COLORADO — One Southern Colorado organization, Southern Plains Land Trust, is leading an effort to relocate bison from Grand Canyon National Park. The bison are currently slated to be killed this fall. But the Colorado group is stepping in, offering to bring a bison herd to their wildlife sanctuary in Lamar.
“I don’t see why the hunt should move forward when there’s a better alternative for giving these animals sanctuary,” said Nicole Rosmarino, Executive Director of the Southern Plains Land Trust. “We reached out but they did not respond. The Park Service never responded to our offer. We simply were offering a solution. They don’t want the bison and we do.”
The National Park Service plans to have bison hunted in park boundaries where it’s usually banned. Officials say it’s to reduce the rapidly growing population and impacts to park resources, like water and vegetation.
Environmental groups are trying to reverse the plan. The Southern Plains Land Trust along with Animal Wellness Action are actively working to relocate the bison herd.
“There are only 300 of these bison in a 1.2 million acre park. If they want to reduce the population, for which we see no need, the Southern Plains Land Trust can take the animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, President of Animal Wellness Action.
The Park Service wants to cut the number of bison from 600 to 200 and plans to start opening hunting in September 2021.
Instead, Southern Plains Land Trust is hoping to take in another 12 bison, saving them from being hunted on their native land.
“Now we have a small number of bison in Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks. We should be doing our absolute best to protect them. To subject these animals to a trophy hunt is just totally perplexing,” said Pacelle.
Governor Jared Polis released as statement backing this effort to relocate the bison to Colorado.
“Our American Bison are a majestic and iconic species of wildlife. It is rare for the lethal removal of Bison to be allowed on National Park Service land which is owned by all Americans,” said Gov. Polis. “This decision should be reversed and we would welcome these 12 bison to live and roam free at the Southern Plains Land Trust in Bent County. I urge Interior and the National Park Service to consider this practical Colorado solution.”
Congressman Joe Neguse also wrote a letter to the Park Service, urging them to consider options other than hunting the bison.
“And I want to applaud Gov. Polis for stepping up and advocating for this strategy, which will help Colorado and Grand Canyon National Park And it will prevent the stain of a trophy hunting program from occurring in the national park in the 21st century,” said Pacelle.
According to the NPS, up to 60 million bison used to roam western states. After hunting them off, only a few hundred remain today.
“They’re iconic. They define what is was to have a wild west. And we can, we should treat them with more respect,” said Rosmarino.
“We should’ve learned our lesson about respecting these animals and protecting these animals,” said Pacelle.