American Bison

Courtesy Denver Parks and Recreation More than a dozen American Bison from the Denver Mountain Park system were given to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma and another to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Sedalia.

A pair of Colorado’s most prominent Democrats stand opposed to a National Park Service plan to lethally remove a dozen bison from Grand Canyon National Park, with Gov. Jared Polis backing a last-ditch effort to relocate them to southeastern Colorado.

The agency's plan, scheduled to kick off this week, is to recruit volunteers to hunt 12 bison in the park, where hunting is usually banned. The plan is part of an effort to reduce the “rapid growth” of the bison population from the current levels of around 600 down to under 200.

Aside from the 12 bison that will be killed, the agency plan would capture and relocate some of the bison.

But Polis and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafeyette, stand opposed to the plan.

“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. This decision should be reversed,” Polis said in a Tuesday statement.

Neguse in a letter sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Parks Service Deputy Director Shawn Benge last week advocated non-lethal measures to manage the bison heard, saying he understood the need for population management but raised concerns about volunteer hunters entering the park.

“We would encourage you to not move forward with the lethal removal scheduled for next week and revisit alternative methods that can be used to manage the population within the park boundaries,” Neguse said in the letter, joined by U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, D-Penn., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

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A release announcing that letter also featured comment from Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, a Washington-based organization that on Tuesday announced it had brokered a deal with the Southern Plains Land Trust to provide a permanent home for the 12 bison set to be killed.

With that deal in place, Polis urged the agency to change course on the plan to remove the bison lethally.

“We would welcome these 12 bison to live and roam free at the Southern Plains Land Trust in Bent County,” Polis said.

Nicole Rosmarino, executive director of the lands trust, said in a release announcing the deal that the organization would “happily” accept the bison.

“Our preserve in southeast Colorado, at 25,000 acres, has a sanctuary herd of bison, and these additional animals would be welcome,” she said. “We stand ready to allow a win-win solution for the park and for the bison.”

An Interior Department spokesperson was not available to comment.