WASHINGTON—Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dale Hall and Associate Deputy Interior Secretary Jim Cason today announced their intention to reestablish a working relationship between the FWS and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation regarding the management and operation of the National Bison Range.
Under the agreement, the FWS would continue to manage the range as a national wildlife refuge. The tribes would undertake field and maintenance work, animal care and related duties on the range, which is completely encompassed within the Flathead Reservation in northwestern Montana.
In 2005, following the requirements of the Tribal Self-Governance Act, the FWS entered into an Annual Funding Agreement (AFA) with the Tribes to perform certain non-managerial functions on the range during Fiscal Year 2006. The Act instituted a permanent self-governance program at the Interior Department, under which certain programs, functions, services and activities of the Department are eligible to be planned, conducted, consolidated and administered by a self-governance tribal government.
The intention to create a new relationship announced today envisions an AFA for Fiscal Year 2007 containing substantially the same terms as the 2006 AFA. An earlier process to phase-in full tribal management of the refuge would be suspended at this time.
“We must seek to build the foundations for future management in a way that fulfills all of the Department’s obligations – to the refuge, to tribes, and to the American public,” Scarlett said.
In addition, Scarlett, Hall and Cason have agreed:
· that senior Interior officials, including Hall and Cason, will travel to the range to discuss management issues and concerns with FWS employees and the tribes’ employees;
Cason is the Department official who performs the duties of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs until a new assistant secretary is confirmed.