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NPS extends public comment period on North Rim bison herd after website outtage

The bison herd, originally brought to Arizona in 1906, has wandered far from its first home at House Rock Wildlife Area and now spends most of its time in the park.

The bison herd, originally brought to Arizona in 1906, has wandered far from its first home at House Rock Wildlife Area and now spends most of its time in the park.

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — The National Park Service (NPS) announced May 31 that it will extend the public comment period on the Initial Bison Herd Reduction Environmental Assessment (EA), which evaluates management actions related to bison on Grand Canyon’s North Rim until June 14.

The comment period is being extended because of an update to the NPS Planning, Environmental, and Public Comment (PEPC) website, which is being used to accept electronic comments related to this EA. The website was offline May 31 through June 5. Interested parties can submit comments any time prior to midnight June 14, 2017 via mail at Grand Canyon National Park, PO Box 129, Attn: Bison Management Plan EA, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023.

The EA was prepared in collaboration with cooperating agencies — the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 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 AZGFD 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 1200 to 1500 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 NPS 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 EA are to (1) quickly reduce 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 the impacts of a steadily growing bison population.

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 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.

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