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National Bison Range will continue under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ownership

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Courtesy release

The Department of the Interior has reviewed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal for management of the National Bison Range and determined it will continue under Service ownership.

“I took a hard look at the current proposal suggesting a new direction for the National Bison Range and assessed what this would mean for Montana and the nation,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “As Secretary, my job is to look 100 years forward at all of Interior's resources. I recognize the Bison Range is a critical part of our past, present and future, which is why I have changed course.”

The Service will resume its review of future management actions at the range by publishing a revised notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and accompanying environmental impact statement (EIS). The draft CCP/EIS will include detailed information about the planning process and will outline a range of management alternatives based on public input received over the years. Once finalized, the CCP will determine the resource management goals and visitor recreational activities for the National Bison Range over the next 15 years.

By law, the Service is required to develop a CCP for each 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. The CCP process is a collaborative process and includes partners and the public in its development.

The National Bison Range lies entirely within the boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). As part of the planning process, the Department of the Interior is committed to evaluating a range of options that include opportunities for the CSKT to participate in the future management of the Range. Accordingly, the CSKT will be invited to be a cooperating agency in the development of the CCP and EIS. In addition to their wildlife conservation experience and expertise, members of the CSKT have a cultural, historical, and geographic connection to these lands.

For more than 100 years the National Bison Range has played a critical role in protecting American bison, one of the most iconic species in the American West. By the late 1800s, the bison population in the United States had plummeted from an estimated 30-60 million animals to a low of just 100 bison in the wild. In response to this radical decline, in 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt, signed legislation establishing the National Bison Range as a sanctuary for the imperiled species.

From an initial herd of 40, today, 350-500 bison now call the National Bison Range home. Animals from this herd are also relocated to various herds around the country in an effort to maximize genetic diversity among all federally-managed bison.

The Service is opening a 30-day public comment period for the public to comment on the scope of the CCP/EIS. Written comments must be received on or before June 19, 2017. The public may submit comments in two ways:

  • Email: Scoping@NBR@fws.gov

  • Mail or hand delivery: Toni Griffin, Refuge Planner, NBR CCP, 134 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, CO 80228

In order to increase efficiency and save taxpayer dollars, the Service is simultaneously publishing a separate notice of intent today, which will gather information necessary to prepare a draft CCP for the rest of the units that make up the National Bison Range Complex. This notice includes Pablo, Lost Trail and Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuges, as well as the Northwest Montana Wetland Management Districts. Running the two processes side-by-side will allow the Service to combine public meetings and outreach; saving time, resources and money. Comments on that notice of intent can be delivered in the same two ways as listed above.

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