MTPR

Susan Reneau

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. 

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.

The Service is drafting comprehensive conservation plans, or CCPs, and accompanying environmental analyses for two areas: one for the National Bison Range, and a separate CCP for the rest of the units within the refuge complex.
Mike Albans

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was in Polson and Kalispell this week, seeking public input on a pair of management plans for wildlife refuges in northwest Montana.