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Vol. 4 No. 4

Winter 2010

Ancient Knowledge, Modern Methods Management Lessons from Native Peoples

Harsh Impacts of Feral Horses End Rattlesnake Roundups? An Alaska Refuge Turns 50

Winter 2010 Vol. 4 No. 4

Special Package: Tribal Wildlife Management 22 Introduction: Lessons from Indian Country 24 Feature Story The Tribal Path Forward on Climate Change

By Garrit Voggesser

32 A Hunting Dilemma

By Divya Abhat

34 Funding One Step at a Time

By Patrick Durham

36 Tribal Sovereignty: Law of the Land


By Dale M. Becker

40 What Tradition Teaches

Credit: Grant Gilchrist

By Paige M. Schmidt and Heather K. Stricker

46 Engaging Native American Students

By Katherine Unger

In Focus: Feral Horses

50 Human-Wildlife Connection

Lethal Hoof Beats By Jim Jeffress and Paul Roush

56 No Refuge: Impacts on the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge

By Jim Jeffress

57 Is Shooting the Answer Down Under?

By Madeleine Thomas

rotating features 58 Plans and Practices

Harnessing the Power of Adaptive Management By Melinda Knutson et al.

50 departments


Guest Editorial By Ron Skates

7 Letters to the Editor 10 Leadership Letter

64 Human-Wildlife Connection

68 Commentary

12 Science in Short 16 State of Wildlife 20 Today’s Wildlife Professionals:

Time to End Rattlesnake Roundups By D. Bruce Means ANWR at Age 50: A Lab for Science By David Payer and Jimmy Fox

70 Review

Documentary Film: Butterflies & Bulldozers By Madeleine Thomas

Credit: Tony Diebold

By Bob Abbey

Krista Beazley and Chris Beazley

72 Policy Watch Issues relevant to wildlifers


73 Field Notes

Practical tips for field biologists

Credit: D. Bruce Means

75 The Society Pages

TWS news and events

80 Gotcha!

Photos from readers

Web Extra: To read an article by Sarah E. Rinkevich and Daniel Parker about research into the role of the wolf in Apache culture, go to Š The Wildlife Society

More Online! This publication is available online to TWS members at Throughout the magazine, mouse icons and text printed in blue indicate links to more information available online.



No Blood from a Stone Scarcity of Funds Harms Tribal Wildlife Management By Ron Skates

A Credit: Lynn Arment/USFWS

Ron Skates is Vice President of the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society.

pproximately 565 tribal nations hold some 55 million acres of trust lands in the contiguous United States. There are an additional 44 million acres of native lands in Alaska. These lands contain some of the richest, most diverse fish and wildlife resources in the world—resources that are also integral to the physical, social, cultural, economic, and spiritual well-being of tribal and native communities. Through a plethora of federal treaties, executive orders, administrative actions, laws, mandates, and court decisions, tribal governing bodies retain authority to manage, protect, and preserve natural resources on all tribal lands. Unfortunately, effective management is impossible without funding, and funding falls vastly below the bare minimum needed. This is the biggest hurdle to managing natural resources throughout Indian Country. Given the current economy, the problem is only getting worse. Though the responsibility to manage and protect valuable resources belongs to the tribes, wildlife resources are also a “trust responsibility” of the federal government. The Department of the Interior serves as the primary “trustee” and is responsible for protecting the assets and resources that the United States holds in trust for tribal governments and their members, such as reservation lands and fishing and hunting rights.

Many federal agencies have established Native American policies that describe how they will work with the tribes on a government-to-government basis, but there is almost no funding to provide assistance. State fish and wildlife agencies often operate under a gross misconception that tribal governments receive a portion of the conservation funds set aside under well-known federal restoration acts such as Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson, and WallopBreaux, but that is not the case: These dollars are denied to tribal entities. Indeed, state agencies have often opposed use of restoration act funding for tribal projects. Instead, they want to establish cooperative agreements requiring tribes to pay a minimum of 25 percent of the cost share for individual projects. Because most tribes struggle to provide high-priority services such as health care, education, and housing for their people, it’s almost impossible for them to 6

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provide matching funds for conservation. This results in strained relations between the entities. There has been some progress in the past decade. In 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the support of Congress, established the Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (see page 34). To date they have expended over $62 million for important fish, wildlife, and habitat projects on reservations lands. Although this is a laudable start, it falls far short of addressing all the grant requests that are submitted. Tribes that have quality natural resource programs and the personnel to submit project proposals compete with other tribes that do not have the same resources at their disposal. This can pit tribes against each other, impacting relations and the resources that are in imminent jeopardy.

Is There a Solution?

The solutions to these problems require recognition that there are no boundaries of jurisdiction when it comes to the value of protecting natural resources. Tribes, state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and universities must all work together to address the shortfalls that affect us all. Tribal leaders must take the initiative to work with Congress for additional funding, and strive to restore and recover important natural resources without negatively impacting other critical social priorities. Finally, providing tribal employees with education and training opportunities to manage their natural resour­ ces is critical. Universities across the nation are actively recruiting minorities. When available, reduced tuition and scholarships are making it easier for Native American students to pursue higher education, and there are programs in many federal agencies, such as the Student Career Experience Program, that provide tuition, supplies, mentoring, and valuable on-the-job experience. Chief Sealth—a 19th-century leader of tribes in what is now Washington state—once said: “What is man without the beast? For if the beasts were all gone man would die of great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beast also happens to man. All things are connected.” The future management of this nation’s natural resources will depend on all entities working together with that same sense of connection. © The Wildlife Society

Maintaining an Ancestral Connection Krista Beazley helps White Mountain Apaches protect wolves By Madeleine Thomas

Wolves Barely Hanging On

The tumultuous history and politics that surround Mexican wolves can complicate their management. Seen as a threat to livestock, the wolves have been shot, poisoned, and trapped for decades. By the 1970s, they had all but disappeared from their historic range. After listing the species as endangered in 1976, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologists partnered with Mexican officials to capture the last remaining wild wolves to breed them in captivity. They found only five.

Courtesy of Krista Beazley

Krista and Chris Beazley and their children Kohl, Kiana, and Casey (left to right) visit Flagstaff, Arizona. Krista and Chris encouraged a love for the outdoors in their children, taking them hunting, camping, and fishing.


enturies before Krista Beazley was born, her ancestors in the White Mountain Apache Tribe believed that a sacred connection existed between them and their land, an inseparability between nature and the human soul. This bond is known in the Apache language as shi ne’. The tribe honored all living things, but held one species in particular esteem: the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). Admired for its skill and strength, the species once roamed Apache lands in abundance. Today it is endangered. Thus it seems only fitting that Beazley, a biologist, helps her tribe work for the wolf’s survival. The principle of shi ne’ has been fostered in Beazley almost since her birth. When she was small, she would occasionally accompany her father, a fisheries technician for the tribe, to work and help transport recently hatched fish into Hawley Lake and Reservation Lake. “Just seeing the lake and how beautiful it was, is how I fell in love with the outdoors,” she says. In 2000, with the help of a tribal scholarship, Beazley graduated from Northern Arizona University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and began working for the White Mountain Apache as a tribal biologist. Beazley always knew she wanted to work for her tribe. “That was one of my goals coming back—to help the tribe with education and to assist the tribe in any way.”


The Wildlife Professional, Winter 2010

In 1998 the FWS recovery team released 11 Mexican wolves in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area—7,000square-miles straddling Arizona and New Mexico. Some of those wolves soon dispersed into the neighboring White Mountain Apache reservation, lured by the tribe’s 1.6 million acres and abundant deer and elk. To protect the recovering population, in 2002 the tribe partnered with FWS to expand the recovery area to include all of their tribal land. Concerned that outsiders not familiar with the tribe’s culture could potentially disturb their land, the tribe hired tribal members, Beazley included, to manage the reservation’s wolves. Rather than rely on FWS, they also developed a wolf management plan that gives the tribal council final say on wolf management. As of last year, an estimated 42 Mexican wolves existed in the wild—a precarious population that is still threatened by poachers and inbreeding. The number of wolves currently tagged with radio collars on the reservation is confidential tribal information, but Beazley says the tribal management plan dictates a maximum of 30 wolves, or six packs, on reservation lands at any given time. To monitor them, Beazley and technicians use aerial and ground-based telemetry, remote trail cameras, and tracking of prints and scat. They also trap and relocate wolves that have attacked livestock in the area or that show signs of becoming habituated to humans.

Navigating Conflict and Culture

The wolves’ presence on reservation land was controversial among tribal members. Livestock, primarily cattle, are an important part of the tribal economy and culture. In addition, hunters from all over the world

© The Wildlife Society

travel to White Mountain Apache tribal lands each year to hunt trophy elk, paying fees in the tens of thousands of dollars. Beazley says elk make up roughly 75 percent of the wolves’ diets, so many hunters view them as competitors. When the tribe formed its management partnership with FWS in 2002, Beazley says she “stepped in and tried to educate the community.” Although much of the anti-wolf sentiment among tribal members has died down, several wolves have been illegally shot on the reservation over the years. Beazley does her best to reduce the potential for this conflict by frequenting local schools and attending livestock meetings, hoping to educate the community about the importance of predators to maintaining prey species populations, as well as about the tribe’s cultural connection to the wolf. “In the past, Apache warriors used to sing before engaging in some type of battle or war to imitate the wolves in how they travel and hunt,” she says.

To spread this awareness beyond her reservation, this past summer Beazley created an ecotourism program called Apache Wilderness Journey, which brings people onto the reservation to experience its natural beauty—and generates income for the tribe’s wolf program. In June, nine clients enjoyed five days of camping, hiking, horseback riding, traditional basket making, and watching crown dancers. The visitors also tried their hand at howling— mimicking a wolf’s cry in an attempt to elicit howls from nearby wolves, a tactic often used by biologists to monitor packs. To the group’s delight, they were successful. “We heard a response of a wolf from a distance, and they really loved it,” Beazley says. “Sometimes, the hair on the back of your neck just kind of stands up when they’re close. It’s really pretty amazing.” Madeleine Thomas is the Editorial Intern for The Wildlife Society.

Mentor Christopher Beazley Late husband of Krista Beazley Former biologist for the San Carlos Apache Tribe

Krista Beazley credits her great grandmother, Helena, with teaching her many of the Apache Tribe’s sacred traditions, like medicinal plant uses and how to tan a deer hide. Yet it is Beazley’s late husband, Chris, who continues to inspire her. As freshmen at Northern Arizona University in 1994, Krista and Chris quickly bonded over a shared love of wildlife. They married five years later, and the couple had three children. Tragically, Chris died in a car accident in January 2010. Although his passing remains a daily struggle for Beazley and her children, Chris lives on in Krista’s heart—and in her career. Chris Beazley learned the value of wildlife as a child, hunting with his father. As a father himself, Chris often took his children on camping, hunting, and fishing trips—prized family memories. Although he wasn’t a tribal member himself, Chris was deeply proud of his wife’s Apache heritage. “He admired the native people,” says Krista. “”I told him about our beliefs. He really stood strong with me about passing those beliefs on to our kids.” In March 2009 Chris took a job with the San Carlos Apache as a tribal biologist and began developing a wolf management plan for the tribe. Unlike the White Mountain Apache, the San Carlos Apache opposes wolf reintroduction because

© The Wildlife Society

of livestock and hunting concerns. “It was a tough line for him to walk,” Beazley says. “He didn’t want to push the species on them, so he wanted to show what we’ve done here at White Mountain—that what we’re doing is working well.” According to April Howard, senior biologist for the San Carlos Apache, Chris Courtesy of Krista Beazley was avidly involved with Chris Beazley (center) teaches the tribe’s annual Natural children the basics of archery at Resources Youth Practicum, the San Carlos Apache Tribe’s which teaches children Annual Natural Resources Youth the importance of natural Practicum in 2009. resources conservation and wildlife management. Chris set up archery and canoeing lessons for the event, and arranged visits from the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center so children could see how rehabilitated species like hawks and Gila monsters adjust in the wild. It was his mission, says Howard, to inspire every child in the community to love wildlife. “That was definitely one of his best assets and one of the things he wanted to do most in his life.” Krista concurs. Along with her respect for Chris as a loving husband and father, she says, “his passion for the wildlife—their habitat, trying to bring back the animals that were becoming extinct—was really what I admired.”


Lessons from Indian Country How Native Peoples Inform Wildlife Management

A satellite image of North America captures the diversity of the continent’s habitats, including lands that Native American tribes live on, manage, and revere. Credit: NASA


The Wildlife Professional, Winter 2010

igh valleys, bitter tundra, coastal deltas, lush forests, and rolling prairies—these habitats and the plants and animals they harbor have sustained the native people of the North American continent for thousands of years. Life is different now for those who remain. Yet many indigenous peoples continue to rely on natural resources as their ancestors did for millennia, and their traditional knowledge can help address modern challenges. The United States government recognizes 565 Native American tribes, representing an estimated 1.9 million people. Canada recognizes 630 First Nations groups as well as Inuit and Métis, totaling nearly 1.2 million people. In the U.S., tribes own 55 million acres of land and manage millions more in trust to the federal government. The nature of these acres—often rural, relatively undeveloped, and impoverished—has in many cases preserved them as repositories of endemic and rare species. These lands are not free from serious challenges. Species conservation, water management, energy development, sustainable use, wildlife damage control, invasive species, and human-wildlife conflicts concern tribal wildlife managers just as they do federal and state agency workers. One of the greatest wildlife management challenges—climate change—is already noticeably altering the lands and species that indigenous peoples rely on for nourishment, both physical and spiritual. Clashes exist between tribal, state, federal, and provincial agencies that strain to manage natural resources with limited funding. Yet it’s becoming increasingly clear that these groups have much to teach each other, and must work together for the common health of wildlife and wild lands. Here we explore some of the challenges facing wildlife managers on tribal lands, and solutions rooted in the knowledge of the land’s original stewards.

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Credit: Grant Gilchrist

Braving bitter temperatures near Sanikiluaq, Nunavut Territory, two Inuits (left) share knowledge of common eider duck wintering areas with a Canadian scientist.

Credit: Kevin Cannaday

Mountains in British Columbia are traditional lands of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, whose knowledge of caribou has informed population management.

Credit: James Francis/Penobscot Nation

The lush Penobscot River watershed in Maine is back on the path toward good health, thanks to the innovative restoration work of the Penobscot Nation.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Luigi

Desert buttes define Monument Valley Tribal Park, ancestral home of the Navajo Nation, which faces the challenges of a desert climate. Š The Wildlife Society


manag e m e nt

S pecial

Pa c k a g e

T r i ba l w i l d l i f e

The Tribal Path Forward

Confronting Climate Change and Conserving Nature By Garrit Voggesser, Ph.D.

I Courtesy of Garrit Voggesser

n April of this year, Kimberly Teehee, a member of the Cherokee Nation and senior policy advisor for the White House on Native American affairs, addressed the ninth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held in New York City. “Climate change adaptation is a priority,” she said, “and tribal communities are on the front line of this challenge…. The original stewards of this continent can teach us essential lessons regarding proper and effective stewardship” (Teehee 2010).

Garrit Voggesser, Ph.D., is Manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Lands Conservation Program.


Teehee’s remarks reflect a sea change in the understanding of federal employees, policymakers, scientists, and land managers about the fundamental, historical role Indian tribes have played in managing and protecting the natural world. That role is taking center stage as wildlife managers and conservationists seek answers about how to manage and mitigate the impacts of warming climates. As Quinualt Nation Chairwoman Fawn Sharp has said, “The science community is noticing that tribal restoration strategies are best practice[s] for resource management and a balanced ecosystem” (Kisner 2009). This newfound respect and recognition can translate into more successful approaches for natural resource adaptation to climate change.

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Traditional Stewards Bear Witness

For thousands of years, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Canadian First Nations have had an intimate relationship with the natural world, relying on plants and animals for subsistence, medicinal, and spiritual purposes. They see first-hand how global warming is harming North America’s land, water, and wildlife, and they are among the first to experience and document the impacts by comparing their historical knowledge of natural cycles with what they see today. This knowledge of ecosystems, weather patterns, and wildlife movements can help establish an ecological baseline—an assessment of tribal homelands prior to white contact—which will help shape current and future management actions to conserve wildlife and wild places. The stakes could not be higher. Addressing a congressional committee in 2007, Mike Williams, a Yupiaq from Alaska, said: “Global warming is undermining the social identity and cultural survival of Alaska Natives and American Indians. As we watch our ice melt, our forests burn, our villages sink, our sea level rise, our temperatures increase, our oceans acidify, and our animals become diseased and dislocated, we recognize that our health and our traditional ways of life are at risk” (Williams 2007).

© The Wildlife Society

Indian tribes disproportionately bear the brunt of such climate-related changes, which threaten not only tribal livelihood and survival, but the underpinnings of culture itself. Examples of the impacts are widespread: • Tribes of the Northern Plains and Great Lakes report diminishing numbers of elk and moose— subsistence staples—as warmer temperatures cause increased mortality and force the animals north to colder habitats. • In the Pacific Northwest, climatic changes are shifting the timing and location of seasonal salmon migrations, raising juvenile mortality rates and forcing salmon populations farther north. Tribes that are dependent on salmon for subsistence and identity face a potential 50 percent decrease in both salmon and trout habitat in the next 40 to 80 years (NWF 2008) as rising temperatures make many rivers and streams too warm for the fish to survive. • After 11 years of drought, the Colorado River— which serves the needs of more than 30 million people including dozens of tribes—is significantly dwindling. Fed by the river, Lake Mead—the nation’s largest reservoir—has dropped to 37 per-

limits indigenous peoples’ ability to pursue native hunts of seals and other animals that haul out on ice to feed their young. Melting permafrost makes travel to remote native villages difficult and creates treacherous hunting conditions. According to Senate testimony given in August 2010 by Mary Pete of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, 90

Credit: Shishmaref Erosion & Relocation Coalition

percent of Alaska Native villages are now threatened by flooding and erosion linked to warming climates: “Coastal erosion is occurring so quickly in many villages that homes and community infrastructure are quite literally falling into the sea” (Pete 2010). Though global warming threatens to profoundly change tribal life beyond any natural fluctuations in recorded Credit: Schulz history, tribal communities have begun to harness their natural resource cent of capacity, the lowest level in more than 50 knowledge and experience to confront these chalyears (Petz 2010). As the region’s population and lenges with a variety of creative approaches. water demands grow, there is broad consensus Taking Action: The Swinomish that tribal treaty and legislative rights to water will be challenged as stakeholders compete for Located on Skagit Bay in Washington state, the shrinking water supplies. water-bound Swinomish Reservation is bracing for the impacts of climate change. Home to the Swinom• Alaska Natives are seeing some of the most visible ish Tribe—successor to several Coast Salish groups in effects of rising temperatures. The loss of sea ice

© The Wildlife Society

Buildings tumble into the Chukchi Sea (above) as the Alaskan Native village of Shishmaref succumbs to waves, erosion, and melting permafrost related to warming climates. Far to the southwest at Lake Mead (left) a tell-tale stain on canyon walls shows how far waters have fallen as drought dries the Colorado River, lifeblood for numerous native tribes and entire desert ecosystems.



Protecting Wild Rice By Katherine Unger Manoomin, or wild rice, is central to the culture of the Ojibwe people, whose migration story speaks of how the tribe was to settle where “the food grows on water.” Today, the Ojibwe still harvest this traditional food, traveling to the plants in canoes and using handheld sticks to gently tap the ripened rice into the boat. By some estimates as many as 3,000 tribal members harCredit: Peter David vest wild rice, which is eaten in homes, shared with friends, or sold in markets. Miles Falck, a GLIFWC wildlife biologist and member of the Oneida Tribe, displays

That rice is at risk. Rebounding popula- an impressive rice harvest in Wisconsin. tions of beaver (Castor canadensis) in many areas of the upper Midwest are reaching numbers not seen since the species lost ground to logging and overharvest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “Rice grows well in one-half to three feet of water,” says Jonathan Gilbert, wildlife section leader for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC). Beavers build dams that can back water up, making it too deep for rice to grow. “In some shallow basins, even small increases in water depth can greatly reduce suitable habitat,” Gilbert says. Taking a collaborative approach to address the problem, GLIFWC has helped Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin reseed wild rice. Tribes also work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, Wisconsin and Minnesota state agencies, and Ducks Unlimited to remove beavers from key areas, allowing rice beds to flourish. Ray Norrgard of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says such partnerships have helped the agency trap beavers, clear dams, or do other habitat management at roughly 300 lakes a year for each of the last few years. Beyond benefitting tribes, bolstering wild rice production also helps waterfowl populations that migrate through the area. Researchers have identified wild rice as the most important food source for migrating mallards in the region, while species such as loons and red-necked grebes nest amidst the plants’ stems. “People have a hard time understanding how important a role wild rice can play,” says Norrgard, “both from a human and a wildlife perspective.”

the area—this 12-square-mile reservation has already experienced effects from coastal erosion, inundation, and storm surge. Concerned about such impacts, the Swinomish became the first of a very few tribes in the nation to undertake a climate adaptation plan. In late 2008 they launched the Swinomish Climate Change Initiative to assess potential impacts of climate change on tribal forests, agriculture, fish and wildlife, water resources, shorelines, infrastructure, economic development, and public health—a task the authors called “a deliberative game of ‘what-if’s.’” In late 2009 they published their Impact Assessment Technical Report, including an extensive risk analysis that ranks the probability of various events. The results are sobering. Given current climate trends and projections, sea level rise over the next century could inundate at least 15 percent (some 1,100 acres) of the Swinomish Reservation, including its only agricultural lands and primary economic development zone. More than 170 buildings on the reservation, with an estimated value over $100 million, are at risk of inundation. Traditional natural resources such as salmon and shellfish—a foundation of tribal subsistence and culture—could shrink or vanish due to heat-related disease and rising waters, and historic cultural sites and remains could be washed away. Other probable climate-related risks include: •  Loss of roads, parks, and dock facilities, • Loss of access to the adjacent mainland, •  Increased wildfire and disease incidence, • Loss of wetlands and forage area for waterfowl and shorebirds, • Increasing need for emergency and health services, and • Increasing illness, asthma, and pollution.

The Swinomish Indian Reservation is an emerald oval in Washington’s Skagit Bay, separated from the mainland by a thin ribbon of water called Swinomish Channel. Essentially surrounded by water, the reservation is so vulnerable to inundation related to climate change that the Swinomish created an ambitious adaptation plan. Courtesy of Swinomish Tribal Archives


The Wildlife Professional, Winter 2010

Daunting as this challenge is, the Swinomish are responding. Based on the findings of their impact assessment, the tribe is developing an adaptation plan that will help them confront impacts and preserve tribal traditions and life ways. Knowing that ecosystem resilience—the ability to maintain equilibrium in the face of disturbance and stress—relies on collaboration, the Swinomish have partnered with the state, local governments, universities, and scientists to develop their adapta-

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Credit: National Wildlife Federation

tion plan and ensure cooperation and respect for the tribe’s treaty rights to natural resources. The Swinomish will likely target key habitats and corridors for protecting native plants and wildlife, as habitat connectivity is essential to preserve plants, animals, waters, and other resources vital to tribal communities. Blending western science and traditional know­ ledge in their adaptation plan, the tribe also had the foresight to involve tribal members so that their values and needs are included in the effort. Swinomish leaders formed a community group of tribal elders and members to share information and get direct feedback about the community’s needs and concerns. Tribal leaders also hope to share what they’ve learned with other tribes, and to actively engage their youth in the issue. Our young people “will inherit this challenge, which in fact is a climate crisis,” says Shelly Vendiola, facilitator for the Swinomish climate awareness group. “The strategy is to educate them now and begin to prepare them for how to adapt.”

Credit: National Wildlife Federation

during migratory stopovers. “When the river dies, we’re no longer Cocopahs,” says tribal elder Colin Soto. “We knew we had to protect the river. We had no choice in the matter” (NWF 2007). To that end, in 2002 the tribe passed a resolution to protect the river from Yuma to the Sea of Cortez. As part of this effort it has formed alliances with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and state and federal agencies. The Cocopah and NWF identified the highest priority habitat areas for restoration along the river. So far, they’ve completed restoration work on more than 40 acres; work on a 20-acre parcel begins soon. As part of the project, the tribe is removing salt cedar and planting native cottonwoods, willows, and mesquite. They aim to recreate the vertical vegetative structure that benefits birds such as the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, Yuma clapper rail, yellow-billed cuckoo, and dozens of others that travel the Pacific flyway.

Hired by the Cocopah Tribe, two contractors secure and water a cottonwood tree (left) newly planted on the Cocopah Reservation in Arizona. A restored area on the reservation (right foreground) flanking the Colorado River is now home to a mix of cottonwoods, willows, and other native plants. On the opposite bank, in Mexico, non-native and drought-tolerant salt cedars outcompete native vegetation.

Resolve of the Cocopah Located along the Colorado River in southwestern Arizona, the Cocopah Tribe has been suffering for years from climate-related drought. The river—center of Cocopah life—has been reduced to a trickle, and invasive droughttolerant plants such as salt cedar now flourish to the detriment of neotropical birds and waterfowl that depend on native vegetation

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At the podium of Oregon’s capital in Salem, Klamath Tribal Councilman Jeff Mitchell helps mark the signing in early 2010 of a historic agreement to remove dams and restore salmon in the Klamath River Basin, a multi-year cooperative effort spawned by tribal concerns. Credit: Danielle Peterson/Statesman Journal


generate significant amounts of biomass energy. In addition, simply making tribal homes and buildings more energy efficient can save 15 to 40 percent in energy consumption and costs. That is significant: Because of the rural location of most reservations, Indian tribes suffer the highest energy costs in the nation, often three to five times the cost of most U.S. households. The opportunity is clear for Pat Spears, president of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy: “Renewable energy from the earth, the sun, and the wind can provide energy and jobs for our communities and green the federal transmission grids that interconnect us all.”

Credit: Myra Wilensky

Wind turbines rise from a 60-megawatt wind farm built on lands of the Campo Kumeyaay Nation in southern California, the first wind farm on tribal lands in the U.S. Such cleanenergy projects can help tribes mitigate climate impacts and bolster economic development.

The Cocopah have led efforts to reach out to state and federal agencies to protect these areas, including a request that the Bureau of Land Management designate the area around the lower river as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Their efforts failed due to lack of support from the last administration. Now, reinvigorated, the tribe has brought agencies and NGOs back to the table in a new attempt to gain formal protection for this section of the lower Colorado. “We’re on the road to success,” says Soto.

The Promise of Clean Energy

While adaptation strategies are essential to confronting climate change, tribes also have tremendous opportunities to mitigate climate change impacts by harnessing their abundant natural resources. Earlier this year NWF—in collaboration with the National Tribal Environmental Council, Native American Rights Fund, and Intertribal Council on Utility Policy—issued a new report detailing this potential (NWF 2010). It notes that energy efficiency and renewable energy projects could help tribes achieve economic independence and strengthen tribal autonomy while helping to sustain natural resources for future generations. The report estimates that tribal wind energy projects could meet 20 to 25 percent of the nation’s current energy needs. Solar energy potential from tribal lands could provide 4.5 times the total national energy consumption of 2004, and tribes have access to crop and forest residue that could


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The Campo Kumeyaay Nation in southern California proves the point. In 2005, it completed the first wind farm on tribal land in the U.S. With 25 turbines, the 60-megawatt farm helps feed the grid in California, producing enough energy to power 50,000 homes and saving about 110,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year (NWF 2010). In partnership with two local energy companies, the Campo Kumeyaay Nation has a 20 percent initial ownership in the project, with full ownership after 25 years. A second 160-megawatt wind farm is now underway, and the Campo Kumeyaay will have a larger ownership stake in that project, a critical step in advancing control of their green energy future and economy. According to Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network, clean energy projects such as this can help eliminate the ageold obstacle faced by tribes of choosing between economic development and natural resource and cultural preservation.

Legislative Talk without Teeth

While many tribes are motivated to confront climate change, very little is possible without support and resources. Congress has made a number of attempts to pass climate legislation, most notably when the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454), which provided important funding and support for tribes for natural resource adaptation and climate change mitigation measures. However, unable to agree on a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill, the Senate has not yet passed any meaningful legislation. Barring the passage of federal legislation, it is critical for tribes to engage federal agencies on climate change issues. In March 2009, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar issued secretarial order No. 3285 requiring the use of “scientific tools to increase understanding of climate

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change and to coordinate an effective response to its impacts on tribes and on the land, water, ocean, fish and wildlife, and cultural heritage resources.” The order further stated that DOI would “ensure consistent and in-depth government-to-government consultation with tribes and Alaska Natives on the Department’s climate change initiatives,” incorporating traditional ecological knowledge in formulating policy, and supporting “substantive participation by tribes in deliberations.” DOI has yet to fully back this proclamation, but this is a promise that must be kept. In late 2009, DOI launched a Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, an effort that Indian tribes generally support. However, although the Administration’s fiscal 2010 budget for the initiative totaled $136 million, none of that funding was designated for tribes. The 2011 budget for this initiative increased by more than 25 percent to $171.3 million, but only $200,000 of that is slated for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to as-

sist tribes. This is vastly below the millions that tribes need and is highly inequitable, especially considering the disproportionate effect of climate change on tribal homelands. Indian tribes deserve a broader seat at the table in DOI’s Climate Change Adaptation Initiative and a more equitable share of funding.

The Future for Indian Country

While tribes should continue to reach out to the federal government, the current reality is that they must rely on their own initiative. As each tribe acts, a movement will be built. With their historical acumen for managing natural resources and dealing with dramatic change, tribes can be leaders in shifting our future forecast. Likewise, the crisis of climate change offers a prime opportunity for state, federal, and tribal governments to take steps toward meaningful collaboration. Non-governmental organizations can also play a crucial role. NWF, for example, has long recog-

Bringing Back Tortoises By Katherine Unger The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is unique among Native American tribes of the Southeast, as they remain on a portion of the land that they originally occupied, in rural Alabama, though many other tribes were forced to move. Poarch land is also home to an iconic species for the tribe—the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)—now listed as threatened throughout much of its southeastern range. Now the tribe and surrounding communities are helping bring tortoises back from the brink. Laura Cook, environmental director for the Poarch, is spearheading efforts to protect the species. “The shell is important to the tribe,” she says, because members use the shell as a shaker in ceremonial dances. In addition, the gopher tortoise is important to many wildlife species, such as indigo snakes, burrowing owls, and gopher frogs, which use tortoise burrows for shelter. Cook runs a tortoise program at the tribe’s Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve, located on reservation land in the longleaf pine habitat that the gopher tortoises prefer. People who find tortoises that appear to be at risk bring them to the reserve for care. “They’re found a lot of times around construction sites and along highways,” says Cook. “People don’t know what to do with them and don’t want to see them get killed, so they are starting to bring them to us.” Once Cook and her team have the animals, they transfer them to a protected enclosure in the reserve, which now holds at least 55 tortoises. The tribe has released more than a dozen tortoises into open parts of the reserve after keeping

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them in the enclosure for several months to make sure they won’t simply return to where they were originally found. This work has been funded in part by grants received in 2008 and 2010 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (see page 34). Worth $200,000 Credit: Risley each, the grants have also helped the tribe The Poarch Band of Creek Indians have restore longleaf pine revered the gopher tortoise for centuries. Now the tribe is working to recover the habitat crucial to gopher species and its longleaf pine habitat. tortoises, the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), and many other species. With this funding and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, the tribe has planted more than 500,000 pine trees on tribal lands and conducted controlled burns over 1,200 acres to maintain open forest stands. These efforts have earned the tribe certifications and awards from the Alabama Resources Council, the USDA Forest Service, and the American Tree Farm System. Once the trees mature, says Cook, she’s hopeful that threatened species will thrive again on Poarch land.


Negotiating to Restore a River By Katherine Unger Members of the Penobscot Indian Nation once organized their lives around the river that bears their name. Running 350 miles through the state of Maine, the Penobscot River served as a means of transportation, medicine, commerce, and food for thousands of years. “We owe our existence and our well-being to the river,” says John Banks, a tribal member and director of natural resources for the Penobscot. European settlement was not kind to the river. Used as a conduit for lumber and eventually as a dumping ground for area paper mills, it became so polluted that, according to a 1967 report, “boats cannot be kept in the river because of the way the river fouls the paint.” The tainted river could no longer support fish or provide drinking water for the tribe. By the 1980s, pollution from a paper mill had left fish “loaded with dioxin,” says Banks. Dams blocked passage for migratory fish, and fish-dependent wildlife such as osprey and eagles—spiritually sacred to the tribe—also dwindled. The situation rendered useless treaty fishing rights that the Penobscot had incorporated into agreements signed from the 19th century onward. “We’d kind of been put on hold,” Banks says. That began to change in the late 1980s. Together with environmental nonprofit groups, the Penobscots defeated a proposal from Bangor Hydro-Electric to build a new dam. And when energy company PPL Corporation became the owner of all of the lower Penobscot River dams, it reached out to the tribe and others who had been involved in these battles. From 2000 to 2004, the Penobscots, PPL, and federal and state agencies worked out Credit: Bridget Besaw a mutually advantageous compromise: The Penobscots and partners gained the option Water resources manager Dan Kusnierz (left) and technician to buy three dams from PPL, while allowing Jan Paul collect and record the energy company to transfer more power river water quality data for the to other dams further up the river—a win for all Penobscot Nation. involved. To implement the plans, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust was created, a nonprofit organization with involvement from groups including the Penobscot Nation, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Maine Audubon, and others. The Penobscot have ambitious plans for the river. Next summer, the trust will begin to remove the Great Works dam, and by mid-2012 a fish lift will enable migratory species such as the Atlantic salmon, shad, and sturgeons to pass over an upriver dam, which the trust will run to help generate revenue for the restoration projects. Finally they’ll remove the Veazie dam. “Without the dams there will be better water quality in the lower river and better temperatures and levels of dissolved oxygen,” says Banks. “This is about much more than just fish and energy. It will impact everything we share the river with.” Signs of success are visible in both river and sky: Between Orono and Medway, the river now hosts 20 pairs of eagles—up from only one in the 1970s—signaling the return of healthy fish to cleaner waters.


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nized the importance of partnering with tribes to conserve wildlife and wild places. Through our Tribal Lands Conservation Program, we collaborate broadly with tribes and intertribal organizations to develop solutions to climate change that unite tribes’ traditional ecological knowledge and western science to protect tribal natural resources, communities, and economies. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, the program works nationwide with tribes on wildlife and habitat conservation, capacity building, and environmental education. Because climate change, like wildlife, respects no boundaries, it is critical for all of us to act. “Whether it be climate change, or global warming, whatever you want to call it, something is happening out there,” said Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby during an interview in 2009. “The natural resources that have sustained us forever … are disappearing ….” (C-Span). Attendees at the 2009 Indigenous Peoples’ Global Climate Summit in Anchorage, Alaska, raised the same alarm. Participants developed a consensus agreement with ambitious goals to save Earth’s resources, calling upon developed nations to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by at least 45 percent by 2020. They also called for a moratorium on new fossil fuel development on or near indi­ genous lands or territories. The cry for action is not new. Terry Williams, fisheries and natural resources Commissioner for the Tulalip tribes of Washington state, has been traveling the world for some 30 years speaking about the threat of climate change, particularly on tribal lands. He equates the impacts with a second dispossession of American Indians—or “ecological removal”—whereby the “living blanket of the Earth” could be pulled out from underneath tribal communities (Williams and Hardison 2007). Clearly there is no larger historical imperative than the climate challenge. Tribes are rising to meet it. This article has been reviewed by subject-matter experts.

For more resources on management of natural resources on tribal lands, and a full bibliography, go to

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A Hunting Dilemma The Ute Balance Hunting with Tribal Traditions

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By Divya Abhat


Ute tribal guide Kobi Reed, left, shares in visitor Patrick Redding’s success at an annual fall elk hunt. During this time the Ute tribe opens up a portion of its land to non-members for hunting wildlife species such as elk, buffalo, and bighorn sheep.

Divya Abhat is Production Editor/ Science Writer for The Wildlife Society.


s independent governments, federally recognized tribes have the right to manage wildlife on their reservation lands, which includes hunting and fishing in ways that suit tribal needs and cultural traditions. If a species is scarce or sacred, however, that right can stir conflict with state or federal agencies and even within the tribes themselves.

bears, largely because of their traditional place of honor in the Bear Dance ritual. Two years and numerous public meetings later, the tribe agreed to hunt bears on the reservation. Today, “we have a very healthy bear population,” says Corts, whose department issues 30 bear permits a year.

The Ute people provide a case in point. Ute reservation lands comprise of millions of acres across the southwestern United States—with the Uintah-Ouray tribe living in northeastern Utah, the Southern Ute in Colorado, and the Ute Mountain tribe on the borders of Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Each spring the Ute hold an annual Bear Dance, a ceremony to celebrate Credit: Ute Tribe Outfitting and Guide Department the bear’s awakening and teach tribal members about strength, wisdom, and survival. About 10 years ago, however, too many bears were awakening, which created a management challenge for the Ute.

The Ute also offer permits for furbearer hunting and fishing for species including rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. Tribal members do not have to pay for permits, which typically range in price from $25 to $50 for furbearer hunts and $10 to $30 for fishing. Big-game trophy hunts on Ute land also draw in hunters and income, and are administered by the UTFWD’s Outfitting and Guide Program, responsible for the assessment of game populations, costs, and projected revenues.

Black bear populations on the reservation were at an all-time high, and the animals had become dangerously habituated to humans. “We had situations where as many as seven or eight bears would come into campgrounds … and tear up trailers,” says Karen Corts, big game enhancement manager with the Ute Tribe Fish and Wildlife Department (UTFWD), which manages 1.2 million acres of tribal land in the Uintah Basin. Corts approached the Ute Tribal Council to recommend measures to control the reservation’s burgeoning black bear population. She suggested hunting as one means of control—a recommendation that wasn’t very well-received by the tribe, which hadn’t ever hunted bears. “There were a lot of concerns about what some of the older tribal members would think,” Corts says. Many Ute elders were opposed to hunting

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Hunting Beyond Bears

Each year the UTFWD offers six to eight trophy bull elk permits, two trophy buffalo permits, and one trophy bighorn sheep permit. Bids for the permits can be steep, ranging from $345 for one elk cow permit to $85,000 for a bighorn sheep. Of course the Ute aren’t alone in offering hunting permits as a means to manage wildlife and generate revenue. The Crow (Apsáalooke) tribes in Montana, for example, offer antelope hunts on their reservations for extended periods that are often longer than hunting seasons set by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “The Crow Tribe has a variety of hunting and fishing opportunities for non-tribal members including elk, deer, pronghorn, and upland birds. The license requirements will vary depending on the species and location,” says Alexis Bonogofsky, tribal lands senior coordinator of the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Lands Conservation Program. The White Mountain Apache tribe in Arizona auctions off a special license for a trophy bull elk, which in the past, has gone for as much as $75,000 for one individual. Despite the high costs of permits, non-Indians aren’t deterred from participating in such hunts, especially given the pristine habitat and quality wildlife on many tribal reservations. “As a nonmember you get an excellent opportunity, and a lot of people are willing to pay,” says Corts.

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Funding One Step at a Time How Tribal Wildlife Grants Can Advance Conservation By Patrick Durham


Credit: Joe Milmoe/USFWS

Patrick Durham is the Native American Liaison for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

n February of this year, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that more than $7 million would go to 42 Native American tribes in 16 states to fund projects benefitting fish and wildlife resources. Provided through the highly competitive Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (TWG), individual amounts ranged from $55,446 to $200,000. Given the scope and complexity of the challenges facing many tribes, this may not seem sufficient. But with skillful planning, modest sums can accomplish plenty—and that’s the point. Among the current recipients, the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians in Nevada is using its $55,446 for a habitat enhancement project on the Muddy River. The native village of Kwigillingok in Alaska received $189,310 for a project to reduce carbon emissions. The Hopi in Arizona got $200,000 to conduct a golden eagle assessment, and in Maine, the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians received $200,000 for a brook trout conservation project. Other 2010 pro­ jects range from wetlands and forest restorations to game reintroductions, endangered species inventories, and removal of invasives (FWS 2010).

Starting Small

Now completing its eighth year, the TWG program began in 2002 to help federally recognized tribal governments fund projects to benefit wildlife and habitat, including non-game species and species with historic or cultural significance for tribes. To date the program has provided more than $62 million for targeted projects and for the development of overall resource management plans that can have long-term benefits. The TWG program is best used to fund “projects” not “programs”—a distinction that’s critical to understand. A project is a discrete effort with a beginning and end, designed to address a specific conservation need. A program is a continuous effort to implement a conservation strategy. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive federal assistance to fund long-term tribal management programs for fish and wildlife resources. Several tribes do run highly effective programs—including the Mescalero, White Mountain Apache, Penobscot,


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Yakama, and Navajo Nation—but most tribes lack the resources to do so. They must rely instead on project grants. That’s hardly a formula for effective long-term conservation, but without a permanent, consistent solution, individual project grants may be the best stepping stones to a full-range program. A word of caution: Not all grants are created equal. A quick Internet search can uncover a slew of federal funding opportunities, but many of these require highly specific work (such as building wooden bridges or providing fish passage) that may not match tribal priorities and that could drain staff and resources away from more important goals. To avoid such pitfalls, tribal biologists must decide exactly what goal they want to accomplish, and develop a precise plan and funding proposal to apply for grant money.

Guidance on Winning Grants

The beauty of TWG funds is that they support a tribe’s specific cultural and wildlife management goals, which often parallel those of the federal government. For example, a tribe may want to restore a particular fish species not because it is federally listed but because it was traditionally harvested by their people for centuries—different, but compatible, motivations. Because tribes have the latitude to direct TWG funds as they wish, they have independence that’s not possible with more-targeted grant programs. Through TWG, tribes also have a seat at the table with federal, state, local, and other partners working toward overall conservation goals. The TWG program receives far more grant requests for far more money than it can deliver, however. For fiscal year 2011, we received 151 grant proposals for upwards of $22 million, but we will only be able to fund one third of these from our annual appropriation of $7 million. Because of the competition, it’s essential that tribes—particularly smaller groups that lack experienced grant-writing staff—understand how we assess proposals. Proposal Evaluation. The FWS has eight Regional Native American Liaison offices around the nation. Tribes must submit TWG proposals to the liaison in

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their region. Four individuals in each regional office (excluding the regional liaison) separately score and rank the proposals, and then the group averages those scores. I work with the liaisons to make final recommendations to the director, taking the two best proposals from each region and a selection of the strongest remaining proposals from all regions. Scoring Criteria. In judging proposals, our office looks for elements such as resource benefit, performance measures, work plan, and budget. The highest ranking criteria include: •  Longevity. Projects with long-term benefits gain higher scores. A butterfly inventory, for example, may provide valuable data for a few years, but the benefits of a dam removal can last forever. •  Integration. Because FWS is looking for the strongest long-term partners in wildlife management and conservation, we give higher scores to projects involving integrated resource management with partners such as national parks or refuges, state agencies, or local universities. •  Capacity building. The best project proposals will help a tribe develop a full-fledged wildlife management and conservation program for the long term. Tribes can apply for funds to develop a natural resource management plan that sets long-range priorities and includes education and outreach components—giving these proposals a definite edge. Written Proposal. Style does matter when it comes to writing grant proposals—an art form that doesn’t come naturally to most of us. To provide guidance, our liaison office offers online resources for how to plan and write an effective grant proposal. The best proposals will include eight basic components: 1) a succinct summary laying out the proposed project’s goals; 2) an introduction to the tribe, its philosophy, and its organization; 3) a problem statement or needs assessment that explains what the problem is, why it needs to be solved, and who will benefit; 4) the objectives designed to meet the goals; 5) a plan of action that details the project’s methods, design, and activities; 6) an explanation of how the project and process will be evaluated; 7) future plans for funding and continuation of the project; and 8) a detailed breakdown of budget items and costs. Because savvy grant proposal writing can make or break a project’s chances, tribal grant writers should consider participating in hands-on workshops. Regional Native American liaisons can offer guidance, but I often tell tribes that their best source of infor-

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mation by far lies in networking. You aren’t expected to know everything or to operate in a vacuum, so call people in other tribes that have been awarded TWG grants and pick their brains for advice. Search the Internet for experts—in agencies, universities, or NGOs—that are familiar with the issue you’re trying to address. Ask questions, fine-tune your message, brace for roadblocks, and hope for success.

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For nearly two decades I have been helping tribes navigate government bureaucracy, helping federal and state agencies understand tribal needs, and helping folks find answers to specific questions. Can I get funding for wildlife education? Where do I send a sediment survey? How do we meet with the Senate Appropriations Committee? Or, one of my favorites from a lady in Portland, Oregon: “I just found out I was an Indian and want to know where I can go to pick up my feathers.” (True story.)

Speaking with reporters near a wildlife crossing under Montana’s Highway 93, Pat Basting, a biologist with the Montana Department of Transportation, describes his work with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to install dozens of such structures. A 2010 Tribal Wildlife Grant gave the tribes $200,000 to monitor wildlife using the crossings. Credit: Katherine Unger

The greatest joy of this job is that my colleagues and I help tribes gain funding for specific projects. The greatest frustration, however, is that there isn’t enough money to support every tribe’s conservation priorities. But I know first hand that TWG makes a tremendous positive difference for tribes, in the lives of Indian people, and in the health of the fish and wildlife resources that sustain them.


Law of the Land The role of tribal sovereignty in wildlife management By Dale M. Becker


Credit: CSKT Tribal WM Program

Dale M. Becker is a Tribal Wildlife Program Manager for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

n western Montana along the Flathead River, three separate governments manage portions of 1.3 million acres of land. That land—the Flathead Indian Reservation, created by the Hellgate Treaty in 1855—is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). Although the tribes manage elk, bison, and other wildlife, the federal government manages the three national wildlife refuges on the reservation—the Pablo National Wildlife Refuge, the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Bison Range, the site of recent conflict between the CSKT and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see sidebar on page 37). Conflict may be inevitable when multiple governments have multiple jurisdictional claims, and the CSKT have seen their share. Nearly 20 years ago, the Federal Highway Administration and the Montana Department of Transportation proposed constructing a U.S. highway through CSKT land. The tribe had several cultural and environmental concerns with the project, particularly regarding habitat fragmentation and vehicle collisions with wildlife. The tribe’s natural resources and transportation departments and their legal team began negotiations with the federal and state agencies, and after 10 years of disagreements and deliberations, the three governments agreed to re-build the highway with 42 wildlife crossings.

Credit: CSKT Tribal Wildlife Management Program

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Origins of Tribal Sovereignty

Indian treaties are based on the principle of sovereignty, or self-governance. Concepts of tribal sovereignty originated in the 1700s when European colonists struck agreements (usually in the form of treaties), with Native American tribes along the eastern seaboard. With the independence of the colonies, the United States assumed the role of making treaties with tribes, which resulted in the creation of some 371 treaties between 1789 and 1871. These treaties enabled tribes—still subject to the power of the U.S.—to manage their own affairs, and to establish nationto-nation relationships between tribal governing bodies and the federal government. Treaties became the law of the land, subject to the Reserved Rights Doctrine, which allows Indian tribes to reserve or retain any rights that they do not explicitly relinquish in subsequent treaties.

The Power of Self-Governance

Today, most tribes have the right to form a government, manage property, enforce law and order, and regulate commerce and economics. Although they’re considered sovereign nations, all tribes are subject to federal laws and regulations, such as the National Environmental Protection Act and the Clean Water Act. Most tribal governments are headed by a tribal council, elected by the members to develop policies, budgets, and operations, and to oversee all tribal government activities. Although tribal councils vary in structure and history, most tribes have some common, basic rights. These include:

Wildlife biologists with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Chippewa Cree Tribe collaborate with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials on a bighorn sheep relocation project.


This case is just one example of the issue of tribal sovereignty and the need for interagency collaboration, complex but increasingly critical factors in conservation on tribal lands.

Managing Wildlife. Tribes are responsible for the management of all wildlife and wildlife habitat on their reservations, with a few exceptions. If a certain piece of land is designated as critical habitat for a species listed under the Endangered Species

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Act, for example, it will also be managed under federal ESA regulations (Zelmer 1998). Hunting and Fishing. Most treaties allow tribes to manage hunting and fishing activities on their reservations. In addition, some treaties authorize tribes to hunt beyond the boundaries of their reservation if the area is deemed a traditional hunting and fishing location. The Makah Tribe

of the Pacific Northwest, for example, can hunt gray whales at what’s considered “a usual and accustomed ground and station” off the reservation (282 F.3d 710).

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Law Enforcement. Tribes are responsible for maintaining law and order on their land. Though some tribes lack well-equipped law enforcement agencies, others run highly efficient operations. Law

Death of an Agreement By Divya Abhat In September 2010, U.S. District Court judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rescinded an agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), effectively removing the tribe’s authority to help manage the National Bison Range Complex (right), an 18,500-acre National Wildlife Refuge that lies within the boundaries of the CSKT Reservation in northwestern Montana. The judge’s decision ignited a longsimmering fire—and spotlights the challenge of tribal sovereignty. The decision arose from two 2008 lawsuits filed against the Department of the Interior (DOI): one by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and another by the Blue Goose Alliance. Although these groups claimed mismanagement of the refuge on several fronts, the judge ultimately rescinded the agreement based on a procedural deficiency, ruling that FWS failed to prepare appropriate environmental documentation—as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—before entering into the agreement (FWS 2008). The tribe first gained management authority on the refuge in 2005, when FWS and the CSKT signed an Annual Funding Agreement (AFA) based on the Tribal Self-Governance Act of 1994 (25USC § 458aa). That Act gives self-governing tribes with a significant cultural connection to DOI facilities the opportunity to administer activities at such facilities, including National Wildlife Refuges. This particular refuge was part of the tribe’s reservation until 1910, when the Roosevelt Administration withdrew that land to create the National Bison Range. “We have a cultural connection of 30,000 years of our tribes relying on the bison for their subsistence,” says Tom McDonald, division manager of the CSKT. The tribes “should be part of the management of the species.” After years of wrangling, this finally came to pass. Relations on the refuge soon turned sour, however. In 2006, FWS employees complained of a hostile work environment on the refuge, while CSKT members accused the Service of sabotaging their work to protect federal jobs. “FWS canceled the 2005 AFA on grounds of poor performance and mistreatment of federal employees,” says Paula Dinerstein, senior counsel for PEER. That year, DOI urged FWS and CSKT to negotiate a new agreement, which was eventually signed in June 2008 and promised “a new era of partnership and

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Credit: Divya Abhat

cooperation,” granting the CSKT participation in the annual bison roundup, waterfowl counts, and other duties (AFA 2008). The new AFA “was far more extensive in the responsibilities given to the tribe,” Dinerstein says. In its lawsuit, PEER claimed that the AFA violated several statues, including NEPA. PEER also obtained a DOI Inspector General investigation of multiple infractions such as poor staff training and illegal pesticide applications (PEER 2010). Such issues “were not addressed” by the judge’s recent ruling, says Dinerstein. Not surprisingly, members of the CSKT deny PEER’s allegations, which McDonald calls “baseless.” Many see this as a case of politics and power. “The gavel didn’t fall because we weren’t getting along [or] weren’t getting things done,” says Mike Carter, deputy refuge manager for the CSKT. “It was a policy issue, and not a performance issue.” Carter in fact commends the partnership between FWS and the CSKT. “If you were to get into an AFA ... you could not have picked two better parties,” he says. “It was just right, and it was working.” It may have a chance to work again. When 13 full-time CSKT employees were fired after the judge’s decision, FWS immediately brought six back as emergency hires to help with the roundup. In addition, if FWS conducts an environmental assessment and claims that it is no longer in violation of the law based on the judge’s ruling, the AFA could be re-instated—thereby resolving, for now, the latest battle on the bison range.


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enforcement officers with the Ute tribe in Utah, for example, recently arrested two men for poaching bull elk on tribal lands and, in addition to other penalties, fined them up to $30,000, owed to the Ute Tribe Fish and Wildlife Department.

Collaborative Management

Although tribal councils are the ultimate decision makers for the tribes, they work closely with local, state, and federal governments, as well as with environmental and other non-governmental groups on wildlife management issues. Varied and diverse treaties, along with the lack of a “one size fits all” approach to management issues, can be a source of confusion and distress for many involved in these partnerships. What follows will illustrate the complex collaborations between agencies and tribes. Tribal-Federal Relations. Due to tribal concerns related to aboriginal treaty rights, cultural sites, sacred places, and natural resources issues, tribes have long-standing legitimate interests in federal actions, both on and outside the boundaries of their reservations. For example, many tribes use eagle feathers in traditional rituals and ceremonies. The federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act allows members of federally recognized tribes to obtain permits to collect eagle feathers, both on and outside tribal lands. However, it can take as long as six months to several years between applying for a permit and actually obtaining one—a disruptive lag

time that some tribes find onerous. Regardless of efforts on the part of the government to educate its employees about tribal sovereignty, cultural disconnects continue to exist. Tribal-State Relations. States generally do not have the same governmental rights and authority on tribal reservations as they do on state lands when dealing with individual tribal members. However, jurisdiction can be hazy when non-Indians live on reservations. The Dawes Act of 1887 allotted some land on several reservations to be opened for homesteading claims by non-Indians. On reservations that still have this mixed ownership, both the states and tribes often have conflicting and uncertain management responsibilities. Tribal and state collaborations can reach outside reservations as well. Several treaties authorize tribal members to hunt on traditional aboriginal lands outside reservation boundaries, a source of discontent for some non-Indians. In the mid-1980s, for example, some people complained that members of the CSKT tribe were hunting large numbers of moose outside their reservation, leaving little for other hunters. To quell the conflict, the tribe’s Fish and Wildlife Department developed a system to report the species, number, and area in which tribal members harvested moose and other wildlife. The Department turned that information over to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which used it to assess the season’s harvest and identify population concerns. Tribal-Local Government Relations. The CSKT reservation overlaps four counties in Montana, and the tribal council works closely with all four county governments on issues related to wildlife management, law enforcement, and land-use planning. Unfortunately, the views of non-tribal citizens or groups sometimes prompt local government officials to challenge tribal sovereignty on matters such as the tribe’s hunting and fishing regulations or wildlife management efforts.

Credit: CSKT Tribal Wildlife Management Program

As part of a recovery and reintroduction project, Tribal Wildlife Biologists Stephanie Gillin, Whisper Camel, and Janene Lichtenberg (left to right) prepare to release trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana.


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Tribal-NGO Relations. Collaboration between non-governmental organizations and tribes often exemplify ideal working relations between two groups, largely due to similar goals in wildlife conservation. Over the years, private conservation groups have worked closely with tribes on numerous issues such as recovery and reintroduction of species, wildlife habitat protection, and management of invasive species. Defenders of Wildlife, for example, in 1998 collaborated with the Blackfeet

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Fish and Wildlife Department in Montana to re­ introduce the swift fox to part of its original range on tribal land. Between 1998 and 2002, the partners reintroduced 123 captive-bred swift fox to the tribe’s reservation, where the species began to thrive.

Building Relationships that Work

For such successes to come about, it’s essential that agencies and tribal governments collaborate and communicate effectively. To build a strong foundation for a solid working relationship, agencies can consider the following key steps as a start: •  Social Protocol. Tribal people resist being pressured to make a quick decision without the benefit of adequate time to consider its ramifications upon their tribe and their resources. When proposing a new initiative, agency officials may need to build in enough time for dialogue. •  Doing Homework. In addition to considering the tribe and its concerns in any planning process, officials should research a tribe’s history, culture, and past record of actions. •  Communication. Participants must understand the background and point of view of each party to effectively communicate—the ultimate tool for addressing and avoiding conflict. • Consultation. Tribes always ask to be consulted before a project gets underway because, although agencies consider alternatives in their decision processes, tribes will also factor in cultural and spiritual concerns, environmental concerns, and the precedents that may affect their future.

A Deep-Rooted Legacy

We all find ourselves sharing and grappling with a rapidly-changing planet with increasingly limited resources. Native American people have much to teach about adjusting to change, as they have undergone and survived many life-altering transitions over the past 500 years that might have broken other cultures. Change must never be forced, however. It is therefore particularly important for federal, state, and local governments to respect current treaties and tribal sovereignty, which provide tribes with a voice in their own destiny. Only through mutual respect and collaboration will those who work to conserve the continent’s resources forge strong and mutually beneficial relationships that can withstand the inevitable changes in store. This article has been reviewed by subject-matter experts.

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What Tradition Teaches Indigenous Knowledge Complements Western Wildlife Science By Paige M. Schmidt, Ph.D., and Heather K. Stricker


Courtesy of Paige M. Schmidt

Paige M. Schmidt, Ph.D., is a Research Wildlife Biologist for the USDA Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center in Sandusky, Ohio.

n 1977, scientific surveys indicated that bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in the Beaufort Sea were in trouble, with fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining. The International Whaling Commission took action to put a moratorium on native hunts in order to protect the species. Yet local Inuit hunters didn’t see what the fuss was about. Their own estimates, gleaned from time and experience, put bowhead numbers at 7,000. The Inuits also disputed western scientists’ contentions that whales couldn’t swim under offshore ice and that they did not feed during migration. Researchers responded to these criticisms by developing a new survey method to census the population, incorporating Inuit understanding of whale behavior. In 1991, the new survey estimated that bowheads numbered 8,000—an affirmation of the ecological knowledge held by individuals who depended upon the whales for food, fuel, and shelter (Freeman 1995). As indigenous sovereignty and other rights become recognized around the globe, many governments

are developing strategies to work with indigenous communities to co-manage land and resources (Colchester 2004). In navigating this often daunting process, a new challenge has arisen: How to accept and incorporate into western science the traditional ecological knowledge and cultural norms that guide how indigenous communities use and manage natural resources. Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is defined by the University of Manitoba’s Fikret Berkes and colleagues as “a cumulative body of knowledge, practice, and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment” (Berkes et al. 2000). Many scientists, managers, and policymakers view TEK as static and historically based, and therefore not reflective of or relevant to modern changes in ecosystems (Ross and Pickering 2002). Some researchers—trained to be critical thinkers—may balk at the lack of opportunities to statistically validate TEK. But we believe that

Credit: Mississippi State University

Heather K. Stricker is the Wildlife Resources Program Director for the Forest County Potawatomi Community in Crandon, Wisconsin.

A freshly killed seal will soon become lunch for an Inuit and a group of scientists from Environment Canada, who are working with the Inuit people to learn about marine birds in Nunavut Territory. This cooperative effort has given researchers insights about the birds’ winter ecology that would have gone undetected by typical western scientific methods. Credit: Grant Gilchrist


The Wildlife Professional, Winter 2010

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incorporating TEK into how we as wildlife professionals do our jobs will not only strengthen indigenous communities, but will also improve the effectiveness of wildlife conservation and management.

Informing Science

In some ways, TEK and western ecological science (WES) could hardly be more different. While TEK relies on qualitative observations collected by resource users from one place over long time periods, WES routinely uses quantitative data collected by a few specialized professionals from several locales over short time periods (Kimmerer 2002). To make sense of these differences, early research focused on validating TEK using concordant scientific data. For example, interviews with Cree elders in northern Ontario confirmed that their knowledge of sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) biology—including migratory habits, reproductive biology and behavior, and disease ecology—was consistent with previous scientific research (Tsuji 1996). As TEK has become more accepted in the last decade, many researchers and decision makers view it as complementary to scientific data or even as valuable stand-alone data (Huntington et al. 2004). The degree of integration varies, however. “For our tribe … staff incorporate contemporary natural resource management styles into traditional tribal concepts and try to not disrespect our understanding of how things are supposed to be,” says Arlen Washines, Wildlife, Range, and Vegetation Program manager for the Yakama Nation. “We manage in a manner that recognizes humans [are] on the bottom of the totem pole and everything else is above us in terms of importance.” TEK can prove especially valuable in three specific situations: 1) where standard monitoring surveys are not cost effective, 2) when designing surveys for species in remote regions or areas that are poorly known to western science, and 3) when in need of information about species that are rare, remote, or hard to observe (Huntington 2000, Gilchrist et al. 2005, Fraser et al. 2006). For example, researchers have used Inuit TEK to establish historical changes in an Arctic tundra caribou population (Rangifer tarandus) in remote regions of Canada (Ferguson and Messier 1997) and to monitor migratory birds (Gilchrist et al. 2005). In the latter instance, Inuit in the Hudson Bay region documented a dramatic population decline in common eiders

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(Somateria mollissima)—a fall of 75 percent in a decade—and its cause: severe winter ice leading to a mass starvation. Both would have gone undetected by western scientists. Inuit TEK has also provided information on the distribution and ecology of harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) in remote regions, where western science-based monitoring surveys are prohibitively expensive.

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Though wildlife scientists can reap helpful information from TEK, it is important to understand its limitations and how it differs from WES. The migratory bird study, for instance, found that Inuit TEK was inconsistent about ivory gulls (Pagophila eburnea) in the Baffin Islands’ Arctic Bay, and therefore not useful for such studies.

Guiding Management and Policy

The value of TEK goes beyond the theoretical. In many instances, indigenous groups have relied upon knowledge from their own community to craft wildlife management plans, formal or otherwise. For example: • The Huna Tlingit of Alaska used their community’s TEK to sustainably harvest the eggs of glaucous-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens) by only gathering eggs from nests with one or two eggs and leaving nests with three or more eggs (Hunn et al. 2003). • TEK of indigenous people in the Solomon Islands identified sensitive habitats for the vulnerable bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) and led to the creation of two marine protected areas to conserve fish populations (Aswani and Hamilton 2004). • Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania used TEK about indicator plant species to assess rangeland health and classify landscape features, resulting in grazing and cropping practices that improved biodiversity at macro and micro-landscape scales (Mapinduzi et al. 2003). • Similarly, nomadic pastoralists in Mongolia rely on ecological knowledge to guide herding practices and pasture use (Fernandez-Gimenez 2000). Management plans informed by TEK can be hugely successful, but traditional methods often differ from and sometimes conflict with western approaches

Credit: Doug Milek

Ray Ward, a hunter and member of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, indicates features of habitat in northern British Columbia. Interviews with indigenous people can help researchers piece together ecological knowledge gathered from generations of regional experience.


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(Horstman and Wightman 2001). Though collecting glaucous-winged gull eggs is a traditional subsistence activity for the Huna Tlingit, for example, the practice is illegal under U.S. law. And in Australia, aboriginal fire management practices include using fire in habitats and seasons not routinely accepted by Euro-Australian fire managers (Lewis 1989). These and other challenges can make it difficult to determine how and to what extent TEK should inform policy decisions. Washines of the Yakama Nation, where roughly 12,000 feral horses roam the reservation’s 1.2 million acres, says his people have struggled with formulating a plan to manage these overpopulated animals. Although horses are a vital part of tribal life and are still considered sacred in the culture, he notes that they now pose a threat to other natural resources (see article on page 50). “What do we do and how does science play a part in helping the system balance?” Washines wonders. Though funding has limited the Yakama’s horse management options, they have caught 500 horses over the last five years to sell to private owners and,

How TEK Can Help Conserve Caribou by Jean Polfus A marker stone is still visible in British Columbia’s Atlin Lake, indicating the starting point of an ancient network of fences that ran through the boreal forest. Indigenous peoples once used these structures to funnel woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) for hunting, relying on the animals’ meat, fur, and bones for survival. Today, caribou still occupy a sacred place in the culture of many First Nations peoples. Yet in the far northwestern corner of British Columbia—the traditional territory of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN)—and in other remote regions of Canada, populations of the northern mountain ecotype of woodland caribou are in decline. A combination of hunter overharvest, habitat loss, and other factors prompted federal managers to list this ecotype as a species of special concern under the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2004.


The Wildlife Professional, Winter 2010

along with four other tribes, formed the Northwest Tribal Horse Coalition to have a voice in how federal agencies manage excess horses. Despite some disconnects, many TEK-informed management practices, such as multi-species management, resource rotation, and creation of mosaic landscapes, are consistent with WES (Berkes et al. 2000). Such practices have the added benefit of allowing indigenous communities to respond to disturbances and make their surrounding environment more resilient—critical abilities in the face of future challenges such as climate change and increasing development. TEK can also improve wildlife population monitoring, resulting in better-informed and cross-cultural decision making and policy development (Moller et al. 2004).

TEK in the Classroom

Wildlife conservation can be so complex that it only makes sense to approach it with every source of knowledge and mode of inquiry possible. This inclusivity can start in the classroom, with courses

Traditional ecological knowledge (or TEK) offers a chance to provide new information to manage caribou and encourage a culturally appropriate management response to the declining populations.

TEK approaches to understanding caribou habitat selection, specifically of the Atlin herd in southern Yukon and northern British Columbia, which now numbers approximately 800. Expert Tlingit hunters estimate that the population has

A Respectful Comparison For the last few years, I have worked with the TRTFN, the nonprofit Round River Conservation Studies, and colleagues at the University of Montana to examine the strengths and weaknesses of western scientific models and

Credit: Jean Polfus

Credit: Jean Polfus

A field crew (left) collects wolf hair near Atlin, British Columbia, for stable isotope analysis to understand the role of predation on area woodland caribou, (above). Members of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation have depended on caribou herds for generations.

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dedicated entirely to TEK, or by incorporating examples of TEK into lectures and lab exercises (Kimmerer 2002). In 2008, for example, the Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence and the University of Hawaii began collaborating to introduce traditional knowledge into K-12 classroom lessons as a way of boosting ocean literacy among Hawaiian schoolchildren (COSEE 2008). Including TEK in educational curricula also teaches students to weigh cultural considerations when making conservation management decisions. “The imposition of western systems of land tenure, capitalism, governance, and education in the past 200 to 500 years has resulted in diminished rights and incentives to gather, hunt, and fish using TEK,” writes Sylvia Spalding and Charles Ka’ai’ai of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, a group mandated by Congress to manage fisheries in the waters surrounding the U.S. Pacific Islands. Spalding and Ka’ai’ai note that many indigenous Pacific Islanders desire to pass on TEK so their traditional practices continue. “Implementing TEK into

fallen as much as 50 percent in the last 20 to 30 years, and population models predict that the herd will likely decline further in coming years due to low levels of calf recruitment. Our study tested the ability of both TEK and western science to predict the locations of radio and GPS-collared caribou. To collect TEK, we interviewed members of the TRTFN who were known to be expert hunters, gatherers, or community elders, asking them to explain cultural uses of caribou as well as to describe their knowledge and observations of caribou habitats, foraging strategies, distributions, and availability of resources in the animals’ range. Using this TEK, we developed seasonal habitat suitability index (HSI) models, which represent the habitat quality of a given area at different times of year. Then, implementing a common western science approach, we used data from 10 GPS-collared caribou to develop resource selection function (RSF) models, which predict how caribou choose habitat by examining their use or avoidance of a resource relative to its availability.

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Credit: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council

Henry Chang Wo (kneeling at left), shows Hawaiian children a sample of seaweed, known as limu in the Hawaiian language, while teaching them to learn with their eyes and ears. Along with the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, Chang Wo works to encourage sustainable seaweed harvest based on traditional cultural practices.

Our analyses revealed that the western sciencebased RSF models and the TEK-based HSI models both successfully predicted independent caribou locations. Each approach had its strengths. For instance, in some cases the RSF models predicted habitat selection in response to slope, aspect, indexes of vegetation greenness, and winter snow cover with levels of precision that would be difficult to extract from TEK data. In winter, however, we found that the TEK model predicted habitat quality better than the RSF model in an area that burned 60 years prior, and thus lacked the lichen caribou depend on in that season. Overall both types of models provided data that will be valuable to managers charged with deciding which areas of habitat are most important to preserve (Polfus 2010)—crucial data as the region may experience increased development pressures in coming years. Putting TEK into Action Currently, the TRTFN are engaged in a groundbreaking land-use planning process with the government of British Columbia. The resulting plan, a draft of which is currently in public

review, will help facilitate collaborative fish and wildlife habitat conservation, including management of caribou habitat (Atlin Taku Framework Agreement). The results of our study will help guide this management by providing ecological information based on the knowledge and experience of the Taku River Tlingit. Jean Polfus (below) recently completed her master’s degree in wildlife biology at the University of Montana.

Credit: Jean Polfus


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educational programs within the U.S. Pacific Islands is one step toward reaching this goal,” they say. Doing so could also help legitimize TEK as a rational approach in scientific inquiry and conservation.

Challenges to Overcome

There are some hurdles that must be cleared in order to strengthen the role of TEK in wildlife science, management, and policy. Methods. Wildlife scientists are not typically trained in the social science methods used in most TEK studies. However, methods for accessing and using TEK are available in the peer-reviewed literature (see Huntington 2000), and many academic natural resources programs are now providing socio-cultural training. Culture. Wrongs committed by governments and dominant societies have perpetuated a sense of mistrust among some members of indigenous groups, causing some TEK holders to try to limit or control its use (Huntington 2000). In addition, the diversity among the many hundreds of indigenous groups and

misunderstanding of TEK itself can make it difficult for non-indigenous individuals to know how to interact with TEK holders in a culturally appropriate way. Non-indigenous individuals may also be uncomfortable with TEK’s holistic nature or feel that science and decision making should be free from cultural beliefs, hindering TEK’s acceptance (Kimmerer 2002). Policy. Some government policies require managers and decision makers to incorporate TEK or work with indigenous groups. Canada’s Species at Risk Act, for example, stipulates that indigenous groups must be consulted before listing a species. Often, however, these policies are vague, inconsistent, or fail to provide guidance or funding for implementation (Usher 2000, Schmidt and Peterson 2009). To mitigate this issue, indigenous groups and agencies must work to clearly define the steps involved in implementing inclusive policies.

Increasing the Role of TEK

Wildlifers should apply TEK where “it makes a difference in the quality of research, the effectiveness of management, and the involvement of resource users in decisions that affect them,” writes Henry Huntington, an independent researcher who studied Inuit TEK (Huntington 2000). In recent decades, much has been learned about TEK’s benefit to wildlife science, management, and policy. But despite steps to include the perspective of Native Americans in important policies, such as President Obama’s recent Memorandum on Tribal Consultation (see page 72), TEK still does not have a place in U.S. federal policy. To counter this, indigenous communities must be proactive. As younger generations of indigenous communities assimilate into mainstream society, TEK is in danger of being lost. And yet tomorrow’s wildlife professionals will face an increasingly diverse human population and increasingly complex conservation problems. Involving indigenous communities and their TEK in wildlife management and conservation will not only boost diversity within the scientific community, but will also benefit wildlife resources—two goals worth pursuing. This article has been reviewed by subject-matter experts.

See this article online at to access a full bibliography and to read a short article on gaining and using traditional ecological knowledge.


The Wildlife Professional, Winter 2010

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Engaging Native American Students A TWS Professional Development Program Fosters Diversity By Katherine Unger


he Wildlife Society’s (TWS) recent 17th Annual Conference in Snowbird, Utah, marked the fifth year of Society grant programs established to encourage Native American students to attend annual conferences to meet with wildlife professionals and potentially further their careers. It’s time to assess the impact of these grant programs—designed to address the need for greater diversity in the wildlife profession. In 2006, TWS and its Native Peoples’ Wildlife Management Working Group launched the Native American Travel Grant Program, which offered funding to U.S. or Canadian students affiliated with Native American, First Nations, or indigenous tribes to help them attend TWS’ Annual Conference. “To solve the difficult challenges before us in wildlife management and conservation, we need a diversity of perspectives and ideas,” says TWS Executive Director Michael Hutchins. “We can’t do that without attracting a diversity of individuals to our cause.” To qualify for the grants, applicants had to provide information about their academic record and submit

an essay describing how attending the conference would advance their careers and their contributions to the wildlife profession. From 2006 to 2008, successful applicants received grants averaging $1,500 each to help defray the costs of registration, travel, lodging, and meals at the conferences held in Anchorage, Alaska, Tucson, Arizona, and Miami, Florida. Prior to the 2009 conference in Monterey, California, working group members joined TWS staff to develop a broader program in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), U.S. Forest Service, Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, some Native American tribes, and others. Together they created the Native American Professional Development Program, which not only offers financial support, but also gives participants a one-year membership in TWS and in the Native Peoples’ Wildlife Management Working Group. In Monterey, the 12 grantees also were assigned mentors, received a special reception with TWS and tribal wildlife leaders, and attended the working group’s meeting and a variety of other professional development events, including a résumé workshop and a student-professional mixer. Since these grant programs began, 59 students have applied and 32 have received grants totaling $48,000. Each grantee has a different story to tell about the experience. What follows is a sampling of their thoughts and insights, which may benefit future grant recipients and inspire others to apply.

Connecting with Professionals

Credit: Ruxandra Giura

Program participants and mentors in Utah. Back row, L-R: Kari Eneas, Ray Pierotti, Niegel Rozet, Serra Hoagland, Meadow Kouffeld, Jose Lopez, Rick Wadleigh. Middle, L-R: Michel Kohl, Nate Svoboda, Jordan Smith. Front, L-R: Heather Stricker, Tanya Aldred, Allyson Hughes, Lia Denasha, Jacquelyn Murray, Jean Polfus. Not pictured: Bob Boyd, Requaw Pavy.


The Wildlife Professional, Winter 2010

Seafha Blount of the Yurok and Karuk tribes in California won one of the first travel grants to attend the conference in Anchorage in 2006. “It allowed me to participate in an organization where I might not have been as comfortable or able to navigate without others with similar backgrounds,” she says. Now a graduate student at the University of Arizona studying how to use the traditional ecological knowledge of the Yurok Tribe to design wildlife

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monitoring protocols, Blount has grown comfortable among the professionals of TWS. At the 2010 conference in Snowbird, she gave a plenary talk on increasing diversity in the wildlife profession. “It was a pleasant surprise when so many people approached me afterwards to say how much they liked my speech,” says Blount.   A member of the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut, Gregory Chapman attended his first TWS conference after winning a grant to the Monterey meeting in 2009. There, he had the opportunity to meet Rick Wadleigh—a retired Native American liaison for USDA-APHIS—who was assigned as Chapman’s professional mentor. “Rick helped show me around and made sure I went to the meetings and lectures that interested me,” Chapman says. He also got to speak one-on-one with employers, including representatives from FWS and the Army Corps of Engineers. This experience ultimately gave a boost to his career. When he interviewed for a job with the Mohegan Tribe, Chapman says his interviewer asked about the conference and seemed interested when Chapman described his experience. “I think it helped me get the job,” says Chapman, who now works in records retention for his tribe.

Connecting with Native Students

The opportunity to attend meetings of TWS’ Native Peoples’ Wildlife Management Working Group can be especially significant for program participants. Grantees tend to dive right in, sharing their perspectives with other group members. Ideas on how to handle a management challenge in one tribe, for example, can inform another, says Isaac Cadiente, a Tlingit tribal member from Alaska who won grants to attend the 2008 and 2009 meetings while he was an undergraduate at Colorado’s Fort Lewis College. “It was inspiring to see all the other people representing their nations,” he says. “Some people were talking about buffalo, [but their challenges] related to the salmon for us here in Alaska.” Dan Howard of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, now an assistant biology professor at Augustana College in South Dakota, says that interacting with the members of the working group at the Anchorage conference was one of the most valuable parts of his experience. He was impressed with the focus on specific programs, including the grant program of which he was a part, to make Native American students and professionals feel wanted and welcome. “I always hearken back to TWS as a great model that other societies should seek to emulate,” he says.

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Genuine Career Advancement

For many students, a conversation or experience at a conference translates into a step forward in their careers. In 2006, for example, Meadow Kouffeld of the Citizen Band Potawatomi Tribe of Oklahoma attended the Anchorage conference during her senior year at Humboldt State University in California. At the conference, she reconnected with R.J. Gutierrez, a professor of wildlife research at the University of Minnesota. Gutierrez became Kouffeld’s advisor for her master’s degree studying ruffed grouse harvest. Now almost done with her master’s, Kouffeld recently attended the 2010 conference in Snowbird as a Professional Development grantee, where she accepted the prestigious Donald H. Rusch Memorial Game Bird Research Scholarship for her graduate work. Allyson Hughes of the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe in Alaska was an undergraduate at Michigan State University when she won a grant to attend the 2009 conference in Monterey. Learning about the opportunities and work being done by Native Americans “really made me want to go into the field to work with tribes and natural resources,” says Hughes. She did just that. In the summer of 2010, Hughes worked in Yakutat on a project researching the tribe’s traditional ecological knowledge of eulachon, or hooligan—a species of smelt that is culturally important for many tribes in the Pacific Northwest.

Looking to the Future

In October, 12 aspiring wildlife professionals from Native tribes attended TWS’ Annual Conference in Utah. “This year’s program was again a great experience,” says Nate Svoboda, chair of the Native Peoples’ Wildlife Management Working Group. “Grant recipients continue to become further involved in TWS, often becoming leaders in the wildlife field. I am looking forward to the continued development and growth of the program.” The Wildlife Society shares that goal.

To apply for Professional Development grants, go to

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Credit: Kreig Rasmussen

Speaking during the 2010 TWS Annual Conference plenary about diversity in the wildlife profession, past grant recipient Seafha Blount wears a woven cap, necklaces made from dentalia and abalone shells, and makeup to represent a traditional woman’s tattoo—all elements of the culture of the Yurok and other tribes.

Katherine Unger is Development Editor/ Science Writer for The Wildlife Society.


Tribal Lands Wildlife Management  

a special issue from The Wildlife professional about managing wildlife on Native American land

Tribal Lands Wildlife Management  

a special issue from The Wildlife professional about managing wildlife on Native American land