National Bison Range Switches to Tribal Trust for Flathead Indian Reservation | News

WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt signed Secretary’s Order 3390 and directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to facilitate the transition property related to the National Bison Range (NBR) to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA will officially take the land in trust for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) of Montana and return the land to the Flathead Indian Reservation.

“CSKT has strong and deep historical, geographic and cultural ties to the land and the bison, and their environmental professionals have been leaders in natural resource and wildlife management for many decades,” said said Assistant Secretary Tara Katuk Sweeney. “Interior is pleased to continue its partnership and work with them on restoring the NBR to Federal Tribal Trust ownership.”

“The restoration of this land is a great historic event and we have worked hard to achieve it. This comes after a century of separation from the buffalo and bison range, and after a quarter century of efforts to co-manage the refuge with the FWS,” said CSKT President Shelly R. Fyant. “And who better to do that than the earth’s original inhabitants who depended on bison for centuries?” He was our mainstay. »

On December 27, 2020, the President signed into law HR 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the “Act”). DD Division of the Act, the Montana Water Rights Protection Act, which includes provisions declaring that all land comprising the National Bison Range, the total area of ​​which exceeds 18,800 acres, is held in trust by the United States for the benefit of Tribes, administered as Tribal Trust Land, managed by the Tribes and included as part of the Flathead Reservation. With the NBR lands transferred into trust, the total acreage taken into trust under the Trump administration now exceeds 150,000 acres.

The act also provides for the transfer of other real and personal property to the tribes, for the continued administration of the RNB, and establishes a two-year transition period which began on December 27, 2020. To implement the mandates set out in Act, Secretary’s Order 3390 directs the Service, BLM, and BIA to take steps to facilitate the transition and functions of NBR-related assets, including:

1. Update title records of all real and personal property transferred under the Act, including RNB land.

2. Publish a public notice of rangeland trust status in the Federal Register no later than January 19, 2021.

3. Provision of continued public safety to the NBR, including law enforcement and emergency response services.

4. Direct FWS, BIA, and BLM to enter into a memorandum of understanding to ensure that the United States fulfills its obligations during the two-year transition period provided by law.

The Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs advises the Secretary of the Interior on Indian Affairs policy matters, communicates policy and oversees the programs of the BIA and BIE, provides leadership in consultations with tribes, and serves as the DOI official for intra- and inter-ministerial coordination and liaison within the Executive Branch on Indian Affairs.

Nohemi M. Moore