Letters

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) today sent a letter to the National Park Service (NPS) requesting an update on its plan to address the overpopulation of bison at Grand Canyon National Park, which continue to trample native vegetation, natural springs, and sensitive grasslands, as well as pose a public safety risk for visitors.

Over 600 bison roam inside Grand Canyon National Park and the adjoining Kaibab National Forest as part of a failed cattle/buffalo cross-breeding experiment dating back to the early 1900s. Without any natural predators, the bison population is projected to double every seven years. In the letter, the senators cite a letter from NPS dated April 13, 2015, that indicated a draft bison management plan would be released by the fall of 2015. Last year, NPS proposed an interim culling strategy in lieu of a comprehensive plan. To date, neither initiative has advanced beyond the agency’s study phase.

“We are concerned about the length of time it is taking [Grand Canyon National Park] to develop a plan to reduce the herd using volunteer hunters in coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department,” the senators write. “We would appreciate a status update on your Bison Management Plan and the Initial Bison Herd Reduction action as we evaluate our legislative options for the 115th Congress.”

During the 114th Congress, Senators McCain and Flake introduced the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act, legislation that would direct NPS to complete work on a bison management plan and allow state licensed hunters to assist the park in culling the bison population and take home the full animal carcass. The bill was passed by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but never received a vote by the full Senate. Both Senators have called upon NPS to utilize hunters as part of a larger strategy to humanely remove bison from the park.

The letter is below and here.

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Dear Superintendent Lehnertz:

We write to request a status update on the Bison Management Plan at Grand Canyon National Park (GRCA) and the Draft Environmental Assessment for Initial Bison Herd Reduction. 

As you know, approximately 600 bison roam inside Grand Canyon National Park and Kaibab National Forest.  These bison are known to trample native vegetation, natural springs, and sensitive grasslands, as well as pose a public safety risk for visitors.  The bison population is expected to double within the next seven years. 

We are concerned about the length of time it is taking GRCA to develop a plan to reduce the herd using volunteer hunters in coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  A Bison Management Plan has been under public scoping since 2014.  However, in a letter dated April 13, 2015, from NPS Director Jon Jarvis to Senator Lisa Murkwoski, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the NPS stated that a Draft EIS on the Bison Management Plan would be out for public comment by the fall of 2015.  Similarly, we received reports that the EA for Initial Bison Herd Reduction could be potentially completed by December 2016.  Yet, we are to understand that GRCA continues to debate the management status of the bison with its cooperators at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. 

You will recall that during the 114th Congress we introduced a bill to authorize and direct the National Park Service to implement a bison control plan that utilized lethal culling of bison in coordination with state wildlife officials as well as allowing hunters to remove bison meat from the GRCA.  We would appreciate a status update on your Bison Management Plan and the Initial Bison Herd Reduction action as we evaluate our legislative options for the 115th Congress.

Sincerely,

John McCain

United States Senator   

Jeff Flake

United States Senator

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