asking for public input on how these animal numbers can be reduced.

For years there has been a big dispute brewing up on the north Kaibab that involves the largest game mammal, the buffalo, in Arizona.

The dispute involves the National Park Service, which is in charge of the Grand Canyon National Park, and the Arizona Game & Fish Department, which manages wildlife on the north Kaibab where a large herd of buffalo or bison have lived for years.

The problem is that the bison herd has expanded and haven’t figured out that they should stay out of the park where no hunting is allowed.

What the bison have discovered is that hunters can’t pursue them in the park, so they’ve taken up residence there and move back and forth between the park and the north Kaibab National Forest, which has a southern boundary that ends at the northern end of the GCNP.

Now it appears that the long standing dispute is coming to a head. The NPS has put out an Environmental Assessment and is asking for public input on their plans.

And the Arizona Game & Fish Department, which is in charge of managing wildlife in Arizona including the North Rim, isn’t happy about the NPS not including sportsmen when thinning out the excess numbers of buffalo there.

The NPS is saying that since the 1990s, the buffalo herd on the Kaibab Plateau has grown significantly. They allege that the increased numbers are “impacting Grand Canyon National Park resources such as water, vegetation, soils and archaeological sites.”

The park also states that the buffalo impact, “Values such as visitor experience and wilderness characteristics.”

The AZGFD disagrees with that last part of the NPS statement. The AZGFD’s position is, “Bison can provide exceptional value to the visitor experience, when managed at appropriate numbers and distribution.”

So you can see the problem.

Here is what the NPS wants to do.

The EA they have put out states, “The purpose of the actions evaluated in the EA are to (1) quickly reduce the bison population density in collaboration with other agencies with jurisdiction for bison management on the Kaibab Plateau, and (2) protect Grand Canyon National Park resources and values from impacts of a steadily growing bison population.”

Here is where the rub comes in with the AZGFD and most sportsmen.

“Through the preferred alternative, the NPS working together with cooperating agencies and partners, would reduce the bison herd to fewer than 200 animals using lethal culling with skilled volunteers and non-lethal capture and removal,” the NPS said.

The NPS states the herd reduction it seeks could be accomplished over a three to five year period.

The AZGFD noted that the use of citizen hunters is not included in the Park Service’s preferred alternative to reducing the bison herd. “The Department has consistently advocated for a model that uses properly licensed hunters as a management tool that allows the hunters to keep the animal that they harvest.”

Kurt Davis is a commissioner on the Arizona Game & Fish Commission. “Several of the proposed actions in the Park Service EA will cost taxpayers far more money than lethal removal by citizen hunters who would pay for the opportunity to assist the NPS,” Davis said. “This will provide additional hunting opportunities consistent with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and help properly manage the bison population.

“This approach just makes sense and supports efforts to alleviate damage caused by bison, saves tax dollars, funds wildlife conservation, and helps protect habitat for other wildlife.”

So there you have it. And what do you think? Should the NPS allow “skilled volunteers” to shoot the bison?

Or should they work with the AZGFD to let sportsmen, who are arguably “skilled volunteers,” do the hunting and keeping of the excess animals?

Here is a question I have sent to the NPS. If that preferred alternative is selected, and the so-called “skilled volunteers” are used to shoot these excess bison, who then gets the meat and skins?

Buffalo meat is delicious and nutritious, and the heads and skins are highly sought not only by sportsmen, native tribes, and museums, but the general public as well.

The NPS is in the middle of a 30-day comment period that will end June 7.

Arizona citizens and sportsmen alike have the opportunity to weigh in on this action.

You can send in your comments by writing to NPS at Grand Canyon National Park, ATTN: Bison Management Plan EA, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon AZ 86023.

It is interesting that the NPS has stated they will not accept electronically submitted comments on this EA.

For further information on this issue, click on NPS Bison EA, then find the Initial Bison Herd Environmental Assessment.

You can read the information at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectId=49574.

You can also go the AZGFD website at www.azgfd.com where you can read a story about the proposed bison reduction.