Cason optimistic on tribal contract for bison range

Jim Cason, the associate deputy secretary at the Interior Department, is optimistic the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes can reach an agreement to manage some functions at the National Bison Range in Montana.

The tribe is currently negotiating a new agreement at the range. But a tribal spokesperson said Interior has made some offers that don't respect self-governance.

"We're talking about a law that has us manage ourselves and run programs that are suited to the land, the culture, the people and the needs of the refuge," spokesperson Rob McDonald told the Associated Press. "All they're offering to do is hire a couple of Indians."

Cason said both sides should be able to reach an agreement so long as they knock the "chips off their shoulders." However, he testified against a bill that would expand the self-governance program at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday.

The tribe's management of some functions the range has been controversial. A conservation group and some Interior employees say the tribe hasn't been doing a good job.

Get the Story:
'Fertile Ground' at Bison Range (AP 11/9)

Committee Notice:
Full Committee Legislative Hearing: H.R. 3994 (November 8, 2007)

Get the Bill:
Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act (H.R.3994)

Evaluation Report:
Implementation of the Annual Funding Agreement (May 2006)

Relevant Links:
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes - http://www.cskt.org
National Bison Range - http://bisonrange.fws.gov
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility - http://www.peer.org

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