HELENA, Mont. -

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a new agreement to share the management of the National Bison Range with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
    
The 18,800-acre refuge is within the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. The tribes cited their historical and cultural ties to the land in seeking to manage the government-run refuge and visitor center for the past 20 years.
    
Two previous management-sharing agreements have failed in the past decade, but Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Leith Edgar said Wednesday the new proposal improves on those past deals.
    
Under the proposed agreement, the tribes would be responsible for running the refuge's biology, fire management, maintenance and visitor services programs, with the government-employed refuge manager signing off on all plans.