Campaign brewing to bring bison back to Banff

The Banff Avenue Brewing Company's latest beer is light and sweet but it's meant to send a big and bold message to Parks Canada.

Local beer maker crafts Homeward Bison Pale Ale in support of reintroducing a herd

Bison in Canada's Elk Island National Park. (Dennis J. Lingohr/American Prairie Foundation/AP)

The push continues to bring bison back to Banff. 

Parks Canada completed a draft plan and a public consultation process in 2013 aimed at reintroducing a herd of the giant herbivores to the area.​ 

In this photo taken on Oct. 22, 2014, bison graze in the sagebrush and tall grass of Antelope Flats in Grand Teton National Park on near Kelly, Wy. (Price Chambers/Associated Press)

Now local brewery Banff Avenue Brewing Company has created Homeward Bison Pale Ale in a bid to raise awareness and money for the campaign to bring the animal back to the national park.

Up until the 1800s, plains bison roamed throughout the Bow Valley. More recently, they faced extinction and a herd was kept in an enclosure for visitors to see. It was closed in 1997 after officials decided it was interfering with the movement of wildlife. 

Since then, Parks Canada has been working on a plan to reintroduce a wild herd and the agency unveiled a detailed plan last year.

But conservationist Harvey Locke, who is also behind the push to bring the animals back, said there's no guarantee it will go ahead.

"I think it's a matter of the government committing to move ahead with the amount of money required to make the project happen," he said.

Marie-Eve Marchand, who speaks for the Bison Belong Campaign, said support for the initiative keeps growing.

"People when they come in they always ask, 'What can I do?' and that's the idea, that we say, 'Hey, let's create a beer!' So everyone can do something while they are cheering through the Christmas season," she said. 

A dollar from each sale of the beer is being donated to host a community celebration if the bison return.


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