On December 27, 2020, Congress took the historic action of legislatively restoring the lands of the National Bison Range to federal trust ownership for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, following the signing of the Montana Water Rights Protection Act (Public Law #116-260). Since that time, the Tribes and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have been engaged in transition discussions, including the negotiation of a memorandum of understanding.

The legislation also repealed the federal statute that created the National Bison Range. On January 6, 2021, the Interior Solicitor’s Office issued a memo determining that “the National Bison Range is already held in trust by the United States for the Tribes” as a result of the legislation. Accordingly, all Ordinance 44D hunting, fishing and recreation regulations now apply within the exterior boundaries of the Bison Range, with the addition of the following Emergency regulations that the CSKT Tribal Council adopted on January 7, 2021:

Any person entering or using the Bison Range (BR) properties will comply with the Special regulations set forth.

1) The Flathead Reservation Conservation Permit does not allow access to the Bison Range. The BR is a pay to enter Fee use area only. Visitors are to report to Visitors Building to pay for access.

2) Carrying, possessing, or discharging firearms, fireworks, or explosives on the BR is prohibited unless specifically authorized by the Tribal Council.

3) The use or possession of cross bows, bows and arrows, air guns, spears, gigs, or other weapons on the BR is prohibited except as may be authorized by the Tribal Council.

4) Disturbing, hunting, fishing, injuring, spearing, poisoning, destroying, collecting or attempting to disturb, hunt, fish, injure, spear, poison, destroy or collect any plant, animal (parts) or fish on the BR is prohibited except by special permitting by the Tribal Council.

5) Engaging in hunting or fishing activities on the BR is prohibited.

6) The BR is open during daylight hours only, weather and road conditions permitting. Closing times vary seasonally and are posted at the entrance gate and at the visitor center. It is unlawful to enter areas that are posted closed or gated closed unless authorized.

7) The use of motorized vehicles off designated open roads within the BR is prohibited.

During this immediate transition period from federal management to Tribal management of the Bison Range, the Tribes have adopted the current USFWS Comprehensive Conservation Plan as an interim management plan, as well as [the above] emergency visitor use regulations for the Bison Range. These regulations limit visitor to day use only and the current entrance fee charges will continue, as will the prohibition of all forms of hunting. The Tribes will review fishing within the Bison Range, as allowed by the Tribal/State annual fishing regulations, for any necessary modifications before the third Saturday in May 2021 when stream fishing opens and sections of Mission Creek become available within the Bison Range, as they have in previous years.

For background information regarding the Bison Range, including maps, historical information and the Tribes’ Bison Range documentary film, please visit our Bison Range Restoration website at https://bisonrange.org/

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