Thank you, Ryan Zinke

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Hallelujah! Was agonizing this week over a letter I was preparing for our Congressmen explaining why it was a personally emotional issue with me, but more importantly, a serious issue regarding public rights and the law of the land to turn the National Bison Range over to the Salish/Kootenai Indian tribe; BUT, the Thursday announcement by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said, “IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.”

In years past this column has covered roundups and other important events at the Bison Range because it is more than just a very, very, special place to me. I ask your understanding and forgiveness for a quick review of why.

In the spring of 1935, my first grade picnic gave me a first magical visit to the Bison Range. I was 6 and the Range was 27, but a love affair began. It is possible that no non-employee had a closer connection over these last 82 years. Because of constant visits and interest, I became close friends with each superintendent, like long-serving Marvin Kaschke. Went there at every opportunity, including the first week home from Germany out of the Army, and got pictures of the famous white bull, Big Medicine. Volunteered for active field work while in college.

It is important to note that I helped do ground work in Congress to get budget for building a much-needed visitors’ center, and continued helping after leaving Sen. Metcalf’s staff and coming home.

As a result I was honored to speak and be Master of Ceremonies when that wonderful building was dedicated. Did a national magazine story on roundup and included much photo coverage in son Shannon’s and my book, “Wondrous Wildlife.”

Was emcee at Range’s 75th birthday ceremony in 1983. That’s enough! You’ve got the picture.

I have friends on the reservation and there is nothing in my stand on the Bison Range that could logically be considered anti-Indian. They have many difficult social problems to solve which should take precedence over the specialized and serious job of running a complex wildlife sanctuary. That place belongs to all American citizens. It is the jewel of this nation’s vast refuge system.

Thank you, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

G. George Ostrom is a national award-winning Hungry Horse News columnist. He lives in Kalispell.

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