After urging parties to negotiate, Tester praises National Bison Range agreement

Historic agreement a ‘result of governments working together’

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Months after he first encouraged negotiations between the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Senator Jon Tester today praised a final agreement to manage the National Bison Range, calling it a "result of governments working together."

Salish-Kootenai leaders today joined Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials to sign their agreement during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington.

"A lot of hard work went into this arrangement," said Tester, who urged both parties to sit down and negotiate the agreement as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  "This is an example to the rest of the country of how tribal and federal governments can work well together to do what's right for our most treasured places."

The National Bison Range is an 18,500-acre national wildlife refuge entirely within the borders of the Flathead Indian Reservation.  Its management has been disputed for years.

The three-year management agreement signed today says:

  • A FWS Refuge Manager will continue to oversee the National Bison Range.
  • The FWS and the tribe will each appoint a Deputy Refuge Manager to help co-manage the National Bison Range at the local level.
  • Both parties will establish a Refuge Leadership Team to weigh in on decisions.  The team will be made up of the Refuge Manager, both Deputy Managers and the tribe's lead biologist.

The agreement also outlines a process to resolve disputes.  And it establishes a zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment and discrimination.