MTPR

National Bison Range

National Bison Range
USFWS (CC-BY-2)

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.

Vanessa Fields, planning team leader for the National Bison Range, presenting at the public meeting in Polson May 1, 2019.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio


The latest step in a years-long process laying out the future of the National Bison Range Monday night dredged up questions of race and public land ownership that have lingered since a failed 2016 proposal to transfer the refuge to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

A sign at the National Bison Range in northwest Montana.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio


New possibilities for management of the National Bison Range north of Missoula are out, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment on them at three meetings this week. 

An informational sign at the entrance of the National Bison Range near Moiese, MT.
Josh Burnham

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have told Montana’s congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of Interior that it wants management of the National Bison Range restored to the tribes.

Under the proposal, tribal leaders would continue to prioritize bison conservation at the 19,000-acre refuge near Charlo, which the federal government would own in a trust.

A sign at the National Bison Range in northwest Montana.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

A new film about the National Bison Range northwest of Missoula premiers Wednesday October 24 at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo.

“In the Spirit of Atatice [ah-ta-TEE-tseh” recounts the formation of the Bison Range from a tribal perspective. The half-hour film will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmakers Daniel Glick, Roy Bigcrane, Shane Morigeau and Brian Upton.

From left, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees Kevin Shinn, Vanessa Fields and Bernardo Garza  field public questions at an open house about future National Bison Range management in Charlo May 10, 2018.
Nicky Ouellet

The National Bison Range near Charlo has a way of anchoring itself in local’s sense of where they come from and who they are now.

Dave Stipe remembers as a kid taking visitors out to the range to see the herd.

"We grew up in our hot lunches eating the buffalo, the deer and the elk from the bison range," Stipe says.

Now, as a Lake County Commissioner, Stipe is part of a group working alongside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to outline how the Range and a few nearby wildlife refuges will be managed in the future.

An informational sign at the entrance of the National Bison Range near Moiese, MT.
Josh Burnham

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting a series of public meetings this week to hear input on five alternative plans for future management of the National Bison Range and nearby wildlife refuges.

Alternatives for two Comprehensive Conservation Plans range from continuing management as it is now,  to emphasizing visitor experience, to managing for key species, to managing for ecological sustainability, and working with tribal and local partners to increase connectivity between the refuges.

An informational sign at the entrance of the National Bison Range near Moiese, MT.
Josh Burnham

Federal wildlife officials have agreed to prepare a conservation plan for Montana's National Bison Range as part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought by an environmental group. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will prepare what’s called a comprehensive conservation plan, or CCP, for the Bison Range by 2023.

Rough-legged hawk
FLICKR USER, FRANK D. LOSPALLUTO (CC-BY-2.0)

As winter comes to the National Wildlife Refuges of the Mission Valley, we begin to see a whole different group of visitors. And I’m not just referring to the human kind. Strange as it may seem, the National Bison Range, Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge and Pablo National Wildlife Refuge, along with other lands in the Mission Valley, are where a number of birds choose to spend their winter.

Yellowstone bison.
Yellowstone National Park - Flickr (PD)

More than half of Montana is currently in the grips of a severe drought, according to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Drought Monitor Thursday. And, as pastures shrivel up in the heat, ranchers are trucking in bales of hay and selling their cattle early.

But there’s another big, horned animal out there on the range. Bison.

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