While Undersecretary of the Interior Paul Hoffman has stated that “inherently federal” duties would not be ceded to the tribes, he has also publicly admitted that “inherently federal” is a gray area that will be determined by negotiation. Yet, because the negotiations have been held behind closed doors, without opportunity for public input or oversight, Hoffman and the tribes themselves seek to define those functions as they see fit.
This is not a Native American issue, nor is it a question of whether the tribes could or would successfully operate the National Bison Range and associated refuges. Rather, this is a case of Secretary Gale Norton and her aides taking advantage of political sensitivity to Indian self-determination issues to advance private management of public assets.
Aurora, New York
The writer is director of the Refuge Keeper chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).