The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has been working to re-introduce Wood Bison into Alaska and the state legislature is working on a bill to help make it happen.
Wood bison were common in Interior Alaska until about a hundred years ago, and then they became extinct in Alaska and some thought worldwide.
Tom Yeager, operations manager for the Alaska Wilderness Conservation Center, said “Back in the 50's a herd of genetically pure if you will Wood Bison were discovered in western Canada and the current animals we have came from that original herd.”
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center located in the portage area has about a hundred of the animals.
The idea is to put about half that number back into the wild.
“The issues that are still needing to be addressed are between the federal department of fish and wildlife and our own department of fish and game here in Alalaska”, Yeager said.
The problem is, the wood bison are listed as endangered, so they cant just be released anywhere.
The legislation that is being worked on would give the state more authority over the bison, and give the animals a different designation
Yeager said “that will identify these animals as being not only endangered but also experimental and non essential and by considered endangered and non essential they can go onto the land without that land being restricted for future development.
At one point, an agreement had been reached to release the animals, but a lawsuit was filed that stopped the action.
Although that was resolved, other legal challenges have delayed the process.