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Don't give bison range back to tribes

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I must respond to the article, “Back on the range?” (HCN, 7/7/03). The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes were paid TWICE for the land that became the National Bison Range: Once at $1.56 per acre in the early 1900s, and again in 1971, when the tribal government successfully sued the federal government and won something in the range of $22 million to $26 million for the Bison Range and other property. Both reimbursements were fair market value at the time. All taxpayers paid for the National Bison Range.

The public hearing mentioned in the story attracted scientists, authors and wildlife conservationists who spoke at great length and with sincere conviction that to privatize and localize NATIONAL wildlife refuges and NATIONAL parks would be a detriment to wildlife and its fragile habitat.

In 1982, the Tribal Council voted to end their attempt to manage their own wild bison range on 2,500 acres, and sold the bison by sealed bid, according to a local newspaper. Now, the tribe wants to take over the National Bison Range, and tribal members have proposed a new and expanded entrance to the National Bison Range with an extensive parking lot, visitors center, Native American museum and retail complex. This is in a place where millions of migratory birds nest and where bison, elk, deer and pronghorn live and birth their young.

For something as serious as turning over of the management of our water, wildlife and natural wonder treasures, all American citizens must demand extensive and public debate.

Susan Campbell Reneau
Missoula, Montana

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