Inspector General Report Refutes PEER's Bison Range Allegations
PABLO, MONTANA – The U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued an evaluation report on operations at the National Bison Range Complex (NBRC). The evaluation was done in response to allegations made by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) that the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) were performing poorly under the Tribal Self-Governance agreement.
The OIG investigators found no merit to PEER's allegations regarding bison management, pesticide application, law enforcement and general management. With respect to the pesticide applications, the investigators further reported that the Environmental Protection Agency performed a routine inspection at the Bison Range in 2010 that turned up no problems.
"The Inspector General report refuting PEER's allegations is both gratifying and unsurprising," said Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Chairman E.T. "Bud" Moran. "The report proves what most of us in Montana already know: PEER's allegations concerning Tribal performance at the Bison Range are just wrong. The Inspector General demonstrated that Tribal and FWS staff were doing their jobs and doing them well. It is unfortunate that taxpayers had to foot the bill to investigate the continual allegations from PEER."
The OIG had assigned a team of investigators to look into the matter and as part of its evaluation, that team made multiple visits to the Bison Range. CSKT obtained a copy of the OIG report on March 31st.
"The Inspector General's report affirms the support the public has shown for the Tribes at the Bison Range," said Chairman Moran. "We will continue to try to earn that support through our stewardship practices and our partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, including at the National Bison Range."
The Tribes are currently working with FWS on negotiating a new Bison Range agreement.
Below are some excerpts from the OIG report (copy of report attached):
Excerpts from the Office of Inspector General's Report on the National Bison Range Law Enforcement. Contrary to PEER's allegations about inadequate law enforcement, OIG investigators found that "law enforcement coverage at [the Bison Range] was adequate" and that none of the persons interviewed had concerns about insufficient law enforcement coverage.
[pp. 1-2 of report]
Bison Management. In regard to PEER's allegations that bison were allowed to "wander" through fence openings, the investigators found that the bison did not wander outside NBR boundaries but only between NBR pastures and that the bison were not in danger. The report explains that bison wandering into different pastures is "commonplace and rectified in the normal course of operations." The report noted that such incidents occurred "long before CSKT assumed specific NBR functions" and quoted a 16-year NBR employee as saying that bison getting into the wrong pasture "always happens. You just go and get them, it's no big deal." The investigators observed that "both exterior boundary and interior pasture fencing were well maintained and appeared adequate to retain the herd. Damaged fences were promptly repaired."
[p. 2 of report]
Pesticide Application. In response to PEER's pesticide misapplication allegations, the investigators reviewed pesticide application records and "did not find any instance where an NBR employee violated pesticide application instructions." The FWS employee whose document PEER had cited in support of its allegations told the investigators that his "comments were taken out of context" by PEER. The EPA performed an inspection at the NBRC last year that resulted in no adverse findings.
[pp. 2-3 of report]
Annual Work Plans. The investigators found that, while the annual work plan was not completed in 2009 (the first year of the agreement) and was completed late in 2010, the NBR managers had followed the 2008 work plan in 2009 and that "operations had not changed significantly between those years."
[p. 3 of report]
General Management. With respect to PEER allegations that NBR management was "adrift," the investigators bluntly stated that they "did not find any significant information to support this allegation." To the contrary, the report stated that:
"Interviewees told us that the FWS manager and the CSKT tribal deputy manager worked well together and collaborated on operational decisions. They stated that managers sought out experienced NBR staff regarding their opinions on various issues and did not differentiate according to whether they were FWS or CSKT employees. Interviewees also said that free and open communication existed between FWS and CSKT employees."
The report noted that a lead biologist position contracted by CSKT was vacant at the time of their evaluation, but also noted that NBR managers said that the position's duties were capably handled by a "highly regarded" CSKT staffer who was also a biologist. The FWS employee whom PEER cited in support of its allegations reported that this CSKT employee had provided "excellent direction." The report cited FWS as noting that CSKT's hiring qualifications for the position were "more stringent" than those of the federal government.
[pp. 3-4 of report]
YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE
For more information contact: Robert McDonald, CSKT Communications Director, 406-249-1818 firstname.lastname@example.org