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Grand Canyon National Park eyes bison plan

Roaming buffalo create management challenges

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The buffalo are roaming in Grand Canyon National Park. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A herd of bison brought to northern Arizona in the early 1900s has moved from a state-run wildlife area into Grand Canyon National Park, and now park rangers want to develop a plan to manage the animals.

Initially, the bison were managed in the House Rock Wildlife Area for big game hunters, but in the late 1990s, the animals have pioneered their way to the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park.

Resource managers say  combination of public hunt pressure, drought and fire, and reduced forage quality in House Rock Valley during the 1990s may have contributed to the bison moving through Saddle Mountain Wilderness and onto the higher elevations of the Kaibab Plateau. Over the past several years, very few bison have returned to wildlife area. Most now spend a majority of their time inside the park.

With input of a working group that’s been meeting since 2008, the National Park Service now wants to figure out how  to manage the current and future impacts of bison on natural and cultural resources of GCNP while supporting goals for management of a free-ranging bison population outside the park.

“Stakeholder input is a central and critical part of this planning process,” stated Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga. “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,” Uberuaga said.

The first opportunity for such involvement will be during a 60-day public scoping period beginning when the Notice of Intent is published in the Federal Register. Scoping will provide the public and other interested parties the opportunity to participate early in identifying the range of issues to be considered when the NPS studies the potential environmental impacts of managing bison in the park; to identify topics and concerns that should be addressed in the EIS; and to bring forward any new information that NPS may not be aware of that would be useful in preparing the plan and EIS.
The NPS will host three in-person open house meetings during this comment period, as follows:

  • Monday, April 28, 2014
Kanab Middle School
690 S. Cowboy Way
Kanab, UT 84741
6:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 29, 2014
High Country Conference Center
201 W. Butler Ave
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
6:00-8:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Activities Center
4044 W. Black Canyon Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ 85086
6:00-8:00 p.m.

The NPS also plans to hold two informational web-based meetings the week after the in-person open houses.  In the coming weeks, please check the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grca_bison_eis.

Interested parties will be able to submit scoping comments either electronically on the PEPC web site (the preferred method of receiving comments); via U.S. Postal Service at Grand Canyon National Park, PO Box 129, Attn: Bison Management Plan EIS, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023; or at one of the in-person public meetings the NPS will be holding during the 60-day scoping period. Public comments will not be accepted during the web-based meetings; rather participants will be directed to the PEPC web site to enter their comments.

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