MOIESE — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' Bison Range has a new addition and it’s not an animal.
The tribe's Bison Range on the Flathead Reservation is a wildlife hub.
The drive along the gravel paths affords the opportunity to see huge bison from a car window.
Now it’s also a weather hub due to a new Mesonet station that measures all sorts of weather statistics.
“This just got installed less than a month ago and we’re really excited and honored to have it here,” said Kyle Bocinsky, director of Climate Extension for the Montana Climate Office.
This station monitors and records precipitation through a weighing rain gauge, temperature and relative humidity, snow depth via sonar, solar radiation, and even soil moisture down to one meter.
“The data is updated every five minutes. The station itself is recording all the time but it sends out the data every five minutes. And that is also updated on the dashboard every five minutes,” said Shannon Clairmont, the CSKT Bison Range's head biologist.
Additionally, its completely solar-powered and is an impermanent structure which means there was no digging into tribal land.
There are special ground screws that are an anchor for various points of the structure. These can be removed without damage to the ground.
Due to the station's solar-powered nature, it is not reliant on manpower or the Internet.
“Having this be off-grid like that allows us to put these stations where they’re needed, where the data are needed as opposed to having to worry about where we have power and where we have wifi,” Bocinsky said.
The Montana Climate Office has big plans to put Mesonet stations on reservations across the state.
“They’re working pretty hard to get these same sites on all the reservations in Montana. So, once they’re done the whole state will be kinda connected together with the climate control, or the climate measurements that these guys are getting out of these towers," Clairmont said.
The CSKT has conservation goals which include increased climate monitoring. This station will help the entire Flathead Reservation with its goals as well.
“The climate is definitely changing around here. But with a station like this, you can actually monitor and it’s not only there for the tribes to use but it’s there for the whole entire reservation. So you got the agriculture community around us that could also log in and check the dashboard for when they want to time their planting or when they want to time harvests,” said Clairmont.
To see the Mesonet in person, look behind the Bison Range visitor center. Soon there will be educational signs on a walking path near the Mesonet station to detail what it does and how it will help the community.
To see the data go to https://mesonet.climate.umt.edu/dash/csktbira
“The information’s there for everybody. So log on and take a look,” said Clairmont.