Written by John Plestina
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 6 fishing access site manager Woody Baxter makes a point about the issues concerning the shooting range during the public meeting in Wolf Point. The second photo is Roosevelt County Commission Chairman Duane Nygaard making a point. (Photos by John Plestina)
The message from several people attending a public meeting at Fort Peck Community College in Wolf Point, Tuesday, Sept. 23, was if the current shooting area adjacent to Bridge Park closes, they want a new public shooting range developed.
People who had used the range near the Montana Hwy. 13 bridge on the Missouri River told Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials they need a public location and that they will form a rod and gun club in Wolf Point to manage it if necessary.
FWP Region 6 fishing access site manager Woody Baxter said it is definite that the shooting range would close for safety reasons.
FWP has since closed the range and cleaned up the site.
The shooting range has become a nighttime party place with drinking, drug use, drunken individuals shooting and illegal trash dumping.
Neighbors of the shooting area have said they are not safe and errant bullets have strayed into at least one nearby resident’s yard, nearly hitting his house.
“I’ve felt uncomfortable about the shooting range for years,” Baxter said.
He sited that it’s a small area with a short distance to a berm that is supposed to stop bullets, insufficient FWP funding to manage it, nighttime parties and the increasing incidents where it has become a dump site.
“This range, I hope to close down in the next few days or next week,” Baxter said at the Wolf Point meeting.
“We’ll physically close it with some fencing and possibly a berm,” he said, adding that signage will be used.
Baxter said steel posts for targets would be removed but the berm that has protected neighbors will remain.
Baxter said he has a verbal commitment from the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office for enforcement of the closure in addition to game wardens and seeks help from the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice.
“As a hunting, fishing and recreational agency, we’re very much in favor of shooting sports,” Baxter said.
The FWP Shooting Range Grant Program could be a funding source for a new shooting range. It includes funding for ranges on both owned and leased land. Grants awarded last year were as low as $1,500 and as high as $33,000.
“If you are going to have a target place, it has to be close to Wolf Point,” Roosevelt County Commission presiding officer Duane Nygaard said.
FWP has managed the Lewis and Clark Fishing Access Site in what most local people know as Bridge Park since 1999.
Anyone interested in forming a gun club in Wolf Point and helping to develop a new shooting site may contact Mike Kauffold at 650-7691.
Written by Herald-News
Area schools and other area residents celebrated Native American Day with a parade in Wolf Point on Friday, Sept. 26. (Photos by John Plestina)
Written by John Plestina
Former Fort Peck Tribes Executive Board member Eric Bruguier points to an artist’s rendering of the housing, wellness center and shopping center projects at the former site of the Poplar Airport during a meeting in Wolf Point, Thursday, Sept. 25. (Photo by John Plestina)
When Jason Campbell of Arete Development Group said the Fort Peck Tribes could become a model for tribes nationwide during a meeting in Wolf Point, Thursday, Sept. 25, he was referring the first 20 houses of the Fort Peck Sustainable Village project that will soon be built in Poplar.
There are long-range plans to build more energy efficient tribal houses in Poplar, Wolf Point, Brockton, Fort Kipp, Oswego and Frazer during the coming years.
Timelines for construction beyond the first 20 houses in Poplar and possible locations in Wolf Point and other communities have not been disclosed.
Some of the houses will be modular homes placed on insulated form foundations.
Campbell said the project could put local residents to work and might involve the Fort Peck Community College building trades program.
Arete is working with the nonprofit Make It Right Foundation, a New Orleans, La., based charitable organization and the Fort Peck Tribes to develop the first phase of the project on a 5.2-acre site at the former Poplar Airport along the north side of U.S. Hwy. 2.
Campbell held community meetings in Brockton and Frazer last week, as well as the one in Wolf Point.
He said the rising costs of rental housing and the housing shortage created by the effects of the oil boom have made the housing situation acute.
“The partnership [Arete, Make It Right and the tribes] made a whole lot of sense,” Campbell said.
Fort Peck Tribes executive board member Eric Bruguier is working with the tribes on the project with American Indian Consulting Services.
Bruguier said the development of needed infrastructure at the Poplar airport site is vital for the project.
“If we can get the infrastructure done, we can move forward,” he said.
The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Services is funding the infrastructure.
Bruguier explained related projects that will be built adjacent to the houses in Poplar.
He said plans include a strip mall with five or six commercial tenants, travel plaza, motel and tribal wellness center fronting on the north side of U.S. Hwy. 2, adjacent to the site of the first 20 houses.
Bruguier said that while the Make It Right housing project, wellness center and proposed commercial development are separate, they are all located on the site of the former airport and there has been collaboration.
“The big picture is everybody is involved in this process,” Bruguier said.
He said two federal Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields environmental studies have been done on the airport
“We had a culture sensitivity study done,” Bruguier said.
Then he speculated that more land could become developable.
“If we can get rid of the leach ponds [near the development], that brings up more land,” Bruguier said.
“It truly has been a monstrous collaboration,” Campbell said.
Separate groundbreakings for the projects could be held in the next two months or during spring 2015.
A timeframe for the groundbreakings depends on the installation of necessary infrastructure.
“For the first time in this reservation’s 120-year history, tribal citizens are being asked what they want,” Campbell said.
He said the housing program will help build the local economy.
Campbell, of Missoula, went to graduate school at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., with Mark Sansaver of Wolf Point and Felix McGowen, from Poplar and now of Idaho.
Campbell became aware of the work the Make It Right Foundation was doing in New Orleans, La. He said he asked Make It Right if they could share their model with Indian Country.
Make It Right’s work on the Fort Peck Reservation began in June 2013 with meetings with tribal leaders, potential tenants/homeowners, architects and designers.
At that time, the Fort Peck Tribes Housing Improvement Program hired McGowen as a consultant for the program.
He coordinated the public meetings in Poplar in 2013 and planned the three community meetings that were held last week. Campbell conducted the meetings because McGowen was unable to attend.
Make It Right was born out of the devastation created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Actor Brad Pitt co-founded the organization in 2007.
By 2013, Make It Right had built 90 of 150 safe, energy-efficient and affordable homes for New Orleans families.
Since 2007, Make It Right has partnered with housing programs in Newark, N.J., and Kansas City, Mo., as well as the Fort Peck Tribes. There are currently preliminary conversations with the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota for a future development there.
Make It Right Foundation’s webpage says homes it will build on the Fort Peck Reservation would be available to tribal members whose income levels are at or below 60 percent of the area median income. Homeownership will be available to tribal members and structured through a low income housing tax credit rent-to-own program with ownership transferring to tenants after 15 years of renting.
The homes will have angular shapes and are built with the “cradle to cradle” method, which means building with safe and reusable construction materials. Renewable energy is utilized and Make It Right says on its website that the houses use 70 percent less energy than conventional homes of the same size.
Written by John Plestina
The Fort Peck Tribes executive board, on Monday, Sept. 22, became the first tribal entity in Montana to urge the public to vote “no” on a statewide ballot measure in November that would end Election Day voter registrations.
The legislatively-referred measure would amend the current law allowing voter registrations up to 5 p.m. on election dates and set the deadline at 5 p.m. the Friday prior to elections.
The executive board passed a resolution opposing the Montana Late Voter Registration Revision Measure, commonly known as LR-126, on the grounds that ending Election Day registrations would be harmful to the constitutional rights of all citizens wishing to vote.
Over 28,000 Montanans have used same-day voter registration since it became law several years ago.
“This resolution [LR-126] is trying to restrict the Native Americans and the poor people from voting,” chairman A.T. “Rusty” Stafne said.
“Whoever proposed this law is really against the Native American vote by keeping those who are not currently registered from voting,” tribal vice-chairwoman Patricia Iron Cloud said.
“I have children who are veterans and when they come home on leave they should be able to register the day of voting,” she said.
“Why wouldn’t we want to change the law?” asked tribal
councilwoman Roxanne Gourneau.
“A law that would make ourselves look weak. If we endorse this law, we are allowing people from the Bakken to take over our communities. It would have been a great law three years ago, but now we see it as a threat,” she said.
“The people who are in colleges away from the reservation and the people who are in the armed forces need to come home, register and vote the same day, and then head back,” councilwoman Pearl Hopkins said.
The Billings-based Western Native Voice took a position opposing LR-126.
Its chairperson Rhonda Whiting issued the following statement, Monday, Sept. 22: “Fort Peck executive board showed real leadership for Montana Indian Country today. Fort Peck became the first Montana tribe to urge citizens to vote ‘no’ on LR-126. We applaud the Assiniboine and Sioux people for taking a stand to protect the right of Native people to register and cast a vote on Election Day.
“LR-126, put on the ballot by politicians in our state’s legislature, will place unfair burdens on Native people, seniors, youth, and working families to cast their vote.
If Montanans vote to pass LR-126, responsible, eligible voters would have their voice unfairly taken away.
“We urge other tribal councils across Montana to follow Fort Peck’s lead in urging citizens to vote ‘no’ on LR-126.”
Written by John Plestina
The Roosevelt County Commissioners approved the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, Tuesday, Sept. 30, that reflects a $3.14 million increase over last year’s budget, but not all is gloom as royalties paid to the county for oil and gas production have driven the mill rate down.
Commissioners Duane Ny-gaard and Jim Shanks voted to approve the budget with no discussion. Gary Macdonald was not present at the meeting.
The FY 2015 budget is for the period that began July 1 and continues through June 30, 2015.
The changes in the larger mill levies from last year are: general fund, from 66.66 last year down to 47.81; public safety, 45.06 last year down to 37.49; roads, 32.67 increases to 34.21 this year.
Clerk/Recorder Cheryl Hansen said non tax revenue went up, including oil and gas production and oil royalties.
The budget has a new fund for the $300 stipend paid to all full-time, permanent county employees.
“We budgeted $455,000, which is more than it actually is,” Hansen said. “That’s going to come from oil and gas production.”
Nygaard cited new commercial properties that have added to the tax base including the new grain elevator in Culbertson, the fertilizer plant that began production in Wolf Point about two years ago.
“Each year the amount they pay increases,” Nygaard said of new businesses.
Of the budget process, he said, “It’s complicated and hard to read that’s why it’s September when we get our final figures.”