Guest column: Hunters an ethical, cost-effective solution to North Rim bison issue

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.

Photo/NPS

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.

There’s a large problem at Grand Canyon National Park. It’s not the ever-looming $11.5 billion in deferred maintenance facing the National Park Service nationwide nor the estimated $329 million needed to replace crumbling infrastructure at Grand Canyon National Park. The problem is the overpopulation of bison damaging natural resources at Arizona’s crown jewel.

Arizona deserves a permanent solution to the bison issue, and that’s why the Arizona Game and Fish Commission continues to pursue Congressional approval of the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act. This Act would help protect the Grand Canyon and its resources and ensure our dedicated hunters are part of the solution.

An environmental assessment released by the National Park Service (NPS) last year confirmed that park resources are being severely damaged by these large animals. The NPS agrees with the Commission that utilizing volunteers to reduce the herd would be a cost-effective solution, but that’s about all we agree on.

Unfortunately, the NPS doesn’t support the most logical option: utilizing state-licensed hunters to reduce the size of the bison herd within Park boundaries. They want volunteer shooters to “cull” excess animals, meaning that individuals could shoot more than one bison but wouldn’t retain the full animal and may even be told to leave edible portions of meat to rot in the field.

That’s not only unethical and appalling to every hunter, it’s illegal under state law. Being drawn for a bison hunt is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and allowing shooters to take multiple bison while letting the meat go to waste is antithetical to the very foundations of hunting and wildlife management.

The NPS has allowed hunts of other species on other Park Service properties, but dragging their feet on allowing licensed Arizona hunters to offer the simplest solution to bison overpopulation has forced our Commission’s hand. We’ll continue to work with our delegation in Congress to find a clear path toward controlling the bison population through the Bison Management Act, and we’ll continue offering licenses and tags for hunters to harvest bison outside the park’s boundaries.

Keeping hunters from helping to fix this imbalance is supremely ironic: you will never find more passionate advocates for wildlife conservation than our hunters and anglers, who bankroll conservation by spending billions annually in license fees and taxes on hunting, fishing and shooting equipment. That funding allows Arizona Game and Fish and our hundreds of wildlife science professionals to conserve and protect all of Arizona’s 800 native wildlife species for generations to come.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department have been unwavering advocates for addressing the overpopulation of bison at the Grand Canyon National Park using established hunt protocols. Let hunters do what they love, and the bison population can be reduced ethically, responsibly and at zero taxpayer expense.

Problem solved.

Jim Ammons is a resident of Yuma and serves as chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

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