The Political Economy of Bison Management in Wood Buffalo National Park

  • Patricia A. McCormack
Keywords: Animal diseases, Animal distribution, Animal husbandry, Animal population, Animal taxonomy, Dams, Environmental impacts, Extinction, History, Hunting, Indians, North American bison, Parks, Prescribed burning, Tuberculosis, Wildlife management, Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta/N.W.T.


Nearly a century ago government initiatives saved Canada's wild bison from extinction, and in the 1920s Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) was established as a preserve for wood and plains bison. Today new government initiatives threaten these northern bison with extermination as a "game management" strategy. This paper outlines the history of bison management in WBNP and addresses critical issues for the 1990s. It is argued that until the mid-1960s, when the park came under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada, management strategies were presented as biologically based but were conditioned by external political and economic considerations. Similarly, an analysis of current proposals to "replace" the bison of WBNP concludes the contemporary issues of political economy are obscured by attempts to justify the plan on biological grounds.

Key words: bison, game management, Wood Buffalo National Park, political economy, EARP, tuberculosis, brucellosis