Letter from John Dingell

Dear Colleague: I would like to call to your attention an important issue involving policies for management of our national wildlife refuges. Over the past several years, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has attempted to turn over major elements of management at the National Bison Range Complex (NBRC) in Western Montana to a non-federal government entity, in this case the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, under provisions of the Indian Self-Governance Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-413, 108 Stat. 4272-4277), referred to as annual funding agreements (AFAs). DOI has also indicated its intent to develop as many as 30 or more other such agreements at refuges across the country once this prototype has been developed at the National Bison Range. This is being done in spite of the inherently federal responsibilities involved in managing our refuges, and despite provisions in the National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act that do not permit the Secretary to make such delegations outside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Having been directly involved in the original passage of these provisions, I can vouch for the explicit Congressional intent of the 1976 amendment to the Refuge Administration Act. The principle of the added provisions was that there should never be any attempt to establish a second National Wildlife Refuge System by delegating its authorities or transferring units or responsibilities to any other entity. For more than a century, the National Wildlife Refuge System has become one of our country's great examples of conservation and an example that has been emulated throughout the world. That commitment made to and by the Refuge System should not be tampered with or weakened by unsound efforts to manage fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. This important work should be left to the professionals now managing our national system of refuges. It is clear that something must be done to protect our refuge system and to prevent further poorly designed AFAs. I urge you to read the attached article that was published in The New York Times on February 13, 2007 detailing the management agreement at the National Bison Range. With every good wish, Sincerely, John D. Dingell Member of Congress