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USFWS Releases National Bison Range Management Plan

Bison at the National Bison Range.
National Bison Range

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the release of the first Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the National Bison Range on the Flathead Indian Reservation today. It comes after two years of public comments.

The  Plan  is now in its final stages. On Friday, it will be published in the Federal Register, opening the last comment period for the document.

Range Manager Amy Coffman says the CCP doesn’t change a whole lot, but it does combine several management plans, touching everything from herd size to forests on the range.

“This is more of a general plan that covers all of those plans at a larger scale,” Coffman said. 

Some changes the CCP will bring are more collaboration with local, tribal and state partners when the Bison Range releases surplus animals to other conservation herds around the country and other management practices.

“There’s going to be more cooperative efforts as we go down that road," she said. "Prescribed fire management, we’ll definitely continue to work with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.”

This follows a long debate about whether the Salish and Kootenai tribes should manage the range, which falls within the borders of the Flathead Reservation. The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to transfer management in 2017 due to, “a variety of information and perspectives.” The Salish and Kootenai Tribes were unable to comment by deadline Thursday.

The CCP does not address a potential transfer, but in an emailed statement, Fish and Wildlife said, “the selected alternative in the final CCP/EIS for NBR could serve as the basis for negotiation about a potential future” annual funding agreement.

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.
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