By the 1890s it is estimated that fewer than 2000 bison survived in North America. The near loss of this animal may have made agricultural settlement of the great plains possible, but it forever changed the relationship between humans, bison and the land in which they live.
In a conservation effort to restore some of the bison in Canada, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced on Mar. 6, an initiative that would see the historic return of the plains bison to Banff National Park. The investment is designed to support Canada’s National Conservation Plan (NCP). The NCP provides a shared and coherent vision to advance conservation efforts across the country. The investment of $6.4 million over five years is reportedly directly contributing to the NCP by taking concrete action in two priority areas: to restore ecological integrity and connect Canadians with nature.
The most recent project announced will reintroduce a small herd of plains bison in Banff National Park. A keystone species that has been absent from the park since its establishment, plains bison once played a key role in the park’s montane ecosystem.
Through this project, Parks Canada will provide Canadians with an opportunity to connect with this iconic species. In addition, Parks Canada will invite First Nations to share traditional knowledge of plains bison, and participate in stewardship, management and celebrations, as well as engaging students and volunteers to participate in bison research, monitoring and stewardship activities.