National Bison Range Complex - Planning Update - April 2018

National Bison Range Complex Planning Updates

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Volume 1 - April 2018

Beginning the Plan

During the next two years, we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), will develop comprehensive conservation plans (CCP) for all the units of the National Bison Range Complex (Complex). We will develop a CCP and environmental impact statement (EIS) for the National Bison Range and concurrently develop a CCP and environmental assessment for Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Pablo NWR, Ninepipe NWR, and the Lake County and Flathead County Wetland Management Districts (WMD).

A wetland management district (WMD) is composed of and provides oversight to waterfowl production areas purchased with Duck Stamp funds, as well as wetland and grassland conservation easements within an approved boundary. These lands are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System), a network of lands set aside to conserve fish and wildlife and their habitat.

What is a Comprehensive Conservation Plan?

In 1997, Congress passed the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act (Improvement Act). This legislation provides clear guidance to manage all the units of the Refuge System.

The Improvement Act directs the Service to manage the Refuge System as a national system of lands and waters devoted to the conservation of wildlife and maintenance of the biological integrity of ecosystems.

The Improvement Act also requires us to develop a CCP for each unit in the Refuge System. CCPs provide long-range guidance and management direction for all the programs of the units of the Refuge System. CCPs are “living” documents that are updated every 15 years.

As required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the CCPs and the accompanying NEPA documents we are developing for the Complex will describe a range of viable management alternatives being considered and their effects on the environment.

In summary, the CCPs will:

  1. Outline a vision.
  2. Guide management decisions.
  3. Outline goals, objectives, and strategies to achieve the purposes of all units of the Complex.
  4. Provide local and tribal governments, other agencies and the public with an understanding of the management actions to be carried out across the Complex.

A map of the National Bison Range Complex  in Montana by USFWS
A map of the National Bison Range Complex in Montana by USFWS

Why Are You Receiving This Update?

This planning update is being widely distributed to generate further interest in the planning process, inform the public of status of the plan, and collect ideas and thoughts from the public, tribal, state and local governments, organizations, and other partners. 

You may unsubscribe from this electronic newsletter at any time and can check the CCP planning website for updates:

Planning Timeline

May 2017

  • Notice of Intent in Federal Register
  • Gather public input

June – November 2017

  • Meet with cooperating agencies and form a Planning Team
  • Develop vision and a set of goals

March 2018

  • Develop management alternatives

May 2018

Summer – Winter 2018

  • Prepare draft plans and NEPA analysis

March 2019

  • Publish a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register and release the draft plans and NEPA analysis for public review

Summer 2019

  • Analyze Public Comments

March 2020

  • Complete final plans and environmental compliance documents

Public Involvement and Scoping

We are pleased to announce the release of a draft vision, a draft set of goals, and a draft range of management alternatives for the CCPs for all the units of the National Bison Range Complex for public review and comment. We are seeking the input of the public, our conservation partners, and tribal, state, and local governments. During this public comment period, we invite you to provide us your comments and to attend any of the four public meetings that the Planning Team will hold to welcome your comments and answer your questions in person. 

If unable to attend any of these meetings, you may provide your comments in writing via postal service or email at one of the addresses listed under the “Contacts” section below. We will evaluate all comments received during this public comment period and all substantial comments will be used to improve the draft vision, goals, and alternatives prior to the development of the draft CCPs and their NEPA documents.

Draft Alternatives Public Meetings

We will host two evening open-house public meetings that will include brief presentations at 6:00 p.m. on the planning process and on draft documents for which we are seeking comments.

Date: May 9, 2018
Time: 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Location: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Office
Address: 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell, MT 59901
Venue Phone: (406) 752-5501

Date: May 10, 2018
Time: 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. 
Location: Leon Hall
Address: 984 Leon Road, Charlo, MT  59824 (NE corner of Leon Road and Kerns Road)
Venue Phone: (406) 644-2145

In addition to these evening open-house meetings, we will also host all-day, open-house events at the headquarters of the National Bison Range and of the Lost Trail NWR. We invite the public to stop by the these refuges at any time during normal business hours to meet with members of the Planning Team, learn more about the units of the Complex, about the planning process, and provide your input.

Date: May 11, 2018
Time: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Location: National Bison Range Headquarters
Address: 58355 Bison Range Rd., Charlo, MT 59824
Venue Phone:  (406) 644-2211

Date: May 8, 2018
Time: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. 
Location: Lost Trail Refuge Headquarters
Address: 6295 Pleasant Valley Rd., Marion, Montana 59925 
Venue Phone: (406) 858-2216


Four public scoping sessions were also held in the summer of 2017 in nearby communities, including Kalispell, Missoula, and Polson, MT.

During these meetings, the Service informed participants about the planning process, answered questions, and received comments from interested members of the public. 

Additionally, many comments were submitted in writing in response to the Notice of Intent published in the Federal Register. These comments are public record and have been made available on the project website. To view the public comments received, visit and click the documents tab toward the bottom of the web page. There will be a link to a PDF file named NBRC Public Scoping Comments.

Become Involved in the CCP Process

  • Subscribe to this e-newsletter
  • Visit the planning website for information
  • Attend meetings
  • Tell us what you think
  • Look for announcements in the media

A Vision for the Future

Bison at National Bison Range by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS
Bison at National Bison Range by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

The Planning Team for the CCPs of the Complex includes members of the Complex staff and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 6 Regional Office, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Lake County, Sanders County, and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. During November 2017, the planning team developed a draft vision and a set of goals based primarily on the mission of the Refuge System and legislative purposes of each unit of the Complex. During the public review process we ask the public to review the vision, goals, and draft alternatives that the Planning Team has developed and provide us with input and comments.

Draft Vision

Relax and take a deep breath while you step back in time to reflect on what was, what is and what is yet to come. Immerse yourself in the inter-montane valleys of northwestern Montana shaped by glacial forces and steeped in rich cultural history. This is a special landscape important to people age after age, where we pay tribute to the persons and peoples who set aside the lands, conserved the wildlife and plants, and were stewards of various components that make up the Complex. Visitors from all over the world travel to the Complex which seeks to provide an opportunity to learn and experience varied habitats, abundant wildlife and the natural beauty of these lands. The units of the Complex safeguard these values and preserve connectivity across the landscape, forming continuity through time for future generations to treasure. Each unit is unique, and collectively they have, and will continue, to contribute to the Complex and the Refuge System. Partners foster cultural and natural resources conservation where the cultural history is expressed across the landscape. Unique opportunities to work with partners benefit many of the units within the Flathead Indian Reservation and other units located within traditional homelands of the Salish, Upper Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai Tribes.

Blasdel Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) in the Northwest Montana Flathead County Wetland Management District in Montana by USFWS
Blasdel Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) in the Northwest Montana Flathead County Wetland Management District in Montana by USFWS

Draft Goals

  • Cultural Resources: Preserve and value the cultural resources and history of the National Bison Range Complex to connect staff, visitors, and community to the area’s past and continuing traditions.
  • Partnerships and Collaboration: Maintain and cultivate partnerships that help achieve the vision and supporting goals and objectives of the National Bison Range Complex to support wildlife and habitat conservation, research, foster awareness and appreciation of natural and cultural resources, and provide education along with all necessary infrastructure of the inter-montane ecosystem of western Montana. Recognizing its importance, we will collaborate with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and other Tribal governments in a manner consistent with the Service’s Native American policy and with other Federal, State, and local government entities in a manner consistent with applicable Service policies.
  • Public Use: Provide compatible, wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities, for persons of all abilities, to learn, enjoy, and appreciate the inter-montane landscape of western Montana, the fish and wildlife and plants.
  • Wildlife Management: Protect, maintain, and restore healthy and diverse wildlife populations with respect to species that are endemic, migratory, and mandated species of concern.
  • Invasive Species: Prevent, reduce, and contain the invasion and spread of noxious, invasive, and harmful nonnative species within the Complex while working with partners to address off-Complex infestations within the surrounding landscape.
  • Habitat Management: Conserve, restore, and promote biological integrity in functional and sustainable ecologically diverse habitats of the inter-montane ecosystem of western Montana.
  • Research and Science: Encourage high quality research and promote the use of scientifically sound management decisions.
  • Administration and Operations: Effectively use funding, staff, partnerships, volunteers, and equipment to restore and manage Complex habitats, conduct programs, and improve and maintain all necessary infrastructures to the benefit of the Complex and the Refuge System.
  • Monitoring and Adaptive Management: Through the life of this plan, we will monitor and evaluate the consequences of our actions and use adaptive management to reach desired outcomes.
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge in Montana by Dave Fitzpatrick/USFWS
Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge in Montana

Draft Alternatives for Future Management

The Planning Team has developed a draft set of management alternatives for the Complex.  
The following are short descriptions of each alternative:

Alternative A: No Action
Under this alternative we would continue all the current management activities, and maintain funding, infrastructure, all programs, and staffing at existing levels.

Alternative B: Maximize the Quality of Public Experiences
This alternative emphasizes managing habitat and wildlife populations to provide quality,
wildlife-dependent opportunities for the public. All programs of the Complex would foster
public support and appreciation for the resources of our land and our waters. The Service would
maximize these recreational opportunities by providing improved access, facilities, interpretive
materials, and environmental education. The Service would aim to maintain natural processes
and healthy wildlife populations through partnerships to enhance the quality of the public’s

Alternative C: Manage for Ecological Sustainability
This alternative emphasizes maintaining and/or enhancing ecological communities, recognizing ever-changing environmental conditions. In cooperation with our partners, the Service would use a prioritization framework to identify and define future conditions that will drive management actions to:

  • Build ecological community resiliency
  • Promote species diversity
  • Increase integrity of habitats
  • Restore natural processes

Alternative D: Species-Focused Management
Under this alternative, carrying capacity for target species would generally drive management of
wildlife and plant population numbers. Lands would be managed under a corridor concept for
transient species populations (e.g. wolverine, lynx, grizzlies, wolves). Carrying capacity for
bison would be determined in concert with carrying capacities for other species. Bison
population management would also involve genetic diversity considerations. Targeted species
populations (e.g. Spalding’s catchfly, trumpeter swans, and bighorn sheep) would be managed
with individualized considerations (e.g. disease, threatened and endangered species, and habitat).
Management objectives would include managing for a diversity of species, including plant
Alternative E: Collaborative/Partner-Based Landscape Level Conservation
Units of the Complex are separated by significant distance across the landscape. All are part of
the Northwestern Montana ecosystem. To provide connectivity with the larger landscape and
preserve unique components of each small unit, this alternative seeks to facilitate collaborative,
cooperative, and coordinated management of the Complex with our federal, tribal, state, local,
public, and private partners. This alternative seeks to increase opportunities for public use and
education. It seeks to provide better opportunities for fish, plant, and wildlife habitat on lands
outside the boundaries of our units by creating corridors for habitats, conducive to wildlife
migration and movement. It also seeks to incorporate the expertise, resources, and efforts of our
partners to help facilitate the benefits of a broader functioning landscape. This approach
promotes the shared responsibility of managing actions across the landscape.
The Service is seeking input from the public on these draft alternatives. Please check the CCP website as well as look for announcements in the local media for information on upcoming public meetings. Comments and questions can also be submitted via: (for comments on the National Bison Range)

and (for comments on Ninepipe, Pablo, and Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuges, and the Flathead and Lake County Wetland Management Districts) 

Batavia Batavia Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) in the Northwest Montana Flathead County Wetland Management District in Montana by USFWS
Batavia Batavia Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) in the Northwest Montana Flathead County Wetland Management District in Montana by USFWS

Contact Information


Bernardo Garza and Vanessa Fields, Planning Team Leaders
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Refuge Planning
P.O. Box 25486
Denver, CO 80225-0486
Email: or
Phone: (Bernardo) 303-236 4377; (Vanessa) 406-217 6473
Fax: 303-236-4792
National Bison Range Refuge Complex Comprehensive Conservation Plan
Address: 58355 Bison Range Rd, Charlo, MT 59824
Phone: 406 -644-2211
Fax: 406-644-2661

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