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Action Alert: Bison must be listed as wildlife in Alberta

March 15, 2024

Designating bison as wildlife is long overdue.

The current classification of a wild species as livestock makes effective management and conservation of bison challenging and confusing, and fails to recognize their vital role in grassland and open boreal forest ecosystems. AWA is one of several parties asking Alberta to designate free-ranging bison as wildlife in Alberta under the Alberta Wildlife Act.

We are asking for your assistance in sending a letter to the Ministers of Environment and Protected Areas, and of Indigenous Relations, demonstrating that there is broad support for bison to be designated and managed as wildlife in Alberta.

Bison once roamed most of Alberta and the Great Plains of North America, numbering in the millions. Their passage marked the grasslands: the grazing, wallowing and other behaviours of these massive herds helped shape the prairies and open boreal forest habitat, and the many species that rely on them. Bison are also an important cultural species for many Indigenous communities.

Bison herds declined greatly after the arrival of European settlers, although an increasing number of semi-wild and free-roaming herds have been reintroduced and are thriving throughout Alberta. The return of bison promotes biodiversity, ecosystem resiliency and reconciliation. Their position as a wild species, crucial to the grassland ecosystem and cultures, needs to be recognized for meaningful healing and revitalization.

Outside of a few protected regions, bison are considered livestock, and are not protected. This lack of protection threatens meaningful bison reintroduction and ecosystem revitalization. It also creates confusion about where bison are — or are not — protected, especially with bison already listed as wildlife in our neighbouring provinces of British Columbia and Saskatchewan. The current patchwork of protection can complicate management, collaboration and conflict resolution with other land users. Designating bison as wildlife throughout the province would simplify management and conservation efforts.

For more information, and to see the joint letter by AWA and other organizations, click here.

 

A sample letter that can be sent to Minister Schulz (epa.minister@gov.ab.ca) and Minister Wilson (ir.ministeroffice@gov.ab.ca) is provided below. Please CC AWA (awa@abwild.ca or rluo@abwild.ca) in your letter:

 

Dear Minister Schulz and Minister Wilson,

I am writing to ask that free-roaming bison be designated as wildlife under the Alberta Wildlife Act.

The reasons for this designation are as follows:

  1. Bison are a keystone species that evolved with the grassland. Their movement and behaviours improve biodiversity and resiliency.
  2. Bison are culturally significant to many Indigenous communities. Recognizing the species as wildlife helps to strengthen connections to the land and foster collaboration.
  3. The current patchwork of protections can complicate collaboration and compromise with other land users. Designating bison as wildlife across Alberta would simplify management and conservation.
  4. The return of bison promotes biodiversity, ecosystem resiliency and reconciliation. Although welcome, Alberta will need a plan to manage the increasing number of bison on the landscape.

Designating free-roaming bison as wildlife in Alberta is needed for effective management and conservation of this species. It is past time Alberta acknowledged the important role of bison on the landscape.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

 

Or, send a letter through our form here.

No public hearings are scheduled. Only one Alberta organization, the Alberta Wilderness Association, is independent enough that it continues championing public land and the people's right of access to it. So people must speak individually, as they have so many times before, directly to the premier, the minister of Sustainable Resource Development and their MLA, and remind them of what public land means to all of us, that none of it is surplus to our needs, that we do not want it sold.
- Bob Scammell, 2003
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