CSKT approves recreation license increases, hay at reduced prices
FLATHEAD RESERVATION — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council voted to increase prices for non-tribal members to camp and recreate on tribal lands at a Jan. 4 meeting. Tribal council also approved a reduced-price sale of recently acquired hay for tribal members.
The most contentious decision was to increase the recreation prices. Staff from the tribe’s natural resource department noted that much public comment had been received on the proposed increases, and most of the comments were against the price increase.
The proposed increases included an increase in price from $20 to $100 for a camping stamp. Nontribal reservation residents will pay $40 for conservation licenses, doubled from the previous $20 cost. Disabled conservation license prices will increase from $17 to $37 for reservation residents, and $100 for nonresidents. Nonresidents will now have to pay $100 for a conservation license, up from $26.
Some commenters noted that those increases are steep, especially for families that would need to buy multiple permits for multiple nontribal family members.
“It’s kind of one of those things where at first there’s a revolt and then after a while you get back to it,” said outgoing fish and wildlife division manager in the CSKT’s Natural Resources Department Tom McDonald. McDonald was sworn in as a tribal council member and elected tribal chairman on Jan. 6. “We’re going to be revisiting the issue of solitude for the membership on their own property again in certain areas.”
The increases were proposed in response to usage, and in some cases, an upswing in abuse, like graffiti.
“The pressure on our resources is definitely apparent if you try to go up in the summer and try to find a place to camp at Twin Lakes,” Council Member James Steele Jr. said. “As a kid you could pretty much go and go do that, but now it’s a little more of a challenge. I think the increase in fee reflects that. There’s increased usage. There’s increased desire to access our lands and I think these fees correspond with that increased usage and increased staff and manpower that’s needed to take care of those resources.”
At times in the past, tribal members haven’t been able to access certain areas on holidays because of overcrowding by nonmembers, McDonald said. Steele Jr. also noted that non-tribal members are not guaranteed the ability to recreate on tribal lands.
“It’s a privilege for them to be able to access our tribal lands and that’s the way I think we need to remember it as a tribe,” Steel Jr. said. “We are allowing these folks to utilize our lands and that is a privilege, and it is not a right. The only one who has that right is the enrolled members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.”
CSKT Fish and Game Chief Dan McClure noted that representatives from the Lake County’s attorney’s office supported the changes. McClure said the attorneys were in favor of tribal enforcement officers issuing citations for criminal trespass. Trespassing fees increased in Montana in 2021 to $500, with possible jail time of up to a year,
“It’s good to know that the court system is watching this as well, and I feel that at this time we have their support,” McClure said.
In other business, the tribal council also voted to sell 220 tons of hay to tribal members at a reduced price. The hay was included in the recent purchase of a ranch property by the tribes.
Tribal staff noted that skyrocketing hay prices have created a brutal market for producers. The going rate is about $350 per ton, staff noted.
Tribal Council approved selling limited quantities of hay to tribal members at discounted rates on a first-come, first-serve basis, with the caveat that the hay goes to livestock, and not for brokering purposes.