Local opposes reintroduction of bison into Banff
Tuesday, Nov 12, 2013 06:00 am
Concerns have been raised that a Parks Canada proposal to reintroduce bison into Banff National Park may negatively impact the Mountain View County area west of Sundre.
A Sundre-area farmer, Colin Kure, said bison cannot be contained and that they may wander along the Red Deer River, into the Ya Ha Tinda, and possibly end up in the area west of Sundre.
It is reported that bison used to roam the Banff National Park area, but were nearly wiped out by hunting in the mid-1800s.
Parks Canada has been working on the reintroduction proposal since 2010.
The draft plan, which was released in September, calls for 600 to 1,000 bison as the target population. Parks Canada officials plan to set up fences in an effort to contain the bison.
But Kure believes fencing will not stop the bison from escaping the park.
“Everybody locally knows as soon as winter sets in, like it did, animals start coming downstream on the Red Deer (River),” said Kure. “And really, the only winter range in that area is on the Ya Ha Tinda ranch and this is what the big concern is.”
He is opposed to Parks Canada’s proposal and claims the bison were only ever in the area on a seasonal basis.
“It’s a known fact you can’t contain bison,” he said. “Bison move very quickly. They could move from the ranch into the agricultural ranching area west of Sundre overnight.”
He also has concerns about wolves chasing the bison out of Banff National Park and claims there are currently three packs of wolves in the area.
“If wolves got behind them and started chasing them, who knows where they would go,” he said.
He says bison are not iconic to Banff National Park, but that the bighorn sheep are.
“They’re proposing to let these animals go in prime bighorn sheep country, which is totally against park ethic as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
His family has been involved with habitat protection for several years, he said.
“The Ya Ha Tinda ranch really is what’s at stake here; it’s a special place for a lot of Albertans,” he said.
According to Michelle Macullo, public relations and communications officer with Parks Canada, bison are a key species to the park.
She believes bison are important because they act as an inspiring discovery, ecological restoration and a cultural reconnection.
“These plans tie into conservation, restoration and providing memorable visitor experiences,” said Macullo.
An important part of the initiative is to work with neighbours and stakeholders, including First Nations in Alberta, she said. The deadline for public feedback on the plan was Friday.
“Once the public comment phase ends, we will be analyzing and incorporating comments that will be used to take the preliminary plan to a more complete action plan, subject to environmental assessment under Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency,” she said.