Officials to weigh public opinion on Bison Range

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The future management of the National Bison Range was the topic of discussion at meetings in Polson and Missoula last week. (Jeremy Weber/Lake County Leader)

Federal wildlife officers presented residents information during a meeting in Polson last Wednesday morning regarding a management plan for the National Bison Range.

The meeting took place at the North Lake County Public Library on Wednesday, Aug. 30 and was followed by another in Missoula.

Discussed at the meetings was a plan that will include the Bison Range Complex, according to Bernardo Garza, planning team leader of the Fishing and Wildlife Service.

One specific plan would be included for the Bison Range in Moiese as well as another separate plan for the complex.

The meeting covered the planning process as a whole, defining what the process entails.

Garza, based in Denver, said that the complex is made up of Lake and Flathead counties, and the comprehensive conservation plan, or CCP, would help manage the complex.

The complex is comprised of the National Bison Range, Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, Pablo National Wildlife Refuge, Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge and 14 waterfowl production areas.

Following the Missoula meeting later in the day on Aug. 30, Garza said that citizens have a window of 30 days of public comment, to help officials weigh the process.

“We want to make sure we convey to the public that it’s not we want to impose a 30-day limit because we don’t want to bother with comments after that,” Garza said.

The timeframe was established to keep the process moving along, and those involved with the process have told their superiors within the agency that they will accept their notes and feedback for 30 days as well, Garza said.

Some benefits of a CCP, Garza shared, include continuity of management for 15 years, monitor progress during that time and involve and inform the public of the CCP during that time.

Garza said that the meetings are not to discuss funding, but only the CCP process.

Garza encouraged those from the public who attended the Polson meeting, which was about 10 citizens, to reach out to the FWS to provide feedback regarding the CCP by the end of September.

A National Bison Range CCP email has been set up, and citizens can email scoping_NBR@fws.gov, in addition to the Lost Trail, Ninepipe, and Pablo email, scoping_pablo_ninepipe@fws.gov.

Garza said more information can be found at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/national_bison_range/

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