Spirit Lake tribe turns social services back to BIA
FORT TOTTEN, N.D. (AP) — The Bureau of Indian Affairs plans to take control of social service programs for the Spirit Lake Tribe following criticism that the tribe has failed to protect endangered children, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven's office said.
The BIA informed Hoeven's office about the decision Friday afternoon, according to a Forum newspaper story published Saturday. Hoeven had called for a review of the tribe's social services program.
“BIA's informed our office that they will be taking over the tribal social services,'' said Ryan Bernstein, Hoeven's deputy chief of staff and legal counsel. “I was told that the tribe passed a resolution today ceding it back to the BIA, basically giving it to the government to run.''
Federal officials have accused tribal officials of repeatedly ignoring reports of child abuse and neglect. Complaints have come from Thomas Sullivan, regional administrator for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, and Michael Tilus, a former behavioral health director at the Indian Health Service clinic in Fort Totten.
Tribal Chairman Roger Yankton says most problems predate his administration. Details of the transition weren't immediately available. A BIA spokeswoman and Yankton were not available to comment about the takeover.
The decision means the federal government will administer the social services for the tribe. The tribe had been running the programs under contract with the BIA, which provides funding.
Yvonne LaRockque, the self-determination officer for the BIA's Great Plains Region, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, said a BIA takeover of programs it contracted with a tribe to administer happens about once or twice a year.
Burned bear cub sent to wildlife sanctuary
BOISE (AP) — A black bear cub rescued from a fire in the Idaho backcountry after suffering second-degree burns on all four of its paws has been moved to a wildlife sanctuary outside the mountain resort town of McCall and is expected to make a full recovery, officials said Monday.
The bear nicknamed “Boo Boo'' is being housed in a 2-acre (0.8-hectare) enclosure with another cub and is doing very well, said Linda DeEulis, director of the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary. The bear was brought to the rehabilitation area outside McCall on Friday.
He first spent two weeks recuperating at the Idaho Humane Society shelter in Boise after he was discovered in late August, clinging to a tree, in a region recently scorched by a massive wildfire. Efforts to find the cub's mother were unsuccessful.
DeEulis was worried at first about the bear's ability to climb, but those concerns were quickly put to rest after he arrived at the sanctuary.
“He's doing fine, the first thing he did was run up a tree,'' she told The Associated Press. If the bear continues to mend, he will be released to wild. DeEulis and an Idaho Department of Fish and Game official predicted that it might be next spring before the bear puts on enough weight to go out on his own.
Boo Boo's story is not unlike the tale of Smokey Bear, a cub that became a national symbol for fire prevention after he was found in a charred tree taking refuge from a New Mexico blaze in 1950. He was also treated for burned paws.
In Idaho, officials were flooded with calls from people wanting to help the bear dubbed Boo Boo. The cub weighed about 25 pounds (11 kilograms) and likely hadn't eaten for several days when he was found. He was estimated to be about 4 months old.
The bear has since gained about 20 pounds (9 kilograms) and the burned pads on the paws appear to be healing nicely, which means he's probably out of danger for infection, said Evin Oneale, a regional conservation educator with the state Department of Fish and Game.
Oneale is based in southwestern Idaho, where the bear was first brought after it was rescued. “He was in pretty bad shape,'' Oneale said. “He looks like a young healthy little black bear now. He looks great.''
While veterinarians at the Idaho Humane Society rechristened the bear ``Bernard,'' state wildlife officials still refer to him as Boo Boo. At the wildlife sanctuary, DeEulis remained neutral, saying she doesn't play or talk to the bears at her facility, where the goal is to rehabilitate animals so they can be released back into their natural habitats.
“I don't care what anybody calls him,'' she said. “But Boo Boo sounds like a cartoon character.''
Lawsuit filed against Forest Service concerning bighorn sheep & grazing
LEWISTON (AP) — Sheep ranchers in Idaho and other states are suing the U.S. Forest Service over a bighorn sheep protection plan that reduces domestic grazing in the Payette National Forest. The Idaho Wool Growers Association, joined by individual ranchers and industry groups from other western states, filed the lawsuit in Boise's U.S. District Court last week. The lawsuit targets the 2010 grazing reduction plan, which is predicated on the idea that bighorn sheep contract pneumonia when they come into contact with domestic sheep.
The Lewiston Tribune reports that the sheep ranchers claim in the lawsuit the federal agency failed to consider several key issues when it created the plan, including the effect that reintroduced wolves have on bighorn sheep and ways to possibly increase bighorn sheep immunity to domestic diseases.
Wyoming tribes seek Yellowstone bison from Montana
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — American Indians in Wyoming have petitioned the state of Montana to give their tribes a group of bison from Yellowstone National Park whose fate has been in limbo since they were relocated to Ted Turner's ranch more than two years ago.
The request comes amid a push by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to find more places suitable for bison on public and tribal lands across the West. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer also has sought new habitat for the animals, and earlier this year his office helped engineer the transfer of several dozen bison to Montana's Fort Peck Reservation.
But such efforts have run up against determined opposition from the livestock industry, drawing a lawsuit that resulted in a restraining order against moving more bison. Leaders of Wyoming's Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes said in a resolution signed this week that bison are an important icon that the tribes can help preserve.
They asked the state of Montana to transfer an unspecified number of the approximately 170 bison held on Turner's Green Ranch near Bozeman to the Wind River Reservation in western Wyoming. Schweitzer spokeswoman Sarah Elliot said Friday no formal request had yet been received from the tribes.
The tribes also sought help from Salazar and requested a consultation with the federal government on how to achieve the tribes' goals.
Yellowstone has a burgeoning population of more than 4,200 bison that periodically spill into surrounding areas of Montana. Thousands of bison have been captured and sent to slaughter in the past two decades to avoid spreading the disease brucellosis to livestock. The bison on Turner's ranch were spared when they were put into a government quarantine program for several years to ensure they were disease-free. Turner has agreed to take care of the animals for five years. In exchange, he gets 75 percent of their offspring, estimated at 150 animals. The media mogul already had an extensive private bison herd but wanted the Yellowstone animals for their pure genetics.
The animals had been slated to go to the Wind River Reservation several years ago but ended up on Turner's ranch when the tribes' proposal fell through.
“Our ultimate goal is to have a free-roaming heard to some extent that exists on the reservation,'' said Jason Baldes, a member of the Eastern Shoshone who said he's been working with government agencies and conservation groups to move the animals onto the reservation.
“There are a lot of things to work out, such as management, once we get the buffalo on the ground,'' Baldes added.
Bison once numbered in the tens of the millions across the West before overhunting in the late 1800s nearly drove them to extinction. Yellowstone has one of the largest remaining wild populations.
Another group of quarantined animals from the park was moved this year to northeast Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation. A lawsuit from ranchers, property rights advocates and others concerned about the spread of brucellosis and bison competing for grazing space blocked plans to move some of the animals onto a second reservation. Schweitzer, a Democrat who has championed the cause of bison restoration to the consternation of the cattle industry, has sought to get the Green Ranch bison onto the National Bison Range in Moise.
Salazar in May asked the heads of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and other agencies to ”examine the feasibility of the relocation of (Yellowstone) bison to suitable federal or tribal lands.''
His office said Friday that a draft report was under review and would be submitted to Salazar at an unspecified date.
A representative of a conservation group that has been working with the Wind River tribes said the reservation is the most suitable destination for the animals since some of the groundwork for a relocation already has been accomplished.
But Garrit Voggesser with the National Wildlife Federation said the Green Ranch bison also could be broken up and sent to more than one destination.
“If we just keep taking these steps, ultimately we'll get to the point where we have bison on a much broader landscape,'' said Voggesser. The plaintiffs' attorney in the lawsuit against the state over the transfer of bison to Fort Peck said he would not oppose attempts to move animals out of state. Helena attorney Cory Swanson said such a move would be outside the scope of the lawsuit.