WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today welcomed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision exempting the wood bison from the Endangered Species Act in Alaska. The decision will allow the reintroduction of wild bison in the state for the first time in more than 100 years.
“Alaska has been working to get wood bison reintroduced in the state for more than 20 years. That effort is finally paying off,” Murkowski said. “The wood bison has long been extinct in Alaska, but it’s a game species that remains prominent in our folklore and history. I’m confident this reintroduction will lead once again to a healthy, abundant population that will thrive in Alaska.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday published a special rule in the Federal Register designating the wood bison in Alaska a “nonessential experimental population.” The decision gives the state of Alaska primary management authority over the animals, and protects the state from potential litigation under the ESA. It will also allow the eventual hunting of the animals.
“This decision took far too long, but I’m glad the Fish and Wildlife Service finally saw reason. By providing some flexibility under the ESA, it allows these magnificent creatures to be returned to the tundra where they belong,” Murkowski said. “Wood bison haven’t been seen in the Alaska wild since the early 1900s. It’s going to be exciting to have them back out there, both for the benefits they’ll bring to the ecosystem and the opportunities they’ll provide Alaskans.”
Murkowski is the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.