Fort Belknap Indian Community in north-central Montana, home to the
Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes, is split on a proposal that
would allow the Montana Air National Guard to drop dummy bombs and
fire dummy bullets on tribal trust land. The one-mile-square target
area would be in the center of a 15-square-mile buffer zone that
also includes state, federal and private
Darrell Martin, tribal liaison between the
Department of Defense and the Tribal Council, believes the money
and 12 long-term jobs gained from leasing the land would be a
much-needed economic boon for the tribes; the Fort Belknap Indian
Community suffers from an unemployment rate of more than 70
percent. "We had a lot of community meetings and the outcome showed
a wide majority for the project," he says.
don't know who they're kidding," says Ina Nez Perce, manager for
the tribe's Environmental Protection Program. She says the public
is largely unaware of the project.
Colonel Bill Schulz, pilot for the Montana Air National Guard's
120th fighter wing, says that everything but the one-mile-square
target area could still be used for cattle grazing. Because of
safety issues, however, traditional subsistence hunting and plant
gathering would be prohibited during
Schulz says the Guard is also
considering two nontribal sites. "If they don't want it, we won't
press it," he says.
An environmental impact
statement on the target range is due out in July.