The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy recently returned 132-acre Safe Harbor Marsh Reserve land to the Flathead Nation.

Char-Koosta News 

At the Dixon District meeting hosted by Tribal Councilwoman Anita Matt, the attendees got updates about the proposed 44D Ordinance changes and Elder Services programs, among the presentations.

Director of the Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation Division Tom McDonald said the proposed changes in the bird hunting, fishing and recreation regulations under the 44D Ordinance on the Flathead Reservation wouldn’t affect the tribal membership much. 

“The main points in the changes mostly affect non-tribal members,” McDonald said, adding that the changes seek to remedy some of the conflicts with increased non-member use of popular recreational areas that hinder access by tribal members. 

As a result of the non-member increased use the proposed changes focus on non-member user fees increases. 

McDonald said there were approximately 100 public comments to the proposed changes and many of the comments pertain to the non-member fee increase. Many of the local non-member residents that commented feel that the fee increases are too drastic. 

For instance, a Flathead Reservation resident and non-resident camping stamp for people age 18 and older goes up from $20 to $100. The rest of the proposed fee increases focus on non-reservation residents, and non-Montana residents.

McDonald said the increased fees would be used to improve recreational area facilities. 

The recent addition of the 132-acre Safe Harbor Marsh Reserve north of Polson on the Westshore of Flathead Lake would be closed to hunting, as well as designated as prohibited area for boating and floating devices.

This past September the Montana branch of The Nature Conservancy, that purchased the parcel in 1989, announced the returning the slice of land to the Flathead Nation. It is surrounded by land owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

“TNC originally purchased the property to protect its outstanding conservation values, centered around a large perennial wetland marsh,” said TNC State Director Amy Croover in a September announcement of the land transfer. “Transferring the property to CSKT will ensure those values remain protected and restore ownership to the original stewards of the land.” 

Croover said the Nature Conservancy’s mission is to protect and be good stewards to the land, and because all lands are traditionally Indigenous, the decision to give the land back to the CSKT is in line with TNC’s mission.

Another recent addition to Flathead Nation land, the former National Bison Range, now falls under the 44D Ordinance. To that end there are a baker’s dozen of rules and regulations visitors must follow. Among them are fee rates, hours of use, vehicle size restrictions, no off-road vehicle use, traffic impediments, and personal responsibilities to comply with all regulations.

McDonald said the Tribes are considering designating some areas for exclusive tribal membership use. Among them are Twin Lakes, Hog Heaven, Chief Cliff, and Irvine Lookout.

Other things under discussion to manage the increased flow of non-member visitors include better and increased monitoring of the backcountry road system with cameras, more game wardens, gates, and mobile check stations. They are all expensive endeavors, that in part be paid for by user fee increases.

The update by McDonald will be his last as the director of the FWRC Division as he was elected to the Flathead Nation Tribal Council as the At-Large representative. He and the four others re-elected and elected — Carole DePoe Lankford, Len Two Teeth, Jennifer Finley and Jim Malatare — will be sworn into office Friday, January 7.

Director of the Department of Human Resources Development’s Elder Services Division Constance Morigeau updated the folks at the Dixon District meeting about some of the services available to the Elders, and the age and income requirements for such services.

Enrolled CSKT members income is taken into consideration for Elder Services. To be eligible household income must be below the federal poverty 200 percent income level.

The age requirements are: 55 years old if Social Security or Veterans Affairs documented disabled and unable to work; 60 years old if household income is under the federal poverty 200 percent income level; and, 70 years old no income requirement unless a person under the age of 70 years is part of the household, their income would be counted.

Some of the services for eligible recipients include: snowplowing, firewood, home repairs, fumigation, grandparent support, senior center meals, and monthly bison, wild game and beef distribution as well as personal caregivers and home visitors.

The qualifying home repairs include: furnaces, water and sewer systems, and small minor repairs to the home. There is a “once in a lifetime” unrepairable appliance replacements of refrigerators, kitchen stoves, and washer and dryers.

This time of year, snowplowing is high on the to do list. To schedule snowplowing contact Elder Services at 406-675-2700. Division manager Constance Morigeau at ext. 1381; and Assistant Division manager Diane Matt at ext. 1303.

If you do have to shovel your snow exercise caution.

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