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Plans Forming For Little Shell To Manage Hell Creek State Park

A woman and man walk through brush next to a wide river.
Montana State Parks
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Hell Creek State Park along the Missouri River Breaks is known for fishing, water sports and camping.

The State of Montana has taken the first step in a process to transfer operational management of a state park to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Montana has been leasing Hell Creek State Park on the Fort Peck Reservoir at no cost from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 20 years.

On Tuesday, the State Parks and Recreation Board voted unanimously to extend the lease for two years. Board Chair Russ Kipp says this will allow time to “work with the Little Shell Tribe to familiarize them with the site management through approximate year of 2023.”

The FWP’s current 20-year lease of the park was set to expire Friday.

During a public comment period, many locals expressed frustration with how Montana State Parks has managed Hell Creek in recent years and said they looked forward to the Little Shell taking control.

Gerald Gray, chairman of the Little Shell Tribe, says the tribe already owns five other businesses and is ready to step into this role.

“As far as the park goes, we’re excited, we are happy to work with the director, he’s been very open with us and had an open line of communication, we really do appreciate that,” Gray said.

Chairman Gray says the tribe is prepared to assume full responsibility for Hell Creek State Park once the State has approved a plan.

Kaitlyn Nicholas is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America Indigenous affairs reporter.

Kaitlyn Nicholas covers tribal news in Montana.