Environment | Opinion

Vernon Finley: Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes seek return of National Bison Range






Bison in the National Bison Range in Montana. Photo by Dave Fitzpatrick / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Chairman Vernon Finley of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes explains why the National Bison Range is so important to his people. The Bison Range Working Group is drafting legislation to return the site, which is located entirely within reservation boundaries, to the Montana tribe:
Many of you have heard about the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ draft legislation to restore the National Bison Range to federal trust ownership for the tribes. Under this legislation, the tribes, who were the original managers of the NBR lands and whose members had originally managed the reservation’s bison herd, would be statutorily required to continue managing the land for bison and wildlife conservation, as we had prior to the 1908 creation of the NBR. We look forward to continuing this stewardship, as it is deeply imbedded in our culture, our values, our abilities, and our history.

Besides the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this proposal is supported by national, state, and local groups such as the National Wildlife Federation, Montana Conservation Voters and Mission Mountain Audubon Society. They all know that the legislation accomplishing this return will continue to require public access as well as bison conservation. And, because of our record in wildlife and natural resources management, they know that the tribes will be excellent stewards. I, and the tribes, look forward to proving them right.

There are those who continue to oppose any tribal participation at the NBR. Some deny that the NBR is even on the Flathead Indian Reservation when, in fact, it is located in the very center. For those who are interested in facts, it is worth recalling some of the history relevant to this important moment.

Read More from Vernon Finley:
Vernon Finley: Montana Tribes ready to resume bison management (The Billings Gazette 8/11)

Another Opinion:
Ralph Fries: Keep Bison Range under public management (The Billings Gazette 7/16)

Related Stories:
Opinion: Montana tribe deserves managing role for bison range (08/26)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes eye role at bison range (08/05)
Montana tribe seeks management role at National Bison Range (7/26)
Montana tribe again moves toward agreement at bison range (05/16)