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Bison belong in Banff

Until recently, when I thought about plains bison, I conjured up images of vast herds of bison roaming the prairie grasslands – before the massive slaughter that brought this species to the brink of extinction in the late 1800s.  And yet, for thousands of years, plains bison not only lived out on the prairies, they were also the dominant herbivore grazing the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.  But by the time Banff became our first national park in 1885, bison had already disappeared from this mountainous landscape.

In recent years, a small and committed group called Bison Belong has been working to promote the reintroduction of bison in Banff National Park. In a period of time when we are profoundly worried about the re-emergence of inappropriate commercial development proposals in our National Parks, it was nice to see the Banff Park Management Plan commit to reintroduce a species that has been extirpated from the mountains for so many years.

Today, Environment Minister Peter Kent announced public consultations on the reintroduction of bison in Banff. An important first step to seeing 'the buffalo roam' where they used to. We welcome this announcement.

I remember a donation from one of CPAWS' youngest donors that included a plea. The 6 year old wanted to see bison on his next trip to Banff National Park. Sadly, he wasn't able to see them when he visited this past summer. But with any luck, he might be able to see them there before he's an adult.

Some might say that this is a distraction - that the reintroduction of bison is not the most important thing that Parks Canada could be doing right now. My view is that, as a conservationist, I am happy to see any steps taken to restore our wilderness to its rightful state. We can continue to express our concerns about new development threats in our parks while celebrating the steps forward to restoring their ecological integrity.

Go bison!