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USFWS Preparing Bison Range Transfer Study

Bison at the National Bison Range
Josh Burnham
National Bison Range

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it’s assessing future management plans for the National Bison Range, including transferring control to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT).

The federal government bought the 18,000-acre wildlife refuge from the tribes in 1908, a sale that was against the tribes’ will. In June, the tribes released draft legislation that would transfer management of the range from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the CSKT. The tribes say the Fish and Wildlife Service approached them about transferring management.

Rob McDonald is spokesperson for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

"To have the opportunity to bring back into the fold and restore the land I think restores part of us," McDonald said.

He added the tribes have a strong track record of land and wildlife management, and is pleased that record is recognized by the Service.

The Service is now preparing a Comprehensive Conservation Plan and accompanying Environmental Impact Statement in cooperation with the tribes that will outline management goals and recreational activities for the National Bison Range for the next 15 years. The plan considers three courses of action. The preferred option would return control of traditional lands and cultural resources to the tribes.

Last May, a group of former employees and concerned citizens joined a lawsuit filed by the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, to stop the tribes from gaining management control. Today, PEER said the preferred alternative to transfer the range would require legislation outside the Service’s control.

The Service is opening a 30-day public comment period for the public to comment on the scope of the CCP/EIS. Written comments must be received on or before February 16, 2017. You may mail or hand-deliver comments to Toni Griffin, Refuge Planner, NBR CCP, 134 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, CO 80228.

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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