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Bison Range 'logical addition' to tribal conservation lands

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News from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes 

PABLO – The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have notified the Montana Congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of the Interior that we would like to revisit the proposal to restore the National Bison Range to federal trust ownership for the benefit of the Tribes. This was the status of the Bison Range lands under the Hellgate Treaty, prior to the creation of the Range. 

“We continue to believe that restoration of the Bison Range to federal trust ownership for the Tribes is the best solution,” said Tribal Chairman Ronald Trahan.  “It is also historically just. The Tribes work hard as natural resource and wildlife managers, and we look forward to extending our work at the Bison Range.” 

Under the legislation the Tribes have drafted, public access would be statutorily required, as would continued management for bison conservation. 

The Tribes released our draft bill for public comment in the summer of 2016, resulting in subsequent revisions to the draft. 

“When the Tribes have taken on big projects, whether it was assuming operation of the electric utility that serves the entire reservation or helping to design a wildlife-friendly highway renovation unlike any other in the country, we take them seriously,” said Rich Janssen, the Tribes’ Natural Resources Department Head.  “We work to get the job done and get it done well. The Bison Range would be no different. We already have an extensive network of Tribally-designated conservation areas that surround the Bison Range; its central location would be a logical addition to Tribal lands and would promote more holistic management.” 

As related in the recent documentary film that the Tribes commissioned and helped to produce, Tribal members were responsible for bringing the first buffalo herd to the Flathead Indian Reservation at a time when the animals were at risk of extinction.  Descendants of those buffalo formed the vast majority of the National Bison Range’s original herd. That history, in combination with the Range’s location in the center of the reservation, creates added resonance to the idea of restoring the range to federal trust ownership for the Tribes.  

The link to the bison range film trailer, next showing at the Bigfork film festival, can be found on Youtube at 


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