We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to gather information necessary to prepare a draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the National Bison Range (NBR), a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. We are furnishing this notice in compliance with Service Refuge Planning policy to advise other agencies and the public of our intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues to be considered in the planning process. Participation in the planning process will be encouraged and facilitated by various means, including news releases and public meetings. Notification of all such meetings will be announced in the local press and on the NBR Web site.
In 1855, the United States entered into the Hell Gate Treaty with the Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Western Montana to establish the Flathead Indian Reservation. Just over 50 years later, on May 23, 1908, Congress enacted legislation that used its power of eminent domain to establish the refuge. The overall mission of the NBR is to maintain a representative herd of bison, under reasonably natural conditions, to ensure the preservation of the species for continued public enjoyment. The NBR is 18,800 acres and supports between 350 and 500 bison. The National Bison Range lies entirely within the boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Members of the CSKT have a cultural, historical, or geographic connection to the land and resources of the Range. There are significant cultural sites located on the Range and the land was formerly owned in trust for the CSKT. The bison at the range today are descendants of bison owned and preserved by CSKT members over a century ago.