House bill would give tribes free licenses to hunt bison

A herd of bison graze in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, June 20, 2011. On average over 3,000 bison live in the park. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Lawmakers in Helena are considering a bill that would give each Indian tribe in the state two free licenses per year to hunt buffalo.

House Bill 108 would give tribes the licenses, as long as the state also issues 40 or more special licenses to the general public to hunt buffalo.

A similar bill passed in 2005, but expired in July of 2015. Both bills mandate the animals must be killed by tribal members for traditional purposes.

Republican Rep. Fred Anderson of Great Falls wonders whether the tribes would be hunting on tribal property, or in other prescribed areas.

“And if on tribal property, I see the Little Shell Tribe is included there, and they really don’t have any designated property that I’m aware of that would be suitable for a hunt. So then where would they conduct their hunts?” Anderson asks.

If passed, the bill would be effective immediately. HB 108 will be heard Thursday afternoon in the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.