State Ratified Compact: 85-20-1601 MCA

A compact between the State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the National Bison Range Wildlife Refuge was reached in 2009. This compact provides water for wildlife consumption and habitat as well as administrative uses, such as wildfire suppression. The compact was ratified by the 2009 Montana Legislature and signed by Governor Brian Schweitzer on April 17, 2009. The U.S. gave their formal approval on April 15, 2011. The Montana Water Court issued the Bison Range preliminary decree in September 2011 (Case # WC-2011-01) and approved the compact in July 2014.

Compact Summary

  • This Compact quantifies federal reserved water rights for the FWS’ National Bison Range from springs, seeps, naturally-occurring flood flows and groundwater sources arising inside the boundaries of the National Bison Range for:
    • Consumptive wildlife use rights for up to 755 animal units (one male bison equals 1.5 animal units; one female bison equals 0.9 animal units);
    • Non-consumptive wildlife uses from springs, seeps and naturally-occurring surface flows for bird habitat;
    • Consumptive uses from springs and seeps for the production of forage for bison;
    • Consumptive and non-consumptive administrative uses, including but not limited to domestic, lawn and garden, storage and dust abatement purposes.
  • The water rights recognized in this Compact will have no probable effect on any water uses outside the Bison Range.
  • The priority date for these uses shall be May 23, 1908, except for the bird habitat uses, which shall have a priority date of December 22, 1921.
  • These water rights will be administered in the same way as water rights established under state law.
  • Nothing in this Compact concerns the management of the National Bison Range, only on the federal reserved water rights that Bison Range managers will have at their disposal.

Compact Map:

3D Map of National Bison Range

Compact Appendices:
  • Appendix 1 - National Bison Range Consumptive Use Map
  • Appendix 2 - Consumptive Use for Wildlife
  • Appendix 3 - General Abstract of Water Right Claims
  • Appendix 4 - General Abstract of Water Right Claims - 76L 30043513 through 3518, 30043594-3595 and 30043598
  • Appendix 5 - General Abstract of Water Right Claims - 76L 30043501, 30043543, 30043546 and 30043596
  • Appendix 6 - Water Right Claims to be Withdrawn