EDITORIAL: Bison threaten ecosystem on Grand Canyon’s North Rim

Leave it to the federal government, that great arbiter and manager of public lands, to continue outdoing itself with policies that make no sense in practice and even less in terms of fiscal responsibility.

Earlier this month, the National Park Service put out a news release on its proposal to manage the bison population near the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Bison have been in northern Arizona for more than 100 years, but didn’t venture onto the North Rim until the 1990s.

Biologists estimate the herd has since grown from approximately 100 bison to between 400 to 600 bison that currently roam the Kaibab Plateau. The news release stated that given the current bison distribution, abundance and density, and the expected growth of this herd, the park service is concerned about increased impacts on park resources, such as water, vegetation, soils and archaeological sites. It also cited an impact on values such as visitor experience and wilderness character.

Estimates show that this bison herd could grow to nearly 800 in the next three years and as large as 1,200 to 1,500 within 10 years if further management actions are not taken.

The agency’s preferred plan involves working with cooperating agencies and partners to reduce the bison herd to fewer than 200 animals, using lethal culling with skilled volunteers (read: armed sharpshooters) and nonlethal capture and removal. The park service estimates this could take three to five years.

Of course, all this could have been avoided years ago if, instead of sitting idly by and watching the bison population grow to levels that threaten the North Rim ecosystem, federal bureaucrats had allowed private hunters to keep the size of the herd in check. As conservative commentator Katie Pavlich correctly noted in a pair of pointed tweets responding to the announcement:

— “So, you won’t let hunters hunt bison on park land and now due to overpopulation, you want to hire sharpshooters to reduce population. Bravo.”

— “Hunters would have paid to properly manage the herd, now taxpayers will pay for sharpshooters instead to do the same. Slow clap.”

These are your tax dollars at work. Never let the private sector do something that the public sector can do less efficiently and at greater taxpayer expense. In this case, government agencies could not only have saved taxpayer funds, but even managed to profit, since assuredly there are equally skilled private citizens fully willing to pay for hunting licenses and bison tags.

The North Rim bison aren’t alone in what needs “lethal culling” — figuratively, of course. Poorly thought-out government policy could use it, too, in this instance and countless others.

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