Governor Schweitzer Calls Bull on Republicans


The following is a press release from Governor Schweitzer’s office:

(HELENA) – Governor Brian Schweitzer today called bull on republicans, in particular Representative Wayne Stahl and Senator Rick Ripley’s assertions that moving brucellosis-free, genetically pure bison to tribally owned lands is in violation of state law, specifically SB 212, passed in 2011.

“These republicans may want to familiarize themselves with their own legislation,” said Governor Schweitzer.

During the floor debate on SB 212 a legislator on March 30, 2011 at minute 9:52 specifically asked the sponsor whether the legislation applied to tribal land. The House sponsor of the bill, Senator Knudson, responded:

“I asked that specific question when I was asked to carry this in the House, whether or not this applied to tribal. My understanding is that this bill would have no impact on the IMBP, Interagency Management Buffalo program [sic], I think that’s what it’s called, and I apologize if I got the name wrong, but I wanted to make absolutely sure that there were no, that this bill would have no effect on that, so it’s my understanding talking with the sponsor and the people involved in this bill that it would have no effect on tribes’ ability to receive buffalo from the department.”

There is no requirement in statute to have a “state-wide bison management plan” before translocation of bison.  The notion appears to be a figment of the imagination.  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is gathering information for crafting a general bison management plan for the state, and that work will continue.  It will be similar to plans Montana has for other wildlife species, but it is a separate issue from that of bison being translocated to tribes.

What IS required in state law is a particularized plan for bison going to any “private or public land in Montana.”  And even though the sovereign tribal land in question does not fall under either of those categories, the same specific planning information is indeed included in the state’s MOU with the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes.

The statute is clear.  

SB 212, now codified at 87-1-216, MCA, by its plain meaning only applies to public or privately owned land.  It does not apply to bison transferred to tribal lands.  

Both the Montana and U.S. Supreme Courts have clearly recognized that Tribal governments, their lands, and rights cannot be assumed to be included in general statutory language that limits their rights without an express legislative intent to include them.  United States v. Santa Fe Pac. R.R. Co., 314 U.S. 339, 353 (1941);  Zempel v. Uninsured Employers Fund, 282 Mont. 424, 430.  

Again, Montana’s laws do not require FWP to adopt a statewide management plan before translocating bison.  Title 87-1-216 (5), MCA requires adoption of a “management plan” before transfer to public or private land—individual plans tailored to each situation and landscape.  More importantly, because the translocation to Fort Peck tribal lands was not to public or private land, no plan of any kind was required.  Nonetheless, the state did enter into a MOU with the tribe that contains specific management plans.

Northern Ag Network Note:  To read the impeachment letter submitted by Representative Wayne Stahl on Monday or see our footage from the bison containment facility, please read “Schweitzer Eyes Bison, Stahl Calls for Impeachment.”


Source:  The Office of Governor Schweitzer

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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