Last fall, the Blackfeet Tribe announced plans to reintroduce free-roaming bison to federal land outside its reservation. On Wednesday, the tribe met with state and federal agencies for the third time this year to hash out what that would look like.
Bringing bison back to the reservation and their historic range on land that now belongs to the U.S. Forest Service, like the Badger-Two Medicine and Chief Mountain, is a vision eight years in the making.
Ervin Carlson directs the tribe’s buffalo program.
"There's no models that we can look at to guide us, so we're kind of building that model, and that's what these working groups are about, is building that, so we'll be the model," he says.
Representatives from Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the U.S. Geological Survey, the tribe and conservation groups attend these meetings to develop a management plan that classifies bison as wildlife and allows them to migrate across agency boundaries. But some key players, like the U.S. Forest Service and Montana’s Department of Livestock, haven’t been participating in the talks.
The tribe has no concrete plans for when it might reintroduce bison to non-reservation lands.