Refuge Management and Planning News

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Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for Future Management of the National Bison Range 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as part of its ongoing efforts to plan for the future of the National Bison Range, held a 45-day public comment period and three public meetings for the national wildlife refuge’s draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and associated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The draft CCP/EIS is currently available for review on the National Bison Range Complex CCP Planning website:

Public Comment Period: April 5, 2019 through May 20, 2019

Members of the public were invited to submit comments from April 5, 2019 through May 20, 2019.

Questions or requests for more information regarding the draft CCP/EIS, and its proposed alternatives, can be directed via email to or to Bernardo Garza at 303-236-4377. Additional information and updates will be available on this website and the National Bison Range CCP website.  

Timeline and Next Steps 

Following the public comment period, the Service will analyze comments received, publish a final CCP/EIS, and make a final determination about the preferred management alternative for implementing the CCP.

Once finalized, the CCP will determine resource management and visitor recreational goals, including public use and access, for the National Bison Range over the next 15 years.


Background and Draft CCP/EIS Alternatives 

By law, the Service is required to develop a CCP for each national wildlife refuge it manages, outlining specific resource management goals to meet the purpose of that refuge and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System as a whole. CCP development is a collaborative process that includes input from partners and the public. The Service is currently undergoing a CCP/EIS process to focus management and use of the National Bison Range for the next 15 years.

The draft CCP/EIS was jointly developed by a planning team of federal, Tribal, state, and local government agencies. These cooperating agencies include: the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Lake County; and Sanders County.

The planning team initially developed five alternatives for the refuge. After reviewing input from a public comment period in May 2018, the planning team revised these proposed alternatives.

The current draft CCP/EIS includes three management alternatives. The first alternative, known as the No Action Alternative (Alternative A), would continue all current management activities, and maintain funding, infrastructure, all programs, and staffing with few changes.

The other two alternatives are as follows:

Alternative B

This alternative emphasizes managing habitat and wildlife populations to provide quality, wildlife-dependent opportunities for the public. The Service would maximize the quality of recreational opportunities by providing improved access, facilities, interpretive materials, and environmental education. The Service would also aim to enhance the quality of the public’s experience by maintaining healthy wildlife populations and habitats that support activities such as wildlife observation, photography, interpretation, education, and fishing. Working with partners, through existing and new partnerships, is also a key component of this alternative.

Alternative C - Proposed Action

This alternative emphasizes maintaining and/or enhancing ecological communities, recognizing ever-changing environmental conditions. In cooperation with our partners, the Service would use a prioritization framework to identify and define future conditions that would drive management actions to:

  • Build ecological community resiliency

  • Promote species diversity and genetic diversity

  • Build sustainability in management capacity and operations

This alternative seeks to facilitate collaborative, cooperative, and coordinated management of the National Bison Range with our federal, Tribal, state, local, public, and private partners. It seeks to provide better opportunities for fish, plant, and wildlife habitat on lands outside the boundaries of the refuge by creating corridors conducive to wildlife migration and movement. It also seeks to incorporate the expertise, resources, and efforts of our partners to help facilitate the benefits of a broader functioning landscape.

Some management elements are common to all three alternatives, such as: management of surplus bison; prescribed fire management; collaboration with partner agencies; protection of natural and cultural resources; collaboration with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in utilizing traditional ecological knowledge; and, developing educational and interpretive materials including exhibits and programs.


Public Meetings and In-person Involvement Opportunities

The Service held three public meetings on the draft CCP/EIS, to meet with Service personnel, learn more about the CCP/EIS process, and provide input. These meetings were held in an open-house format.

Information about these meetings is detailed below:

Date: April 30, 2019

Location: Missoula, MT

Date: May 1, 2019

Location: Polson, MT

Date: May 2, 2019

Location: National Bison Range Visitor Center, Charlo, MT

The National Bison Range lies entirely within the boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. It is one of six units in the National Bison Range Complex, which also includes Lost Trail, Ninepipe, and Pablo National Wildlife Refuges, and two wetland management districts. A separate environmental assessment (EA) will be developed for these remaining five units of the refuge complex (along with a CCP) in the future.



 Resources and Additional Information

Read the press release.

Read the Draft CCP/EIS.
Read the Planning Update for the CCP.

National Bison Range Complex CCP website (Download the draft CCP/EIS under the “Documents” tab and find additional news and updates about the ongoing CCP process.)