Bison, gas plans clash

JUNEAU -- Proponents of natural gas development in the Nenana Basin pf Alaska say a state proposal to release wood bison in the Interior could stall their plans.

A partnership of companies plans to drill for oil and gas in the basin southwest of Fairbanks this summer. And another project that may be at risk is a pipeline Enstar wants to build from the Brooks Range to boost natural gas supplies in the Anchorage region, company spokesman Curtis Thayer said. The pipeline could be routed through the basin.

State Sen. Gene Therriault introduced Senate Joint Resolution 2 this week calling for Gov. Sarah Palin to halt the wood bison release, scheduled for March 2010, until the state has a chance to secure U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assurances that land use won't be hampered. The wood bison is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Releasing the animals in Alaska could trigger endangered-species protections that could restrict or even prohibit oil and gas work in bison areas, Therriault said.

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