GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Because of damage to archaeological sites, water sources and natural resources, federal officials are investigating ways to manage a herd of around 350 bison on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Brought to the Grand Canyon area in the early 1900s as part of a hybrid breeding experiment, Arizona Game and Fish took over the herd's management in 1950 in the House Rock Wildlife Area (HRWA) on the Kaibab National Forest through an interagency agreement with the Forest Service.
The bison began migrating to the top of the Kaibab Plateau and onto park land in the 1990s looking for better foraging, water sources and safety from hunters. Few bison have returned to the area and most now spend a majority of their time inside the park, with many not leaving.
"Sometimes there's a herd out there on the meadows as you approach the park. People pull over, walk out there and take pictures. They are very much afraid of the public because they are hunted. They run into the woods if you get close at all," Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said. "We are worried about visitor safety because there are some places where you might be surprised, but for the most part they are very skittish and averse to public contact."
Federal agencies are working together to develop a plan to drive the bison back onto the northern part of the Kaibab Plateau where they can be hunted and kept at manageable levels. Before a plan is finalized, however, the National Park Service (NPS) is putting on a series of informational public hearings and webinars to collect feedback.
"Our overall effort would be to make sure the animals are available for harvest over time," Uberuaga said. "The management plan would be to figure out how we might best do that."
The NPS will host three in-person open house meetings during this comment period: on April 28 at the Kanab Middle School from 6 to 8 p.m., April 29 at High Country
Conference Center in Flagstaff from 6 to 8 p.m and April 30 from 6-8 p.m. at the Arizona Game and Fish Department Activities Center in Phoenix. During this time, officials will educate the public on topics and concerns and take comments.
"Stakeholder input is a central and critical part of this planning process," Uberuaga said. "We look forward to engaging interested members of the public, other agencies, tribes, and organizations to get their ideas. We appreciate the on-going collaboration of the U.S. Forest Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and look forward to working with the Bureau of Land Management as we work through this process."
The Park Service will put on two webinars the week after the in-person open houses. More information will be available in the coming weeks on the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website at www.parkplanning.nps.gov/grca_bison_eis.
People can submit comments on the PEPC website, which is preferred, or via mail at Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Attn: Bison Management Plan EIS, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023. People can also give comments at one of the NPS in-person public meetings. The park will not accept comments during the web-based meetings. Instead, participants should go to the PEPC website to enter comments.