Bison Range draft legislation revised
News from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
PABLO — Following public comments received over the summer, including from a public meeting, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have revised their draft legislation to restore the National Bison Range to federal trust ownership for the Tribes.
“We want to thank all of the organizations and people that took the time to review our draft legislation, attend the public meeting and submit comments,” Tribal Chairman Vernon Finley said. “Tribal staff reviewed all of the comments, continued our dialogue with the conservation community, and revised our draft legislation accordingly to make an even better product.” On June 10, the Tribes posted the draft legislation on a website (http://bisonrangeworkinggroup.org), and solicited public comment. The comment period was initially scheduled to close on June 24, but the Tribes extended it through July 15. The Tribes also held a public meeting in Pablo on July 12, at which Tribal staff explained the legislation and then invited the public to meet with staff to discuss it and ask any questions.
Once the comment period closed, the Tribes posted on the website all of the comments received, as well as Tribal responses to numerous issues that had been raised in the comments.
The Tribes received a total of 153 total comments. A majority of the comments, approximately 80, were supportive of the draft legislation.
“The comments we received were very helpful,” CSKT spokesperson Rob McDonald said. “In addition to revising the legislation, we responded to a number of issues that had been raised so the commenters, and the public, would have more information about this issue and the Tribes’ position.”
Organizations that submitted comments supporting the draft Bison Range restoration legislation include the National Wildlife Federation, Montana Conservation Voters, Headwaters Montana, the Flathead Reservation Human Rights Coalition, and Mission Mountain Audubon.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation groups have expressed their confidence in our Tribal Natural Resources management program. We look forward to building on our existing partnerships with fellow governments, as well as conservation groups,” said Rich Janssen, Department Head of the Natural Resources Department. “We see Bison Range restoration as being a catalyst for creating even higher levels of public wildlife and education experiences.”
The draft legislation continues to require continued bison and wildlife conservation, as well as continued public access. Revisions to the draft legislation include:
—a requirement for the Tribes to maintain a publicly-available management plan for the restored land;
—including invasive weed management and control as part of the Tribes’ management plan;
—increasing the amount of payments to Lake and Sanders Counties from the Refuge Revenue Sharing Fund; and
—adding a prohibition on gaming on the restored lands;
The Tribal Council has requested Montana’s Congressional delegation to introduce the draft legislation.