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Little Shell Tribe gains lease to take over Montana park

December 10, 2021 GMT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials have assigned the lease for Hell Creek State Park to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, as the tribe seeks to take over management of the remote, 337-acre (136-hectare) site on Fort Peck Lake.

The Little Shell have sought to run the park since 2019 — the same year the tribe gained federal recognition following a decades-long bureaucratic struggle. It won’t assume management until the tribe’s operations plan is accepted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The park about 30 miles (46 kilometers) north of Jordan has been managed by the state since the 1960s and draws people seeking to boat and fish on Fort Peck Lake. It has 71 campsites, a boat launch, trails, staff housing and a maintenance building, The Billings Gazette reported.

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About 30,000 people visit Hell Creek annually.

Little Shell tribal chairman Gerald Gray credited state officials with helping shepherd through the deal.

The board’s approval allows the Little Shell to establish its own camping reservation system, which should be operational soon, said state parks administrator Hope Stockwell.

Gray has said the tribe hoped to make a profit off the park while also making changes, such as a potential interpretive center to inform visitors about the area’s prehistory and native culture.

The tribe’s original proposal also mentioned the possibility of constructing meeting facilities, “a restaurant, additional camp sites and other facilities, services or amenities.”