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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 

April 11, 2007

Contact: Dean Rundle, (303) 236-4306

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO REDUCE STAFFING AT NATIONAL BISON RANGE COMPLEX IN NORTHWESTERN MONTANA

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region, today announced plans to reorganize and reduce staffing at the National Bison Range, a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System in northwestern Montana. The reductions are part of the Service’s regional workforce plan for the National Wildlife Refuge System that addresses current and future funding challenges at refuges in Montana and throughout the region.

Effective immediately, the Service will put in place a new organizational structure at the Range, consisting of 6.3 permanent full-time equivalent positions. Some work at the Range will be performed by additional seasonal or temporary employees. Service personnel located at other refuges will also assist with work related to the Range.

"The National Bison Range has played an essential role in the conservation of American bison for nearly a century," said Mitch King, the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Regional Director. "It is important, however, to remember that the National Wildlife Refuge System is constantly changing and adapting to meet the nation’s conservation challenges, including operational realities that require we focus on our core mission and trust responsibilities. The changes at the Range reflect this reality."

Implementation of the new organizational structure at the Range was made possible by two developments: the redistribution of wild bison throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System; and, the conclusion of a nearly two-year contractual arrangement with a local tribal government for work at the Range.

In late 2006, the Service began a redistribution of its high-quality genetic material from National Wildlife Refuge System bison herds, including the herd at the Range. Bison from the Range were sent to other refuges to insure against catastrophic loss of genetic material and to promote a more holistic bison management strategy for refuge herds. The Service anticipates that additional bison relocations will reduce the number of bison at the National Bison Range. As a result, animal husbandry requirements and the number of staff needed to manage bison will also be decreased. Management responsibility for Swan River and Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuges, currently part of the larger National Bison Range Complex, will be transferred to the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex, headquartered in Great Falls, Montana.

"The National Bison Range will continue to achieve its establishment purposes for bison conservation and public viewing of bison," continued King. "The Service can and will accomplish its goals for wildlife management and wildlife-dependent recreation at the Range with fewer resources."

The Service’s decision in late 2006 to terminate an annual funding agreement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation allows the Service to apply the regional workforce plan to the Range. The Service began developing its workforce plan as early as 2003, but could not include the Range in the plan until the Service reassumed full responsibility for all operations at the Range.

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. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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