National Park Service seeks public comment on initial environmental assessment for bison herd reduction at Grand Canyon

PHOENIX – The National Park Service (NPS) has made available for public review its Initial Bison Herd Reduction Environmental Assessment (EA), which evaluates management actions related to bison on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. The public can view the EA on the NPS website and submit any comments through June 7.

Since the 1990s, the bison population on the Kaibab Plateau herd has grown significantly, impacting Grand Canyon National Park resources such as water, vegetation, soils and archaeological sites. While they are negatively affecting habitat at their current numbers, bison can provide exceptional value to the visitor experience, when managed at appropriate numbers and distribution.

The purpose of the actions evaluated in the EA are to (1) quickly reduce bison population density on the Kaibab Plateau through collaborative efforts and (2) protect Grand Canyon National Park resources and values from the impacts of a steadily growing bison population.

According to a NPS news release, the NPS would work together with cooperating agencies and partners through the preferred alternative to reduce the bison herd to fewer than 200 animals using lethal culling with skilled volunteers and non-lethal capture and removal.

A management action that is not included in the Park Service’s preferred alternative is reducing the bison herd through public hunting. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department have consistently advocated for a model that uses properly licensed hunters as a management tool and allows the hunter to keep the animal.

“Several of the proposed actions in the Park Service EA will cost taxpayers far more than lethal removal by citizen hunters who would pay for the opportunity to assist the NPS,” said Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner Kurt Davis. “This will provide additional hunting opportunities consistent with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and help to properly manage the bison population. This approach just makes sense and supports efforts to alleviate park damage caused by bison, saves tax dollars, funds wildlife conservation and helps protect habitat for other wildlife.”

The NPS will host three in-person open house meetings and one web-based meeting during the comment period. All times are Arizona time (Mountain Standard Time – MST) unless otherwise indicated:

  • 6 p.m. – 8 pm. Tuesday, May 16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 1175 W. Route 66 in Flagstaff.
  • 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18 at the Ben Avery Activity Center, 4044 W. Black Canyon Blvd in Phoenix.
  • 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Mountain Time) (5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Arizona time) Tuesday, May 23 at the Holiday Inn Express and Hotel, 217 S. 100 East in Kanab, Utah.
  • 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 30 online. Registration for the web-based meeting and more information about the open houses can be found here.

Comments can be submitted either electronically or via U.S. Postal Service at Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Attn: Bison Management Plan EA, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023 or at one of the in-person public meetings listed above.

Comments must be received by June 7. Comments will not be accepted by fax, email or by any method other than those specified above. Bulk comments in any format (hard copy or electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted.

Northern Arizona federal land managers invite public to community conversation event

FLAGSTAFF – Federal land managers with the Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management invite the public to attend a community conversation in May as part of an ongoing effort to connect with the public and hear first-hand what people value about their public lands.

In partnership with the Museum of Northern Arizona, this event will be held in Flagstaff in the Branigar Hall at the Museum of Northern Arizona from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 25. Seating is limited to 60-70 people at this free community event, so please RSVP by calling (928) 774-5213 or visit

The following federal land managers will be in attendance and look forward to interacting with the public:

– Coconino National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West,
– Kaibab National Forest Supervisor Heather Provencio,
– Flagstaff Area National Monuments Superintendent Kayci Cook Collins,
– Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Chris Lehnertz, and
– BLM Phoenix District Manager Leon Thomas.

Speakers will provide introductory remarks, move to “talking circles” to interact and have conversations with community members, and conclude by reporting out and providing closing remarks.

This is a chance for the public to meet face-to-face with the leaders of organizations that manage federal lands in northern Arizona. The public is invited to attend this special event and share their thoughts on what they value about public lands now and into the future.

Grand Canyon hosts Native American celebration and waives fees on Veterans Day

640-grand-canyon-veterans-1GRAND CANYON — On Wednesday, November 9, Grand Canyon National Park will host a Native American Indian Heritage Celebration with special presentations and demonstrations. Grand Canyon visitors and residents are invited to participate in this special day to recognize and celebrate the many accomplishments, contributions, and sacrifices made by First Americans.

From 10 am to 3 pm at Shrine of the Ages, visitors can see cultural demonstrations and buy direct from artists. The celebration continues at 7:30 pm at Shrine of the Ages with presentation of colors by the Cameron Veterans Color Guard, a traditional Hopi prayer, the Dupkia Hopi Dancers, the Dishchii’bikoh Apache Crown Dancers, and the Havasupai Guardians of the Grand Canyon Ram Dancers. To end the evening, enjoy Dine Nation’s Milton Tso playing traditional flute music. All Native American Indian Heritage celebration events are free and open to the public.

Later in the week, and in honor of those that serve and have served in the United States military, Grand Canyon National Park will offer everyone free entrance on Veterans Day Friday, November 11.

Fee-free designation applies to entrance fees only and does not affect fees for camping, reservations, tours, or use of concessions. Park entrance stations will have the Interagency Senior and Annual passes available for those who wish to purchase them. Visitors who plan to spend time in the park beyond November 11 will need to pay the regular entrance fee the remainder of their stay.

This is the last fee-free day of 2016. Fee-free days for 2017 have not been announced yet. Once those dates are announced, they will be posted here:

State Route 67 to Grand Canyon’s North Rim closed for winter season

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Transportation has closed State Route 67 between Jacob Lake (US 89A) and the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park for the winter season effective Tuesday, Dec. 1.

ADOT doesn’t clear snow from SR 67 during the winter since North Rim visitor accommodations are closed. The highway reopens each spring, usually around mid-May. US 89A remains open during the winter.

In addition, State Route 473, a 10-mile-long highway that provides direct access to the Hawley Lake recreational area in the White Mountains region, is closed for the winter.

ADOT reminds motorists heading into snow country to drive with caution and follow this advice:

• Slow down. Drive defensively. Be patient and allow additional time for your trip. Never pass a snowplow.
• Pack an emergency kit, a fully charged cellphone, extra clothing, water and snacks.
• Leave sufficient space between your vehicle and those ahead of you. Give yourself plenty of room and time to stop or to avoid hazards.
• If stopped on the roadway, leave room for emergency vehicles to get around you.
• Make sure your vehicle has plenty of fuel.
• If you slide off the roadway, stay with your vehicle. The Department of Public Safety or ADOT will respond.
• Check weather and road conditions before you travel. Let someone know your route.
• Bring a small bag of sand (or cat litter) for wheel traction.

Additional information on winter driving is available at

Before heading out on the roads, drivers are encouraged to call 511 or visit ADOT’s Traveler Information Center at for the latest highway conditions around the state. The website features camera images along state highways that give drivers a glimpse of weather conditions in various regions.

Award of Hospitality Contract on South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga has announced the award of a concession contract to Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C. Xanterra will provide lodging, food services, retail, transportation, mule rides, and other services on the South Rim.

Xanterra, the incumbent operator, submitted the selected offer in response to a prospectus issued earlier this year. Superintendent Uberuaga stated “We are pleased to continue our long relationship with this important park partner, and we look forward to working together to implement some exciting improvements to services on the South Rim.”

The new 15 year contract is one of the largest in the National Park Service (NPS) in terms of revenue and lodging inventory. The services required in this prospectus have generated an average of approximately $66 million in gross revenues annually. New services will include a re-constructed Maswik South Lodge, improved food offerings including food trucks, and other improvements to operations and services.

This historic lodging and hospitality contract (CC-GRCA001-15) will include lodging, retail and food service in the historic Grand Canyon Village including the El Tovar, Bright Angel Lodge, Thunderbird and Kachina Lodges, Maswik Lodge and Phantom Ranch, as well as retail and food service at Hermits Rest. It will also continue to include transportation services such as bus tours, taxi service and mule rides.

Concessions contracts are developed and issued under the authority of the Concessions Management Improvement Act of 1998, P.L. 105-391, and its attending regulations in 36 CFR §51.

Announcing a New Search Management Training Video

SAR-Video-1FLAGSTAFF — A new training video which was a year in the making titled “Introduction to Search Management Best Practices” has been released to aid in training search managers. The video project was a joint effort between the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit, a Mountain Rescue Association member team, and the National Park Service Branch of Search and Rescue. To maximize its benefit to the search and rescue community, the video is being distributed free of charge via the internet. The video is intended to be used in conjunction with a comprehensive search management course or as a review of search management concepts for seasoned search managers.

Search management involves a combination of art and science to analyze the situation and then organize responders to efficiently and effectively cover the search area in an effort to find lost or missing persons. The National Park Service has a long tradition of excellence in search management and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office has played an active role in search and rescue management training in Arizona for many years and continues that role with the release of this video.

In addition to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and the National Park Service, other agencies that participated in the video project included the Arizona Department of Public Safety Aviation Bureau and Guardian Medical Transport.

A premiere showing for public safety agencies will take place at the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Building on July 15th at 7:00 pm. The video can be found at the following link.

Northern AZ land managers recognized for leadership in fire management

WILLIAMS — Managers of both the Kaibab National Forest and Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona were recently recognized for the leadership role they’ve played in managing wildland fire across the landscape and jurisdictional boundaries for the purpose of improving forest health conditions.

From the Kaibab National Forest, former Forest Supervisor Mike Williams, North Kaibab District Ranger Randall Walker, Tusayan District Ranger James Simino, and Williams District Ranger Danelle D. Harrison were honored with the “Excellence in Line Officer Commitment to Restoration of Fire Adapted Ecosystems” award by the Forest Service National Line Officers Team. The group award recognizes the efforts made by the leadership of the Kaibab National Forest in the restoration of forest ecosystems through the use of a variety of tools including wildfire, prescribed fire, and manual and mechanical fuel treatments.

“This group award represents well-deserved, national-level recognition of the significant work accomplished on a landscape scale by these line officers and by all the employees of the Kaibab National Forest,” said Art Gonzales, fire staff officer for the Kaibab. “These individuals have provided an unwavering level of support that has allowed the Kaibab National Forest and its employees to be national leaders in restoring fire-adapted ecosystems.”

In 2014, the Kaibab National Forest treated almost 29,000 acres with wildfire managed to achieve resource objectives, including the approximately 11,000-acre Sitgreaves Complex Fire that was active for two months in an area extremely visible by local communities and members of the visiting public. Of particular note, the Kaibab’s average cost per acre of wildfires managed to benefit forest resources was about $133 per acre, versus the average cost of $2,500 per acre for wildfire with a full suppression strategy. The forest also treated thousands of additional acres with prescribed fire and various vegetation treatments.

From Grand Canyon National Park, Superintendent Dave Uberuaga was the recipient of the “Superintendent Fire Management Achievement Award” from the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service. The award is given annually to an Intermountain Region park superintendent who actively supports and is fully engaged with their unit’s fire management program.

“Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most complex programs within the agency both in terms of park and fire management,” read the letter to Uberuaga announcing his selection for the award. “The park has recognized that wildland fire is an integral part of the landscape. … Without your leadership the 2014 fire season would not have been as successful as it was.”

During the 2014 season, the park managed both the Kanabownits and Galahad fires over an extended period of time and had identified large planning areas for the potential expansion of the fires. Also noted in the award citation were Grand Canyon National Park’s mechanical and prescribed fire applications used to manage vegetation, and the Slopes Prescribed Fire project on the North Rim that was highlighted for its role in enhancing the park’s ability to better manage large fires in mixed conifer fuels in the future.

“Dave is very deserving of this recognition,” said Jay Lusher, chief of fire and aviation for Grand Canyon National Park. “He takes a hands-on approach with our fire program by making the time to interact and engage with crews on the ground during fire operations. To me, this instills confidence and camaraderie and allows for shared vision and purpose as we implement projects.”

Not only do Kaibab National Forest and Grand Canyon National Park share borders both north and south of the canyon, but the managers of each share a commitment to restoring fire-adapted ecosystems on a landscape scale and providing the leadership necessary to accomplish that important work.

The forest and park work together daily across jurisdictional boundaries on a variety of projects and even share a fire management organization on the north side. The North Zone Fire Management organization includes personnel from both the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest and the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

“Managing fire on a landscape scale and across administrative boundaries is key to building resiliency throughout the ecosystem,” said North Kaibab District Ranger Randall Walker, who was one of the recipients of the Forest Service award. “Together, we can maintain and build resilient landscapes; help protect the public, nearby communities and important infrastructure; and create a safe, effective and appropriate response to wildfire.”

Gosar submits bill for cull hunt of bison at Grand Canyon

(Because of the deadline for this article, the office of Representative Gosar could not be reached for comment)

White Bison at Bearizona Wildlife Park.

White Bison at Bearizona Wildlife Park.

WASHINGTON — In 1906, Charles “Buffalo” Jones brought bison to northern Arizona in an unsuccessful attempt to breed them with cattle. The descendants of these bison have been managed since 1950 by the state of Arizona in the House Rock Wildlife Area (HRWA) on the Kaibab National Forest, through an inter-agency agreement with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 1990 the 1990 the bison started moving to the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into the Grand Canyon National Park.

The Grand Canyon National Park began a request for input on a Bison Management Plan that ended in June of 2014. The effort was an attempt to balance their mission to secure natural vegetation, archeological sites and water resources while maintaining the bison as wildlife.

On March 18, Paul Gosar [R-AZ-4] submitted H.R. 1443 (S. 782 in the Senate by McCain) to permit a cull hunt for Bison at the Grand Canyon National Park.

The bill calls for the Secretary of the Interior to publish a management plan for Bison no later than 180 days after H.R. 1443 is enacted. The plan would be to reduce, through humane lethal culling by skilled public volunteers and other non-lethal means the population of Bison in the park.

Skilled public volunteers are defines as those with a valid hunting license issued by the State of Arizona and other qualifications the Secretary may require after consulting with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Kirby Shedlowski, Acting Public Affairs Officer at Grand Canyon National Park, said, “In order have allowed cull, there’s usually a very large management planning process.”

She said, “There has never been a cull hunt for bison at the Grand Canyon. There has been a cull on the forest. On the Kaibab Forest on the north side.”

Kirby said she was not sure of cull hunts for Bison in other parks, such as Yellowstone. “There are different culling hunts in different parks for different animals. Rocky Mountain did it for elk. Rock Creek Park has done it for white-tail deer. Getteysburg has done it for white-tail deer. But, as far as Bison go—I’m not sure. But Grand Canyon National Park has never had a cull for Bison.”

National Park Service Sitting On Half-A-Billion Dollars Of Concessions Obligations

640-gc-eltovarAcross the National Park System, there is an estimated half-a-billion-dollars of obligations owed concessionaires who run lodges, restaurants, and even some activities, for the National Park Service.

It’s a sum that, while Park Service officials say is manageable, has seemingly stifled concessions competition in some parks and led the agency to divert tens of millions of dollars from some parks to others to reduce the debts.

At Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, the outstanding amount is more than $57 million. At Glacier National Park in Montana, it’s $22 million. At Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, it’s nearly $100 million. At Yellowstone National Park, the sum is $21.5 million.

Read more at National Parks Traveler

Injured hiker rescued from the Grand Canyon Monday


Photos courtesy of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department.

640-GC-Rescue-03GRAND CANYON – Elements from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Arizona DPS, Flagstaff Fire Department and National Park Service performed a dramatic rescue at the Grand Canyon in the early morning hours Monday. A 68-year-old Tuscon woman was injured when she fell from a trail while hiking.

The female hiker was hiking with two others along the Clear Creek Trail on Sunday, November 2 when about 7 p.m. she slipped and fell down a slope off of the trail. The hikers fall stopped with her head down slope and about three feet from a cliff’s edge that dropped down 80 feet to the creek bed below. When the hiker attempted to recover and move, she would slide further down slope due to very loose soil and rocks. The victim, fearing that she would slide over the cliff edge, lay still as her two friends activated a satellite emergency notification device or SPOT device.
640-GC-Rescue-02The National Park Service at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim was advised of the emergency notification and sent a ranger to area of the SPOT alert. The park service ranger hiked for six hours from Phantom Ranch, reaching the victim around 3:00 a.m. Rangers determined the victim had suffered some type of injury to her leg. Due to the dangerous and unstable ground, the Park Service requested assistance from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit and the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue helicopter, who have the capability to conduct night operations.

The DPS helicopter flew two heli-rescue members, one from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and the other from the Flagstaff Fire Department into the canyon where they were able to land about a mile away from the victim. Rescuers hiked to the area where they had to secure ropes and rappel down to the victim. The victim was secured by a harness and then “short hauled” or flown out with a rescuer.

The victim was flown to the Grand Canyon Heli-base at the South Rim where she was transferred to a ground ambulance and taken to the Grand Canyon Clinic. She was treated for a fractured ankle and hypothermia and later released.