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Possible National Bison Range management change still in the wor - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Possible National Bison Range management change still in the works

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Tribal leaders have written draft legislation would lays out how the refuge would be managed through a federal trust. (MTN News photo) Tribal leaders have written draft legislation would lays out how the refuge would be managed through a federal trust. (MTN News photo)
MOIESE -

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is formally moving forward with a new conservation plan which could transfer management of the National Bison Range to tribal interests.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal leaders say tat they'll continue moving forward with the idea of having separate Congressional action on the same idea.

The USFWS floated the idea of transferring responsibility for the National Bison Range in the Mission Valley over the CSKT last year. The agency said it felt the tribe was best suited for the long-range management of the refuge, which was first established to protect bison over a century ago.

USFWS has now published their formal "notice of intent" to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP), along with an Environmental Impact Statement to review the plan.

Among the options to be considered is the Service's preferred option of sending legislation through Congress to restore federal trust ownership to CSKT. At the same time, the change would ensure continued conservation of not only the bison but all the other wildlife on the refuge, along with public access.

Tribal Chair Vernon Finley said in a statement that the tribe welcomes the step since it has received a "great deal of positive feedback from the public" on draft legislation to change the management structure at the Bison Range.

The tribe notes the proposal has already seen support from groups including the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Montana Conservation Votes and the local Audubon chapters.

The tribe says it will cooperate with USFWS which still continuing to track the idea of getting separate Congressional support for the change. Click here to view the revised draft legislation, copies of all of the public comments, and Tribal responses to comments.

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