WASHINGTON, DC — The federal government has transferred the National Bison Range in western Montana to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT).
The US Department of the Interior announced the transfer of the 18,800 acres on Wednesday to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be held in trust for CSKT. The lands on the Flathead Reservation were transferred from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Since the early 2000s, management of the National Bison Range at the southern end of the Mission Valley has been a point of debate.
“The establishment of the National Bison Range was an historic use of lands to preserve wildlife, but we must also acknowledge that this act reduced the Salish and Kootenai peoples’ homeland by thousands of acres,” Indian Affairs Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland stated in a news release.
“Today’s announcement marks the oﬃcial return of the Bison Range lands and resources to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes," USFWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams stated.
“The CSKT is a leader in conservation of natural resources throughout Montana, and the Service looks forward to continuing to work together to conserve wildlife and wild places throughout the state,” Williams added.
The National Bison Range was established on May 23, 1908, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation authorizing money to buy land for bison conservation.
It was the first time Congress appropriated tax dollars to buy land specifically to preserve wildlife, according to the news release.