Wood Bison Reintroduction Team Wins WAFWA Conservation Achievement Award
— ADF&G Press Release

Sam Cotten, Commissioner
P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, Alaska 99811-5526

Press Release: August 8, 2017

CONTACT: Bruce Dale, Division Director, (907) 861-2101

Wood Bison Reintroduction Team Wins WAFWA Conservation Achievement Award

(Statewide) - A team of wildlife professionals who worked for decades to reintroduce wood bison to southwestern Alaska was honored last month with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' 2017 Special Achievement Award.

"I'm proud of our team," said Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Bruce Dale. "The WAFWA award is a tribute to all who contributed to the success of this historic effort."

Groundwork for re-establishing free-ranging wood bison into habitat vacant for at least 100 years was laid by Bob Stephenson and Randy Rogers (both now deceased), and David James (now retired), who initially encountered numerous hurdles. Wood bison were imported from Canada and held at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for several years before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the animals a Nonessential Experimental Population under the Endangered Species Act. The declaration paved the way for the long awaited reintroduction.

In 2015, Wildlife Biologist Tom Seaton organized and led the task of getting the bison to the Innoko River country. The first group of 100 cows and calves was transported to Anchorage in special containers and loaded onto a C-130 for the flight to Shageluk. In Shageluk, the bison were placed first in a holding pen and eventually released. The following two transports of mature bulls were trucked to Nenana and loaded on a barge for the Innoko River. In all, 130 wood bison were restored to the wild.

"It was truly an amazing feat," said Dale, adding that the team navigated "avalanches and long stretches of road construction, road closures due to the Sockeye Wildfire, a flood in the handling facility during high tide, and high temperatures which could have been deadly for the animals during transport had the team not reacted with quick thinking, innovative solutions and solidarity among individuals and departments."

The Departments of Transportation and Public Facilities and Public Safety provided support and numerous Fish and Game employees played important roles in helping with contracts, travel arrangements, and transportation of materials to the release site. More than 60 non-government organizations and private companies also contributed to the effort, making them part of the team and deserving of recognition; see them listed at


The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is a regional association of state and provincial fish and wildlife agencies representing 23 states and Canadian provinces, an area encompassing 3.7 million square miles of some of North America's most wild and scenic country, inhabited by more than 1,500 premier wildlife species. For more on WAFWA, visit http://www.wafwa.org/

To learn more about the Alaska Wood Bison Restoration Project, see the webpages at

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=woodbisonrestoration.main .