Tour Description

Journey to the Flathead Indian Reservation and the majestic Mission Mountains to explore the intersection of traditional culture and natural resource management. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are at the forefront of asserting sovereignty rights over natural resources. Along the People's Highway (aka US 93), check out the ecologically friendly features, including a dramatic wildlife overpass and underpasses that protect extensive wildlife corridors. Stop at the National Bison Range to learn about disagreements over how much authority the tribes should have in managing bison. A swing through the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge may yield sightings of migrating waterfowl, including reintroduced trumpeter swans. Other topics may include water rights negotiations, Flathead Lake and native fire management. Depart at 7:30 a.m., lunch included, $30 fee; Drive time — 3.5 hours. Register Now

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bison: Past, Present & Future

Last week's federal court ruling resulted in the immediate leave of 12 CSKT employees at the National Bison Range and facility operations in a state of limbo. Even so, the bison still roam the range and life goes on as those involved figure out what's next. During our visit, we'll explore the role, purpose, and management of the bison range. We'll also talk about the activities that were going on since the agreement between the Annual Funding Agreement (AFA) between the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). For those who are not familiar with the legal issue, the AFA is rooted in the Tribal Self-Governance Act of 1994. We'll touch on that, as well as its implications for other sites where similar partnerships may exist.

Meanwhile, Joan and I went to a bison documentary film premiere last night called, Facing the Storm. One spot in the film put into focus one point I couldn't quite put my finger on before: the American bison is the one "wild" animal that we (as a general collective) want to keep around but don't allow them to live truly wild. Not only are only a small proportion of their genetics relatively "pure" (many are progeny from cross-breeding with domestic cattle), but we fence and inoculate them. Under these circumstances, some argue, natural selection forces no longer exist to maintain "wild" populations. Discussion of bison genetics and "wildness" will likely be part of our exploration of the range, and also we'll be talking about bison population ownership, including private holdings and efforts by the Intertribal Bison Cooperative. Should be interesting and we hope we'll be out in the field to catch some natives grazing that morning!

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