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CSKT evaluate prospect of bison operation options

By Adriana Fehrs

CSKT Tribal Lands Department has released an evaluation of bison operation options for the Flathead Indian Reservation. Doug Dupuis, CSKT Tribal Lands Range Specialist, informs the public, “This is completely separate from the National Bison Range.” (Courtesy photo) CSKT Tribal Lands Department has released an evaluation of bison operation options for the Flathead Indian Reservation. Doug Dupuis, CSKT Tribal Lands Range Specialist, informs the public, “This is completely separate from the National Bison Range.” (Courtesy photo)

PABLO — CSKT Tribal Lands Department has released an evaluation of bison operation options for the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Doug Dupuis, CSKT Tribal Lands Range Specialist, informs the public, “This is completely separate from the National Bison Range.”

Back in February, CSKT was awarded $7,500 from the Inter Tribal Bison Council to perform a feasibility study for reestablishing a bison herd on the reservation. Four different options were identified. “We are certainly taking more of a cultural aspect to this evaluation,” says Dupuis.

Back in February, CSKT was awarded $7,500 from the Inter Tribal Bison Council to perform a feasibility study for reestablishing a bison herd on the reservation. Four different options were identified. “We are certainly taking more of a cultural aspect to this evaluation,” says Dupuis. (Courtesy photo) Back in February, CSKT was awarded $7,500 from the Inter Tribal Bison Council to perform a feasibility study for reestablishing a bison herd on the reservation. Four different options were identified. “We are certainly taking more of a cultural aspect to this evaluation,” says Dupuis. (Courtesy photo)

Option 1 includes an on-reservation Terminal Facility, identified as an option that could be implemented while the other options would require further study. CSKT would construct a terminal facility for bison from Yellowstone National Park (YNP). Up to 200 bison would be held at the facility until slaughtered. They estimate option one to cost $13,890 per year.

Option 2 involves a quarantine/ terminal facility, which is projected to be the most profitable – a cumulative net profit of $487,000 in ten years. An area of ten to twenty acres near Gardiner would be acquired to develop a quarantine facility. An estimated 100 to 200 bison would be housed at the facility. Brucellosis free bison would be sold, and diseased bison would be held at the facility until shipped to slaughter.

Option 3a and 3b would involve acquiring brucellosis free bison from other tribes and starting a commercial bison herd on the reservation, which would be managed primarily for the production of a commercial herd. Option 3a consists of starting a 100 head heard, and option 3b would involve 150 bison cows.

CSKT Tribal Lands Department has released an evaluation of bison operation options for the Flathead Indian Reservation. Option 1 includes an on-reservation Terminal Facility. CSKT would construct a facility for bison from Yellowstone National Park (YNP). Up to 200 bison would be held at the facility until slaughtered. They estimate option 1 to cost $13,890 per year. (Courtesy Photo)  CSKT Tribal Lands Department has released an evaluation of bison operation options for the Flathead Indian Reservation. Option 1 includes an on-reservation Terminal Facility. CSKT would construct a facility for bison from Yellowstone National Park (YNP). Up to 200 bison would be held at the facility until slaughtered. They estimate option 1 to cost $13,890 per year. (Courtesy Photo)

CSKT lands determined that option 3a, which would use 10,000 acres, would not be profitable at any point during the fifteen year period, and an estimated net loss of $528,000.

Option 3b, which would require 16,000 acres, would be profitable in year two of operations – a net income of $25,300 – but would take seven years to recover the first year net profit loss of $168,700. The cumulative net profit of the first fifteen years is estimated at $411,000, just $76,000 shy of the estimated net profits of Option 2.

Option 4 plans to start an on-reservation genetically pure strain herd program of 150 bison cows. The Tribes would acquire the brucellosis free bison from YNP, or Ted Turner’s ranch, over several years. Option 4 differs from option 3 due to the quantity, sex, and age classes of bison that would be sold in years two and three. In year two, the Tribes would sell 80 adult bison, 22 yearling cows, and 30 yearling bulls. In year three, the Tribes would sell 47 adult bison, 35 yearling cows, and 45 yearling bulls. Net profits over fifteen years is estimated at $434,700.

CSKT recently finished an evaluation of several options for bison operation for both on and off reservation facilities. Of the four options identified, at least three show promise. Success factors include tribal leadership understanding of the pros and cons of options, action which supports tribal membership, low risk for transfer of brucellosis, and positive cash flow from the operations. (Courtesy Photo) CSKT recently finished an evaluation of several options for bison operation for both on and off reservation facilities. Of the four options identified, at least three show promise. Success factors include tribal leadership understanding of the pros and cons of options, action which supports tribal membership, low risk for transfer of brucellosis, and positive cash flow from the operations. (Courtesy Photo)

CSKT has deemed all of the options ‘low risk’ for brucellosis transmission.

Success factors include tribal leadership understanding of the pros and cons of options, action which supports tribal membership, low risk for transfer of brucellosis, and positive cash flow from the operations.

CSKT says weaknesses can include lack of in-house expertise, nonexistent tribal operations for trucking, storing, and processing bison, and competition from local, regional, and international bison operations.

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