PABLO - Leaders of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes say they look forward to working with the federal government on details of a new conservation plan for the National Bison Range, now that a lawsuit has been settled.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has settled a suit brought by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) that challenged the agency's efforts to develop a new Comprehensive Conservation Plan as required by law.
PEER was particularly worried when the Fish and Wildlife Service floated the idea it might use a "legislative transfer" to turn over management of the 18-thousand acre wildlife refuge to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
That approach was shelved last year when US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the government would retain complete control of the Bison Range and PEER is satisfied with that position.
CSKT spokesman Rob McDonald notes the settlement is actually "silent" on the question of the tribe's involvement, neither stipulating nor blocking the tribes from working with the USFWS.
"The tribes have long been on record urging the Service to complete these plans. And we are a cooperating agency for the Service in the development of these plans," McDonald told MTN News.
"And we look forward to working with them on these plans, as well as the related environmental analysis. There's nothing stopping us from having discussions between the Service and the tribes on future partnerships," he continued.
The settlement gives the government five years to complete the conservation plan for the National Bison Range.