The 2010 Banff National Park Management Plan commits Parks Canada to:
Parks Canada is launching a public participation process on the reintroduction of plains bison to Banff National Park. Over the next year Canadians will have the opportunity to shape and inform Parks Canada's plans for the future of bison in Canada's first national park.
- "Reintroduce a breeding population of the extirpated plains bison, a keystone species that has been absent from the park since its establishment" and to " Work with stakeholders and neighbouring jurisdictions to address potential concerns through joint management strategies before reintroduction. "
Why Bring Back the Bison? | Considerations in the Modern World | An Opportunity for Involvement and Stewardship | Bison and Banff National Park FAQ (PDF)
Bison Reintroduction Fact Sheet (PDF)
The Missing Link
Why Bring Back the Bison?
Although they have been absent since before the park was created 126 years ago, plains bison once roamed freely through much of what is now Banff National Park. Reintroducing plains bison into Banff National Park is important for several reasons:
- ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION: Restoring and maintaining a full complement of native species is a key conservation goal for Canada's national parks. The plains bison was, for thousands of years, the dominant herbivore on the East Slopes of what is now Banff National Park.
- INSPIRING DISCOVERY: The magnificent bison is emblematic of the wild Canadian west, an essential part of the land and our heritage. Having a chance to see and learn about the full range of native species is integral to an authentic national park experience.
Considerations in the Modern World
/Dan Rafla © Parks Canada
Times have changed since the bison ranged in great herds throughout central North America. Bison are migratory animals - archaeological evidence suggests a regular seasonal migration and that at least some of them roamed hundreds of kilometres over their lifetimes. Today, Banff National Park contains a town, a village, a national highway and rail transportation corridor, and a wide range of recreational and tourist facilities that host more than 3 million visitors a year. Along the park's eastern boundary in the province of Alberta, the values and interests of land-owners, communities, recreationists, as well as agricultural, forestry, and oil and gas industries, must be considered and protected.
There are always unknowns when planning and undertaking any ecological restoration project, hence the need for a precautionary approach and adaptive management. Questions include the best location for an initial reintroduction; strategies for bringing individuals into a new habitat and containing them within designated core areas, in summer and winter; and maintaining a long-term viable, healthy population within the carrying capacity of park lands.
A number of conservation initiatives over the past few decades have provided a solid foundation for bison reintroduction in Banff National Park. These include an extensive prescribed burn program to restore productive grassland habitats; the continued presence of the bison's natural predators - wolves and grizzly bears - in the ecosystem; and recent successes in lowering the elk population to closer to historic levels, thereby reducing the potential for elk/bison competition. The construction of wildlife fencing and crossing structures along the Trans-Canada Highway has greatly reduced the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions, and work is underway to reduce wildlife mortality on the Canadian Pacific Railway.
An Opportunity for Involvement and Stewardship
The objective of this public participation is to ensure that all potential opportunities and challenges, both in the park and on neighbouring lands, are carefully considered when preparing to bring back the bison to Banff. This is also another opportunity for citizens to become involved in stewardship of Canada's first national park.
Bison © Dan Rafla / Parks Canada
PHASE ONE: (Current Phase)
Parks Canada will work intensively with the provincial government, key stakeholders in the province of Alberta, and First Nations, to fully understand and work to address concerns and interests. Following these activities, a preliminary plan for bison reintroduction will be drafted.
Parks Canada will engage the broader public in providing feedback on its preliminary reintroduction plan, with continued stakeholder meetings and working groups as required, the use of social science tools, and an open comment period with information available in the media, on the park website, or from park staff on request.
Analysis and incorporation of public comment will take the preliminary plan to a more complete Action Plan, subject to Environmental Assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Once approved, the Banff National Park Bison Restoration Plan, along with a summary of how results from the participation process were used, will be communicated back to participants and made available by request to any interested members of the public.
A schedule of events, meetings, and other opportunities is being developed, when available, information and updates posted here.
For more information:
Partnering and Engagement Officer
Banff National Park of Canada