|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
JOINT PRESS RELEASE
Confederated Salish & Kootenai
May 1, 2003
Contacts: Fred Matt, CSKT, (406) 675-2700
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes to Hold Public Meeting May 15 to Discuss National Bison Range Management
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes will hold a public meeting the evening of May 15, 2003, from 6-9 PM, at the Ronan High School gymnasium, in Ronan, Montana, to discuss potential Tribal roles in managing certain activities at the National Bison Range and three ancillary properties: Pablo and Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuges, and the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District. The meeting will include a discussion of the current negotiations between the Service and the Tribes regarding a potential funding agreement to allow the Tribes to participate in certain management activities on the Range and ancillary properties.
The meeting is jointly hosted by the Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Tribes and will be chaired by Fred Matt, CSKT Chairman; Terry Virden, Bureau of Indian Affairs; Paul Hoffman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. Hoffman, whose responsibilities include overseeing the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, is the lead negotiator for the federal government during this most recent effort by the Tribes to assume responsibility for certain management activities on the Bison Range.
"I have always said this would be a very public process," Matt said talking about the current negotiations. "I hope we can get past some of the misconceptions and rancor and focus on the future for the Bison Range and how we can all work together to maintain and enhance this national treasure for the benefit of everyone."
Hoffman added his hopes for a productive discussion about the laws that govern National Wildlife Refuge management and the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act which requires federal agencies to consider entering into Annual Funding Agreements for the management of federal units when those units have a historic, cultural and geographic link to Indian tribes. "I will be there mostly to listen, but I am also optimistic that people will come to this meeting willing to hear about the laws that govern both the ongoing role of the Service in the management of the Bison Range as well as our duty to negotiate in good faith with the Tribes," Hoffman said.
Anyone wishing to comment at the public meeting will be asked to sign in when they arrive at the meeting. Time limits for comments may be established, depending on the number of people who sign up to comment. The meeting will begin with brief presentations and comments by Chairman Matt and Deputy Assistant Secretary Hoffman.
Hoffman reiterated that the negotiations do not include any transfer of land, easements or improvements on the refuges and that the refuges will continue to be supervised by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under current management guidelines and policies. He encourages people to consult the Service web site and the documents that articulate the principles and goals of the negotiations. See: http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/CSKT-FWS-Negotiation
"This is not a done deal and we take the public input seriously," Hoffman emphasized. The meeting on Thursday evening, May 15, is just one part of an extensive public input process that the Service and the Tribes have agreed to throughout the negotiations.
Tribal Chairman Matt also announced that the Tribes and the Service have agreed to action steps and timelines to address several longstanding refuge compatibility issues. "This was one of our goals established during February meeting when the Tribes and Interior began the negotiation process," Matt said. The parties previously agreed in principle to address these issues, but the current plan articulates responsibilities and commits both the Tribes and the Service to certain action steps and dates.
Among the compatibility issues to be resolved are: 1) a land swap to eliminate the encroachment of part of the tribal stock car track on the Pablo NWR, 2) the burying of power lines on the Pablo NWR, 3) modified farming and grazing practices on Ninepipe and Pablo NWRs, 4) removal of rip rap from the Pablo NWR, and 5) the conclusion of gravel mining and operator training activities on the Pablo NWR. Details of the Compatibility Issues Plan of Action are available on the Services web site and at the National Bison Range and the CSKT offices.
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