Tribes prepare for three-day celebration of the Bison Range

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With the appearance of new calves on the buffalo range at Moiese this spring comes a heightened sense of joy for many as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes begin their first full season of running the historic site since adopting the Montana Water Rights Protection Act in 2020.

The legislation created a two-year period for the transition of management of the bison range from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to CSKT, and the tribes officially took over management in January.

To celebrate the transfer and recent improvements to the Welcome Center, tribal leaders are planning three days of events at Bison Range and Salish Kootenai College over the weekend of May 20-22.

Activities include a powwow and Aboriginal games beginning at noon at Bison Range on Friday, May 20. An opening ceremony that includes an opening prayer, a song of honor and an honor guard kicks off the festivities at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Events move to the college on Saturday with a screening of the film “In the Spirit of Atatice” at the Johnny Arlee and Vic Charlo Theater at 2 p.m., a community meal at 2:30 p.m. and a community celebration beginning at 4 p.m. at the Health and Fitness Center physical Joe McDonald.

Sunday is Community Appreciation Day at Bison Range, with half-price day passes available.

The tribes are also celebrating a recent museum renovation at the Visitor Center, and the activity weekend presents a great time to check out the upgrades.

Visit www.bisonrange.org for more information on opening hours and visitor information. Check the CSKT Bison Range page on Facebook for updates.

Amy Coffman of the US Fish and Wildlife Service was recently named a recipient of the US Department of the Interior’s annual Environmental Achievement Awards.

Coffman received the annual Environmental Justice Award.

“The transition of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Bison range to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is a historic event,” the department announced last week in a news release. “The leadership and coordination of Amy Coffman, Bison Range Shelter Manager, was critical to the transfer. …Ms. Coffman’s leadership, passion and stellar skills were instrumental in leading the staff at FWS Bison Range (transfer of management), while continuing to build and maintain vital tribal relationships and ensuring a positive outcome for Bison Range wildlife and habitat.”

Although CSKT assumed full management on January 2, USFWS and CSKT continue to partner to ensure that lands and resources are managed to a high standard, including prioritizing much-needed improvements to address deferred maintenance to improve public and wildlife safety.

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