Make Bison Wildlife in Alberta

Did you know that one of North America’s most influential and iconic species, the plains bison, are not consider wildlife in Alberta? They have been officially extirpated. Unlike wolves and bears, bison are not listed under Alberta Wildlife Act. Bison in Alberta are not given the chance to be wild – they are only considered livestock! In early 2017, this keystone species will be reintroduced to Banff National Park and will be wild again. However, the provincial status of bison creates added challenges for reintroduction. We need your help to correct this status anomaly, and allow bison to be wildlife in Alberta.

bison banner photo credit Johane Janelle.jpgWild plains bison are the top herbivore and the “landscaper” of the Great Plains. Their presence in the ecosystem supports an unimaginable amount of other wildlife. Bison are truly ecosystem engineers.

On September 28-29, over 20 First Nations from across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana and British Columbia met in Banff for the 2nd anniversary of the Buffalo Treaty. They agreed on a resolution to work together to once again make the plains bison a wildlife species in Alberta, as it is in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. The signatories recognized the buffalo/bison as a keystone species in the ecology of the northern plains and agreed to support conservation by respecting the interrelationship between us and ‘all our relations’ including animals, plants, and Mother Earth.  This includes continuing to use the spiritual ceremonies, sacred societies, sacred languages, and sacred bundles as a means to embody the thoughts and beliefs of ecological balance and relationship with the Buffalo.

Currently bison are not designated as wildlife in Alberta. Without wildlife designation, the reintroduction of wild bison back into Banff National Park or anywhere else in Alberta will have added logistical difficulty. Banff National Park’s current management practices include building a number of permeable fences to keep bison off provincial land rather than creating a more beneficial co-management plan on both federal and provincial land, like we see in Saskatchewan with wild bison. Under current regulations, any bison that leaves the park will be considered stray livestock.

Bison have been missing from the landscape since the late 1880s in Alberta after herds were decimated by humans, with numbers going from over 30 million bison to just a few hundred individuals. Canada and our National Parks played a key role in saving this iconic species from extinction over a hundred years ago; it is now time to help its ecological restoration once again. 

CPAWS fully supports the practice of commercially raising bison as livestock under Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Regulations. But we also believe that wild bison should be given a chance to take their rightful place in Alberta’s wilderness, subject to the full suite of natural processes. We are asking you to join our neighbouring provinces and designate wild bison as wildlife in Alberta.

Help us revise the status of bison in Alberta and correct a mistake of the past. Bison are wildlife and are a critical part of a fully functioning ecosystem. Let’s revise our legislation to reflect this fact.

Ways you can help:

1. Send your comments and concerns to Hon. Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks using the form below,


2. Contact your MLA at 310-0000 or by email (find your MLA).

Make sure the Government knows you care about this important species.
Thank you for taking action on behalf of Alberta’s bison.

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