Helping Alaska wood bison roam free after 100-year hiatus

By Krista Van Tassel
December 10th, 2013

Environmental Forum is excited to welcome Judith Crotty to our blog. Judith is Wells Fargo’s Regional Community Development Manager for Alaska, Oregon and Washington. In this role, Judith helps Wells Fargo develop strategic community partnerships in affordable housing, economic development, sustainability and financial education. In her post below, Judith will share her personal experience and excitement in helping the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center create a protected area for the North American wood bison through some sweat equity and a strategic grant by the Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities program in collaboration with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. – kvt

Judith Crotty

Judith Crotty

It’s no secret that Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Majestic mountains. Calving glaciers. Abundant wildlife. 

One species of wildlife that roamed The Great Land nearly a century ago is the North American wood bison – the largest land mammal in the continent. But you won’t see wood bison sporting their signature beards on any Alaska tourism brochures. Wood bison disappeared from Alaska’s landscape around 1920. I first heard about wood bison from Mike Miller, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) in Portage, Alaska. Mike and AWCC are my Turnagain Arm neighbors; I live just down the road in Indian, Alaska. Mike is a true Alaska conservationist who has a passion for preserving and protecting Alaska’s wildlife.

“This reintroduction of wood bison is America’s largest contribution to wildlife conservation of this century and it is happening right here in Alaska,” Mike says. “Someday, future generations will wonder, ‘who made the return of wood bison possible?’”  

How could I resist that call to action!

The first step to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska is to set aside a large tract of land so the herd has room to roam and grow, then build a three-mile fence to monitor the health of the herd. After the U.S. Forest Service donated 165 acres of land adjacent to AWCC, Mike approached Wells Fargo to help fund construction of the fence. Working with our Environmental Affairs team, we were able to secure a $75,000 grant in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

As you’ll see in this video, the Wood Bison Restoration Project fence is near completion with plans to move the AWCC wood bison herd to their new home in 2014 and release them into the wild in 2015. What an exciting day that will be – I can’t wait to tell the story to my grandkids!

Tags:   Alaska   employee   grant   volunteer   wood bison   
Krista Van Tassel

Krista Van Tassel

As Community and Team Member Engagement manager for Wells Fargo’s Environmental Affairs Team, Krista supports the company’s 70+ Green Teams, recognizing and promoting environmental innovator best practices, and engaging and educating team members about their role in helping the company’s sustainability efforts. She also manages Wells Fargo’s Environmental Solutions for Communities’ $3 million annual nonprofit grant program focused on helping make long-term sustainable economic investments in local communities where its customers and 264,000 team members work and live. Prior to joining Wells Fargo in 2009, Krista worked in a variety of sustainability and marketing positions in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. Krista earned her MBA in International Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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Linda Burron December 11, 2013 at 3:12 am:

A very nice piece on conserving a beautiful species and working together to make it happen. Thanks to all!

Krista Van Tasselon December 11, 2013 at 4:40 pm:

Thanks, Linda! We are really proud of this work and appreciate your support.

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