U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today released the following comment on a draft proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that would allow the state of Alaska to reintroduce wood bison after years of delay.
"Today's decision moves us significantly closer to allowing the state to reintroduce a game population that has long been extinct in Alaska," Murkowski said. "The rule still must be finalized, but I am optimistic that this will finally bring to a positive close Alaska's 20-year-long effort to bring back the wood bison."
The state has been working on a program to reintroduce wood bison since the 1990s, and has been seeking an agreement with USFWS that would resolve potential conflicts under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 2010. Alaska has not had a wild population of wood bison since the 1800s.
The draft rule by USFWS would allow the wood bison to be reintroduced as a "nonessential experimental population," protecting the state from potential litigation under the ESA, and permitting the eventual hunting of the animals.
"I believe this can turn into a healthy and abundant population that can live in Alaska for years to come and can be harvested by Alaska residents along with moose and caribou," Murkowski said.
Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrote to USFWS Director Dan Ashe in November calling on the agency to resolve the ESA issue as soon as possible.