National Bison Range Update:

...by Lisa Morris, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, www.citizensalliance.org

Thousands of letters opposing management transfer of the National Bison Range (NBR) to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have been received in Washington DC. Management transfer of the NBR will set precedent for National Parks and refuges all over the country. Numerous Conservation organizations oppose the transfer, including Ducks Unlimited, NRA, American Bird Conservancy, Wildlife Management Institute, and the Isaac Walton League. Petitions have been delivered to the entire Montana Delegation in Washington DC. Articles have been written in national papers, including the Washington Post, New York Times, and the High Country News.

Mr. Don Redfearn, a former refuge manager, wrote in August, "In 1976, the "Game Range Act" specified all (National Wildlife Refuges) NWR to be administered through the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Also … Congress removed all authority previously vested in the Secretary of the Interior and the President to revoke any refuge. Neither the President nor the Secretary of Interior has authority to reassign management of any refuge in the system to any entity."

However, US Senator Campbell (R-Co) has introduced legislation to change all that. SB 288 will expand the provisions of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to encourage contracting by Indians and Indian tribes with respect to management of Federal land.
Although tribal communities have done great jobs at various tasks, tribal government is too centralized. There is little separation of powers, and many administrative decisions are made at the council, not departmental, level. The Council has many responsibilities, including the economy. Unlike the FWS, wildlife isn't always a priority.

Seven years ago the Tribal Council allowed a Stock Car racetrack to expand onto the Pablo National Wildlife Refuge. It also allows cattle on refuge land, and built an above ground power line running parallel to the Pablo Dam. Power lines have killed many birds in this valley, including rare trumpeter swans. In 2001, FWS told CSKT that NBR negotiations would not resume until these problems were fixed. However, the Department of Interior has ordered negotiations anyway.

An August 20th DOI press release states:

"…The U. S. (FWS) and (CSKT) will be meeting in early September, to further negotiate a possible Annual Funding Agreement (AFA) for certain programs, functions, services and activities on the National Bison Range and other refuges within the boundaries of the Flathead Reservation…As required by federal regulations, once the Service and the Tribes agree to an AFA, at that time it will be made available to interested members of Congress and the public for review and comment.…The AFA negotiations are not public meetings because they are pre-decisional, involve personnel matters and sensitive contract discussions."

That meeting took place on September 5th, and no AFA has been agreed upon yet. But Matt Kales of the FWS stated, "This was a constructive meeting."

Please continue sending letters to President Bush and Secretary Norton.

Please also call Senator Burns:
202 -224-2644 (from MT -1-800-344-1513)
Fax: 406-252-7768
or write him at:
222 N. 32nd St., Ste. 400
Billings, MT 59101

Find addresses to media and officials at http://www.conservativealerts.com
For more information about the NBR issue, see: http://www.ronan.net/~morris/page14.html