Tribes assume full management of former National Bison Range
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News from the CSKT Deputy Executive Office
FLATHEAD RESERVATION — On Jan. 2, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) assumed full management of the Bison Range, formerly known as the National Bison Range.
The Bison Range land was restored to the CSKT by the Montana Water Rights Protection Act when it was enacted on Dec. 27, 2020. That legislation created a two-year period for transitioning management of the Bison Range from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to the CSKT.
CSKT Chairman Tom McDonald says that the reunification with the land and resources has been a long time coming.
“Our reunification with this specific buffalo herd means more to us than we can express,” said McDonald. “In addition to our wildlife management, the CSKT wants to ensure the story of our people is told at the Bison Range, which we believe will enhance the public experience and foster a better understanding of Indigenous people.”
“Returning the Bison Range to its people is a momentous occasion, honoring lands, relationships, and conservation successes of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “We’ve worked collaboratively with CSKT for many years and look forward to continuing to work together to conserve wildlife. I can’t wait to visit the CSKT’s Bison Range in the future.”
Although the CSKT assumed full management on Jan. 2, the USFWS and CSKT continue to partner together to ensure the land and resources are managed at a high-level, including prioritizing much needed improvements to address deferred maintenance to enhance safety to the public and wildlife.
The CSKT is committed to ensuring that the public has the best experience possible. The Tribes have adopted, as its interim, the 2019 Bison Range Comprehensive Conservation Plan that the USFWS developed in collaboration with the Tribes. The Tribes have also invested in a remodel of the museum located at the visitor center that reflects their close connection to all wildlife and resources. The museum remodel is close to completion and will be open for this spring’s tourist season.
Currently, the Tribes are planning a celebration later this year to commemorate the Tribal restoration of the Bison Range to the CSKT.