Written by John Plestina
The Fort Peck Tribes welcomed 139 genetically pure bison from Yellowstone National Park Nov. 13. (Photos by John Plestina)
It was history in the making and a crowd braved freezing temperatures as the first two semis loaded with about 100 of 139 wild bison arrived at the Fort Peck Tribes 13,000-acre Cultural Range Unit, 29 miles northeast of Wolf Point, Thursday, Nov. 13.
One of the semis broke down and about 40 buffalo were delivered to the tribes the next day.
The three semis with cattle trailers that were contracted from a Nebraska livestock hauler left CNN founder Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch near Bozeman the day before for the nine-hour ride to the Fort Peck Reservation. The bison that came from the 4,900-strong Yellowstone National Park herd had been held in quarantine for about eight years on Turner’s ranch. The Yellowstone herd is the largest in the nation.
The 139 bison are being held 10 days in a 140-acre pen and will then be released onto a 13,000-acre pasture northwest of Poplar where they will join 63 Yellowstone buffalo that were transferred to the reservation in 2012, creating the largest conservation herd in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park.
The goal of the quarantine was to create a herd that is genetically pure [no cattle genes] and free of brucellosis, a bacterial cattle disease.
Previous attempts to relocate the bison from Turner’s ranch were unsuccessful partly due to opposition from livestock interests sparked by concerns about brucellosis.
The now nearly 200 bison on the reservation are certified as free of brucellosis.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I’ve been waiting for the Yellowstone bison for a long time,” Laurel veterinarian Don Woerner said.
“I’ve been following this whole quarantine thing. They proved it would work,” he said.
“They have not found any cattle genes,” Woerner said.
National Wildlife Federation Tribal Lands Program Manager Alexis Bonogofsky has worked in partnership with the Fort Peck Tribes and other Western tribes addressing wildlife, energy and cultural issues for more than a decade. The Billings woman was at the Cultural Range Unit when the bison arrived.
“The goal is to continue with these relocations to various tribes,” Bonogofsky said.
The herd on the reservation will help tribal members regain a connection to their history. Bison play a key role in some ceremonies and were welcomed with song and prayers.
Yellowstone bison are descendants of the massive wild herds that roamed the West during the 1800s and totaled up to 30 million. Over hunting and a lack of management reduced the population to about 1,000 by the end of the nineteenth century.
State Wildlife Commission recently announced a decision to implement the recent approval by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to relocate 140 bison to the reservation. One bull was euthanized prior to the trip because it had killed other bulls.
Following the completion of environmental analysis and review of public comments, a decision by the FWP found no significant issues associated with relocating bison to the tribal location, or to three out-of-state locations that were also under consideration.
The finding essentially followed the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s October approval to keep the bison within state borders if a finding of no significance was determined.
In March, state wildlife officials requested proposals from agencies or organizations capable of permanently caring for the bison for conservation purposes. The bison have been held at the Green Ranch, west of Bozeman, during their five-year monitoring period.
Brucellosis, initially introduced to North America through livestock but now also found in Yellowstone bison, has been the main reason for opposition by some individuals and groups to the relocation of Yellowstone bison, even though bison have not been implicated in a single case of transmission of brucellosis to cattle in the wild.
FWP received 10 proposals, four of which were analyzed in the environmental assessment. The examined proposals included one from the Fort Peck Tribes and others from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Wildlife Conservation Society Zoo Consortium in New York and Ohio.
Written by John Plestina
A joint operation by the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice and Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office took down an alleged marijuana growing and distribution operation on Custer Street across from Southside Elementary School.
Felony state charges have been filed against Dustin Kinzie, 20, Dougal McMorris, 19, and Pryce Paulson, 20, all Wolf Point males. All three were arraigned in 15th District Court Wednesday, Nov. 12.
Tribal charges were filed against three individuals.
FPTDLJ Capt. Jim Summers reported that Arlyn “A.J.” Headdress Jr. and Tyler Nygaard, both Wolf Point adult males, and Nevaeh Yellowrobe, a Wolf Point adult female, were all charged in tribal court with criminal possession with intent to sell, gun complicity with a drug crime, felony child abuse and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Assistant Roosevelt County Attorney Jordan Knudsen said Montana law allows for a separate felony charge for dealing drugs near a school. He said the investigation of the case is not completed.
Summers said Monday, Nov. 17, that it was unknown whether federal charges would be filed against anyone charged in the case. He said there is a federal enhancement for selling drugs near a school.
Kinzie pleaded not guilty to criminal production/manufacture of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal endangerment.
McMorris pleaded not guilty to criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to sell, criminal production/manufacture of dangerous drugs, criminal endangerment, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.
Paulson, who has been free on bond, pleaded not guilty to felony criminal production or manufacture of dangerous drugs.
Trial dates for all three are scheduled for Feb. 12.
According to district court charging documents, the arrests and charges stem from a tribal drug investigation that began with a 911 call from a woman reporting that her grandson was smoking marijuana. A tribal officer arrested the adult grandson, who later told tribal investigators that he had been purchasing one to three grams of marijuana per week from Kinzie for seven months. The individual also named McMorris and other people as local sources for marijuana. Investigators also found text messages on the man’s cell phone arranging purchases of marijuana.
According to charging documents, tribal and county officers entered Kinzie’s residence at 416 Custer Street with a search warrant, Tuesday, Oct. 14. The officers found five marijuana plants, grow equipment, about one half pound of marijuana packaged in one ounce baggies in a backpack belonging to McMorris, two ounces of marijuana in a black air vault belonging to Kinzie, several pipes and bongs, several digital scales, small unopened jewelers bags that are commonly used to package drugs, marijuana seeds, paraphernalia, a .25 caliber pistol, an empty box and receipt for a Mossberg pump shotgun, $783 in cash and marijuana growing equipment in boxes with shipping labels addressed to Paulson. Charging documents also allege that Paulson’s name was on some of the boxes containing equipment.
The charging documents also allege that Paulson admitted that he purchased equipment for the grow operation and that it was shipped to him during an interview with RCSO Sgt. Patrick O’Connor on Wednesday, Oct. 15. Paulson also admitted to O’Connor that he purchased marijuana seeds for the growing operation.
The charging documents also allege that Yellowrobe told investigators that Kinzie and McMorris have sold marijuana from the house and that both have used their cars to deliver marijuana.
Court documents state that Yellowrobe is Kinzie’s girlfriend and that she and her 1-year-old child were present in the house when the search warrant was executed and that there was a strong odor of marijuana present. Officers contacted BIA Social Services to respond to the child’s exposure to marijuana.
Tyler Nygaard told investigators that Kinzie and McMorris were the main sellers of the pot and that he had seen Kinzie make seven to eight sales a day and McMorris make four to five. Nygaard also told investigators that he had been in Billings with McMorris and witnessed McMorris purchase a pound of marijuana for $3,000. Nygaard also alleged to investigators that McMorris is the “main boss of the group that sells marijuana.”
Charging documents also allege that Headdress made statements to investigators corroborating assertions by Yellowrobe and Nygaard.
Written by Herald-News
The annual Wolf Point-Poplar Ducks Unlimited banquet was held at the Elks Club Saturday, Nov. 15. (Photos by John Plestina)
Written by Herald-News
The Wolf Point Museum held one of its two annual fundraisers — a wine tasting, art auction and spaghetti dinner — at the Elks Club Friday, Nov. 14.
First photo: Mentalist and magician Paul Draper (left), who headlines at the Venician in Las Vegas, Nev., and inspired The Mentalist TV series, performed during the event. Assisting him as volunteers in his act were Wolf Point residents (left to right) Duane Kurokawa, Chris Dschaak, Julie D’Ambrosio, Tori Matejovski and Halie Smith. (Photos by John Plestina)
Written by John Plestina
With the voters approving bond funding for a new jail on Tuesday, Nov. 4, the Roosevelt County Commissioners voted, Monday, Nov. 17, to move forward and hire Kimme and Associates, a Champaign, Ill.-based criminal justice facilities planner, to develop a request for proposals from architects and then to send the RFP to architects.
Dennis Kimme and Kimme and Associates has worked with the county on the jail issue for several years.
“He knows this jail better than anybody,” commissioner Gary Macdonald said.
“He’s been with us since Day 1,” jail administrator Melvin Clark said.
Nearly 57 percent of voters approved the bonding measure for a new jail and improved office space for the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s office with a 47.58 percent voter turnout. A lower, 34.88 percent voter turnout prevented passage of a similar measure in June.
The approval authorizes the county commissioners to issue and sell $11.86 million in general obligation bonds to be repaid within 20 years.
The projected mill levy increase would add $42.68 annually to the taxes on a residence assessed at $100,000.
The current jail is under-sized and outdated.
Legal action brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013 forced Roosevelt County to reduce the number of jail beds by nearly one half and the threat of further legal action against the county has loomed over the aging jail that does not meet current standards.
Macdonald said he contacted the bonding company and was told they could not move forward until after the commissioners canvas the election, which will happen later this week.
He said the bonding company will bond half of the project at a time.
“That gives us the opportunity to find money so we won’t have to bond as much the second time around,” Macdonald said.
The county will work with Great Northern Development Corporation to search for other funding sources.
Commission chairman Duane Nygaard asked what could happen if an architect projects a higher construction cost than Kimme had projected.
Macdonald responded that it could reduce the number of jail beds.
“Hopefully they estimated this high enough,” he said.