Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Interior, Indian Tribes Share Bison Range

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The only federal wildlife refuge set aside to protect bison -- the American buffalo -- will be managed by the Interior Department and Indian tribes in an unusual partnership that conservationists fear could lead to more development of public lands.

Under an agreement signed Wednesday, the department and the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council will split the budget and management duties for Montana's 19,000-acre National Bison Range, which is within the tribal homeland on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Training is to be provided to the tribes, which first must consult a federal manager with Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service before waiving any regulations on the range. The deal takes effect in three months if Congress does not object.