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JOINT NEWS RELEASE

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

 U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE AND THE CONFEDERATED SALISH AND KOOTENAI TRIBES NEGOTIATE DRAFT ANNUAL FUNDING AGREEMENT FOR NATIONAL BISON RANGE COMPLEX

04-46
July 6, 2004

Contacts:

Matt Kales, FWS, (303) 236-4576
Gwen Lankford, CSKT, (406) 675-2700, ext. 1119
Sharon Rose, FWS, (303) 236-4580

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have negotiated a Draft Annual Funding Agreement for the National Bison Range Complex in Moeise, Montana.  Per the draft agreement, the CSKT would perform some of the Service’s activities at the Bison Range during Fiscal Year 2005.  These activities include the following categories: biological program; fire program; maintenance program; and, visitor services.   

The Service will maintain ownership of and management authority over all lands and buildings at the Bison Range. 

The National Bison Range Complex, part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, consists of the National Bison Range, Swan Lake, Lost Trail, Pablo and Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuges, and the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District.  Established in 1908 to conserve the American Bison, the Bison Range and ancillary properties provide important habitat for a variety of species such as elk, pronghorn antelope and migratory birds.  The draft agreement applies only to those units that lie within the boundaries of the Flathead Reservation: The National Bison Range; Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge; Pablo National Wildlife Refuge; and, waterfowl production areas within the Reservation. 

The draft agreement was negotiated pursuant to the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.  Under the Act, qualified Indian Tribes may request to perform activities administered by the Department of Interior which are of geographic, historic or cultural significance to the requesting tribe.  

The draft agreement at the Bison Range follows another recent management agreement between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments regarding tribally contracted activities in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge of Alaska. 

Notice of the draft agreement will be published in the Federal Register in the near future.  Upon publication, the public will have 90 days to comment on the draft agreement.  The draft agreement may currently be obtained on-line at: http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/cskt-fws-negotiation or by contacting the Bison Range at: National Bison Range, 132 Bison Range Road, Moeise, MT 59824; (406) 644-2211; or the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, P.O. Box 278, Pablo, MT 59855; (406) 675-2700.  The 90-day comment period will commence only after notice of the draft agreement has been published in the Federal Register.

Comments may be submitted via e-mail at: draftafapubliccomments@fws.gov, or in writing to the Bison Range at the above address.  During the public comment period, an open house(s) may be held, notice for which would appear in local newspapers.

Following the public comment period and any subsequent revisions to the draft agreement, the final agreement will be signed by the Service and the CSKT, after which the agreement will be submitted to the U.S. Congress for a 90-day review period before it is implemented.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are comprised of the Bitterroot Salish, the Pend d’Oreille, and the Kootenai Tribes.  The Tribes occupy the 1.3 million acre Flathead Reservation in northwestern Montana.  Prior to current negotiations regarding the National Bison Range Complex, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have assumed management of many activities previously provided by the Federal government on the Flathead Reservation.  The activities include Tribal Health and Human Services; the Tribal Wildlife Management Program, and Mission Valley Power.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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