Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Enviro group opposes transfer of bison range to local tribe; Zinke to decide

It is now up to new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to decide how the government will respond to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) lawsuit aimed at blocking the proposed transfer of the National Bison Range to a local tribe. Called the Crown Jewel of our wildlife refuge system, Montana’s National Bison Range has languished as Obama officials attempted to hand over its management and, in the past year, give the refuge away in its entirety to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CKST). Filed last May, the PEER suit charges the Interior Department’s Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) with forgoing statutorily mandated environmental review prior to proposing transfer legislation and failing to complete a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the refuge due in 2012, as required by law since 1997. In September, FWS claimed that it never authored a give-away plan, despite ample documentary evidence to the contrary. Then two days before the Trump inauguration, FWS filed a Federal Register notice announcing that it would finally begin an environmental review on the Bison Range’s future management but declared that its “preferred” alternative would be to hand the refuge over to the CSKT. “Secretary Zinke has repeatedly pledged to oppose the transfer of any federal lands; now he has a prime opportunity to make good on that promise,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that the National Bison Range was established by Sec. Zinke’s conservation icon, President Theodore Roosevelt...more

The Obama administration wanted to transfer ownership of the bison range to the tribe, which is opposed by PEER.

This poses an interesting dilemma for Zinke, who has said he is pro-Native American but anti-transfer. Making this even juicier is that the range was established by Teddy Roosevelt, Zinke's hero on conservation.

Will he be truly pro-Native American and transfer the lands? That would seem to violate his anti-transfer stance. But if he doesn't transfer, he would have failed to recognize the professionalism, talents and other qualities of the tribe.

In addition, how might this fit into Trump's E.O. on efficiency by the feds?

Let's hope Zinke makes a decision one way or the other, and not give us some middle-of-the-road, namby-pampy decision like transferring management but not ownership.


Anonymous said...

PEER is essentially a labor organization favoring management by Federal employees over anyone other than a Federal employee. Co-management plans seem to have collapsed. No surprise there, at its heart no one in the Federal government really wants comanagement to succeed. Maybe the tribes can do a better job and maybe that is what PEER is afraid of finding out. The question is for me, "can you cede management without ceding ownership or sovereignty"? It would be an interesting experiment. Hope Zinke gives him the chance. By the way, why is every scrap of earth that the federal government owns always called a "crown jewel."

Frank DuBois said...

The question is for me, "can you cede management without ceding ownership or sovereignty"?...I tried something similar with livestock grazing and the courts threw it out.