Doyon Expresses Concern on ADF&G’s Wood Bison Project

Doyon does not support the establishment of new herds in the Lower Tanana and Yukon Flats areas, especially as it is being presented under Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) management framework. Throughout the process, ADF&G has exaggerated potential benefits to locally affected communities by these projects and has failed to adequately address issues such as allocation, impact to resource development, and trespass. These efforts to establish new herds are premature, especially considering the struggling status of the existing Innoko herd and the much more pressing issue of the Yukon River Salmon. Doyon urges ADF&G to focus on and prioritize Yukon River Salmon.

Doyon has agreed to continued populations of wood bison being released in the Innoko area to supplement the wood bison population there. Doyon supports the continued management and study of the Innoko herd in lieu of the establishment of new herds. However, Doyon continues to monitor the impacts over the life of the Innoko herd before making decisions about introducing herds in other areas of the Doyon region. There are many unknowns in this process, and Doyon recommends discussions of establishing new herds to pause until populations reach an appropriate threshold and a successful hunt has occurred with the Innoko herd.

The below points are specific issues with the wood bison that Doyon has already identified and broken down directly with ADF&G. As Doyon has been engaging with ADF&G, Doyon has agreed to further share our concerns more broadly with other stakeholder groups impacted by the release of wood bison herds in the Doyon Region:


  • There is no tested solution for allocating bison permits to affected communities. Buy-in from the GASH villages were obtained for this project via hopes of food security solutions even though the allocations from the management committee are only recommendations – Doyon does not believe the state can legally allocate these permits to local populations under the state constitution.
  • The only way that ADF&G believes they can legally get close to allocating these permits locally is by issuing the permits physically from the affected villages. This may work for the GASH villages but is less likely to work for the Lower Tanana or Yukon Flats villages.
  • Allocation has not been adequately addressed by ADF&G and we have not yet seen how this will work with the Innoko herd. ADF&G should wait for populations to reach adequate levels for the first hunt in the Innoko to see how things proceed before discussing improvement to food security in these areas.

Impacts to Resource Development

  • There is significant overlap between the potential range of wood bison in Minto, Yukon Flats, and Doyon’s natural resources prospects, including:
    • Yukon Flats O&G
      • Tofty Minerals
      • Sawtooth Minerals
  • Access to Doyon’s natural resources (and Doyon land in general) is a major issue – even with 10j designation, bison populations influence land management decisions and cause further complications among important topics like general access and infrastructure development.
  • Bison can travel long distances making their impact on the land and the landowners impossible to fully comprehend and prepare for.

Ability for the Herd to Establish is in Question

  •  Bison became extinct in Alaska over a hundred years ago due to overhunting and ecological changes.
  • Bison population in the Innoko herd has declined since its establishment.
  • Ultimately, reintroduction efforts in the Innoko so far have yet to reach its goals and we would like to see some success in the population before establishing new herds.
  • We additionally have not seen data regarding impact to the environment from the introduction of this species in the Innoko. We would like ADF&G to view and analyze these impacts over a longer time frame before initiating establishment of new herds. Doyon would also like to be updated on the impacts to the land before any introductions in other areas.

Increase in Interest from Outside Hunters

  • There are currently issues throughout the interior with nonlocal hunters appearing in communities and competing with locals for subsistence resources.
  • Trespass on ANCSA land is an ongoing issue as most land around villages is private ANCSA land and is reserved for use by Doyon and village corporation shareholders. This is especially true in the Lower Tanana area. We believe the establishment of a wood bison herd and hunt would greatly exacerbate issues of outside hunters.
  • Preventing trespass on ANCSA lands is difficult enough without the addition of major and unwanted interest in using our lands by nonlocal hunters through the establishment of additional herds.
  • We recommend waiting for the GASH region hunt to begin before establishing a new herd to evaluate how land status is handled by hunters.
  • The remote location of the Innoko herd limits trespass problems. However, if the herd is released in the Minto area, or the Upper Tanana area, then trespass will be much harder to control.

More important priorities for ADF&G to focus on

  • A more efficient use of state resources would be to focus on existing fish and wildlife within the state rather than continuing ADF&G’s project to import an animal that has historically failed to thrive in Alaska. This is becoming more evident with the current state of the Innoko herd.
  • This project is becoming less important as the salmon populations in the Yukon have declined and our issue of subsistence fishing on the Yukon being closed for four years.
  • ADF&G has been quick to spend money on an animal that hasn’t proven to be viable while our most important subsistence resources in the state struggle. Doyon does not support this and would much prefer to see ADF&G allocate more resources toward addressing the salmon crisis.

For more information or questions, contact the External Affairs Department at 907-459-2105 or

Recent News