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ai generated image of a brown bison on an open green field

A Win For Alberta’s Plains Bison

The Banff herd has grown from 16 to 80, with plans to expand the area where the bison can roam

Banff National Park’s program to bring back plains bison has been hailed as a success by Parks Canada. The agency conducted a month-long assessment, gathering feedback from interested groups, including Indigenous peoples and the public.

The feedback showed strong support for the bison reintroduction. Parks Canada’s report highlighted several themes that emerged during the process.

First, the program was designed to help the bison survive for the long haul. The program worked with other groups to ensure enough bison were around. Finally, the project recognized how special bison are to Indigenous communities and respected their beliefs.

Since the reintroduction began, the bison population has grown from 16 to 80 animals and is projected to reach hundreds in the coming years. During the consultation process, different ideas for managing the population were discussed.

a photo of an alberta plains bison eating plains grass with expansive plains in the background
An Alberta plains bison enjoying some grass | Badlands C. Olson | Alberta Wilderness Association

One suggestion was “planned harvesting.” That’s government-speak for hunting. 

Commenters explained that they supported this approach because it would provide opportunities for traditional harvesting by Indigenous peoples.

They also suggested conducting regulated harvests (“hunting”) outside Banff National Park.

Expanding the range for the bison was another idea raised during the consultations. Almost nine in ten respondents supported the idea of an expanded area for the bison.

“Many respondents identified the importance of Parks Canada working in collaboration with the Government of Alberta and nearby stakeholders to achieve expansion of the area the herd can roam,” said Parks Canada in its report. 

Many people emphasized the importance of collaboration between Parks Canada, the Government of Alberta, and nearby stakeholders to achieve this expansion.

Parks Canada expressed its commitment to keeping Indigenous peoples and stakeholders informed throughout the growth of the bison population.

“There is a great appetite for Parks Canada to take what we have learned and what we have heard to date and use that to inform a future strategy for managing the bison herd,” said Parks Canada.

The agency found the questions, recommendations, and considerations shared during the consultation process valuable in shaping the program.

The reintroduction of plains bison to Banff National Park has been met with widespread support. While this is great news for bison in Banff National Park, other bison populations in the province aren’t so lucky.

For example, our wood bison are threatened by habitat loss, unregulated hunting, and cattle diseases. In particular, the Wabasca herd, located near the western edge of Wood Buffalo National Park, is threatened by logging plans in the area. 

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