On Behalf of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation
March 23, 2022
CSKT Reunited with Buffalo Herd
Tribes Assume Full Management of Former National Bison Range
On January 2, 2022, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) assumed full management of the Bison Range, formerly known as the National Bison Range.
The Bison Range land was restored to the CSKT by the Montana Water Rights Protection Act when it was enacted on December 27, 2020. That legislation created a two-year period for transitioning management of the Bison Range from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), to the CSKT.
CSKT Chairman Tom McDonald says that the reunification with the land and resources has been a long time coming.
“Our reunification with this specific buffalo herd means more to us than we can express,” said McDonald. “In addition to our wildlife management, the CSKT wants to ensure the story of our people is told at the Bison Range, which we believe will enhance the public experience and foster a better understanding of Indigenous people.”
“Returning the Bison Range to its people is a momentous occasion, honoring lands, relationships, and conservation successes of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “We’ve worked collaboratively with CSKT for many years and look forward to continuing to work together to conserve wildlife. I can’t wait to visit the CSKT’s Bison Range in the future.”
Although the CSKT assumed full management on January 2, 2022, the USFWS and CSKT continue to partner together to ensure the land and resources are managed at a high-level including prioritizing much needed improvements to address deferred maintenance to enhance safety to the public and wildlife.
The CSKT is committed to ensuring that the public has the best experience possible. The Tribes have adopted, as its interim, the 2019 Bison Range Comprehensive Conservation Plan that the USFWS developed in collaboration with the Tribes. The Tribes have also invested in a remodel of the museum located at the visitor center that reflects their close connection to all wildlife and resources. The museum remodel is close to completion and will be open for this spring's tourist season.
Currently, the Tribes are planning a celebration later this year to commemorate the Tribal restoration of the Bison Range to the CSKT.
Shane A. Morigeau
CSKT Deputy Executive Officer, Public Affairs & Communications
The National Bison Range was established on May 23, 1908, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation authorizing funds to purchase land for bison conservation. It was the first time Congress appropriated tax dollars to buy land specifically to preserve wildlife.
Over a century later, the Montana Water Rights Protection Act was enacted on December 27, 2020. In an important move to restore Tribal homelands, the Bison Range land was restored to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes within this legislation.
In accordance, in 2021 the Department of the Interior announced the transfer of all lands comprising the National Bison Range, approximately 18,800.22 acres, to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be held in trust for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation in Montana. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Public Law 116-260), approved the transfer by repealing the statute that created the National Bison Range.
The Act included a two-year period for transitioning the Range’s management from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Tribes. With that process complete, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes assumed full management of the Bison Range on January 2, 2022.
For more information on the Bison Range, please visit:
Bison Range Website: https://bisonrange.org/
Bison Range on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CSKTBisonRange