Spring 2020 – Native American Fish and Wildlife Society

Elveda Martinez, Southwest Region Board Director

     A Time for Prayer: I hope that all of our Society members are safe and are taking care of their families and doing what they must do to take care of fellow tribal members. We are learning lessons from this Covid-19, like appreciation for what we have, who is important in our lives, how Mother Earth was begging for us to slow down so she can breath and cleanse, how we are all connected, how we take our jobs too seriously at times and how we all need Prayer in order for us to feel safe and unafraid.


     Our Walker River Paiute Tribe and others have shut down our rivers, lakes, reservoirs, recreation areas and lands for the safety of our own People. We need to direct our energy to keeping our elders, children and others safe from the virus.


     We as Native people are lucky that we can fall back on our traditional ways of living off of our lands with hunting, fishing, gathering medicines, cooking traditional foods and more. We have all learned that you only take what you need and we are continuing to do that when we’re out shopping. We take care of each other.


     On March 26, 2020 we had our Board of Director’s meeting via of Zoom. We covered many issues including: CLEO Contract, Biologists, MPI Agreement, Procurement Policy, Region Policy, Telework Policy, financials, staff updates, Summer Youth Practicum, Youth Internships, Rangeland Training Partnership, Nature Conservancy Fire Network, Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council, BIA Tribal Resilience grants, Foundation investment, CLEO training, national conference and regional updates.

We have officially postponed our national conference and hope to hold it in November of this year. A CLEO training that was to be held in Billings in June has also been cancelled. The safety of our members and people that we work with are our major concern at this time.


     I pray that you all remain safe and healthy. I pray that you stay strong when you have to make hard decisions for your People. I pray that we all get through this terrible pandemic and come out stronger. I am thinking of you all at this time and want to send some positive energy your way. Special prayers for those that are suffering with the virus, to those families and tribes that have lost loved ones and those that are on the front lines working so that we can get the services that we need.


     I truly appreciate seeing Native people praying and dancing across Turtle Island. This does my heart good as I’m sure it does yours.

Julie Thorstenson, NAFWS

     Greetings from a safe social distance! Things have sure changed in the past months. We have been adapting the best we can as the COVID-19 pandemic surges across the country and world. The Society staff have been working remotely since the beginning of March. As many of you have probably heard or assumed, we have decided to postpone our 38th Annual NAFWS National Conference. The Planning Committee has been working extremely hard to host an awesome conference, however, the health and safety of everyone takes precedent. We have rescheduled to November 16 – 19, 2020 at the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming in Miami, FL. Please watch our website for more details as the event draws nearer.


     We continue to focus on building our membership and adding value to the services we provide to our members. You may have already received your membership invitation letter. Don’t forget to complete your 2020 membership and remember we offer an online option. If you have any questions feel free to contact Heidi McCann, Office Manager/Membership Coordinator.


     We are excited to announce that we have hired a consultant to provide Technical Assistance for our Conservation Law Enforcement Officer programming. Robert Romero, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent, will begin in April. Robert will serve as the lead of the Society’s CLEO work group. Some of the projects he will be working on include revising the Society’s Shoot manual and developing a CLEO program that will include a curriculum and training opportunities specific to CLEOs serving Native American and Alaska Native Tribes.


     The Society continues to work on HR 3742, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA). We don’t have a timeline as to when a House vote will happen. However, we are still working hard to serve as a clearinghouse for Tribal letters of support. To date, we have 49 letters of support representing 80 Tribes from 20 states. We still need Tribes to get involved to ensure Tribes are included. The bill will dedicate $1.3 billion annually to state fish and wildlife agencies to implement their science-based wildlife action plans and an additional $97.5 million for tribal fish and wildlife managers to conserve fish and wildlife on tribal lands and waters. Please visit our webpage at for more information.


     You may have noticed all our Youth Education Opportunities on Facebook and on our website. Ashley Carlisle, Education Coordinator, has been very busy. Our Native American Summer Youth Practicum is still on as planned for July 20 – 25, 2020 in Estes Park, CO. We are accepting applications for students and counselors. We are very fortunate to have received funding from the BIA to increase our Education programming. Please visit Ashley’s blog site at to learn more about our internships, mentoring program and other education programs.


     We will continue to plan and hope that our trainings and conferences later in the year will go on as planned. However, we are at the mercy of this pandemic and may need to reschedule or cancel. Please continue to check our website and Facebook pages for updates. As always, if you have ideas for the Society, please contact me or your regional director(s).


     I hope you all had a chance to read about Autumn Harry helping take care of Pyramid Lake Tribal members during the pandemic on our Facebook page. It made me think of the famous quote by Mister Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I feel very thankful to know that Indian Country is full of helpers.

My thoughts and prayers to you all.




Submitted by: Gina Leverette-Mason & Brian Gewecke, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Environmental Protection & Natural Resources Division


     The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC or Community) is located in Arizona’s Phoenix Metropolitan area surrounded by the cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Fountain Hills, and by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. The Community covers approximately 53,000 acres and is home to two distinct Tribes, the Onk Akimel O’odham (Pima) and the Xalychidom Piipaash (Maricopa).

     Amongst the many departments within the Community Government is the Community Development Department (CDD), which houses the Environmental Protection & Natural Resources Division (EPNR). CDD-EPNR’s charge is to protect and preserve the Community’s land, ecosystems, wildlife, and natural and cultural resources, and is comprised of 11 programs working to ensure the objectives of the Division are met. Two CDD-EPNR programs function exclusively to protect wildlife species and their habitat within Tribal boundaries.


     The Bald Eagle Management Program (BEMP) is responsible for overseeing the protection of bald eagles and their habitat. BEMP staff coordinates with various entities and the public to ensure eagles remain unharmed by everyday activities or during construction taking place close to a nest. Staff, alongside the Arizona Game & Fish Department (AZGFD), oversees the management of sensitive breeding areas. During the bald eagle breeding season, staff work with the AZGFD to hire two Bald Eagle Nestwatchers to observe designated nests from dawn to dusk. Nestwatchers collect important data about the eagles’ behavior, provide eagle education to the public in the field or at SRPMIC events like the annual Earth Day celebration. And they notify rescuers of life-threatening situations for the birds. As bald eagles are considered culturally significant to the Pima and Maricopa, the Community remains diligent in safeguarding this sensitive species and have implemented Tribal laws to assist with its protection.

     The Range Management Program (RMP) maintains two separate wild horse herds whose populations are monitored for rangeland resource management purposes. When rangeland resources cannot meet population demands, the population is controlled in two ways. One way is with a reproductive agent called Porcine Zona Pellucida or PZP. Although PZP is a challenge, another way to help manage the wild horse population is through adoptions. RMP staff works to adopt out as many wild horses as possible, but it can be difficult to find suitable adopters. Once adoptions are complete, staff must perform welfare checks to ensure horses have proper care. Both reproductive measures and adoptions are implemented in an effort to keep the wild horse population at a safe and manageable number. 

     The RMP is also responsible for wildlife assistance calls within the Community. Calls might be for horses, snakes, birds, raccoons, badgers, javelinas, coyotes, or any other wildlife on Tribal land that may be in danger or in need of relocation. Staff works with several different rescue organizations for wildlife rehabilitation and/or relocation services. Staff also dedicate time towards educating landowners on how to best coexist with wildlife species and providing ways to prevent wildlife nuisances around the home in order to lessen the need for repeat rescues. 

     It is important that tribes unite to combat different injustices faced by Native American communities everywhere. As new members of the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, SRPMIC hopes to connect with other tribes to get information about changing laws and guidelines, and to examine how other tribes are managing wildlife issues on their lands. 

Photos –  (L – R):Bald eagle pair near nest during breading season; an injured hawk that was rescued; wild horses to be transferred to another tribe for adoption; and wild horses on the range on the tribal lands of the SRPMIC.



Submitted by: The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Land and Natural Resources Department

     The Dakota people have a longstanding cultural tradition of planning seven generations ahead. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) in Minnesota honors this value through its efforts to protect and preserve the environment for future generations.


     The tribe’s commitment to caring for the earth manifests in multiple land stewardship programs across the reservation and region. These include reducing conventional energy use through solar panels and geothermal temperature control and reducing pressure on regional groundwater thanks to the tribe’s own water treatment facilities and a joint water treatment plant with the neighboring City of Prior Lake.


     In addition, the tribe works with local governments and federal agencies to conduct regular prescribed burns that improve the health of the land in the region. These intentionally lit, controlled fires mimic natural wildfires and reduce overgrown, invasive plant species and help many of the native plant species that evolved in the region thrive.


     In addition, the SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department’s staff of more than 10 environmental and water resources scientists and specialists also does extensive work to restore prairies, forests, and wetlands that were once widespread across the region. The tribe is located in an urban area that is one of the fastest growing in the state. There is a patchwork of different habitats alongside adjacent urban and industrial developments, which presents a unique challenge. To address this issue, the SMSC purchases and restores land to its natural habitat as it makes sense, trying to create habitat corridors when possible.


     Over the years, the tribe has recreated more than 800 acres of prairie habitat on reservation lands by selecting sites for native perennial vegetation, planting native seeds and providing post-restoration management. In addition, the tribe manages more than 500 acres of forests and woodlands and has restored nearly 50 acres of wetland. The tribe’s efforts focus on maintaining and restoring the ecological quality of wildlife habitats. These efforts have resulted in the resurgence of many species.


     One recent example of the tribe’s environmental work is the Arctic Lake restoration project. This 23-acre basin is located on both the reservation and the neighboring City of Prior Lake, and it feeds into the larger Prior Lake. After multiple environmental studies, the SMSC partnered with the Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District, the City of Prior Lake, the Three Rivers Park District and Scott County on a plan to improve the lake’s ecosystem. These solutions have included eliminating more than 5,000 pounds of carp, which destroy native vegetation, stir up phosphorus in the lake and threaten the native fish population. In addition to common methods of carp removal, this effort has included an innovative method involving a high-frequency electrical pulse that quickly stuns the fish to more easily remove them. The tribe is also using iron-enhanced sand filters to reduce high concentrations of algae-promoting nutrients and drainage and storage enhancements to restore health to the wetland area.


     The SMSC also recently began restoring 85 acres of farmland that was once a maple-basswood forest. Forest habitat once dominated SMSC lands and most of the region, with maple-basswood forests being the most widespread. These forests take hundreds of years to develop with a canopy so dense that it blocks most sunlight from reaching the forest floor.

     To restore this forest, the SMSC started planting native forest species, including a diverse array of forest floor wildflowers. As these take root, Land Management Department staff will plant more than 20,000 trees across the land. Once restored, this forest will provide habitat for game species, such as deer and turkeys.

‍PHOTOS – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota has restored more than 800 acres of prairie, 20 acres of oak savannas and nearly 50 acres of wetland in the region.


     The NAFWS welcomes Robert Romero, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) criminal investigator, who will serve as the technical consultant for the Conservation Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) Technical Assistance project.

     The NAFWS is the only Native American organization which partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide training for tribal conservation law enforcement officers; and as the consultant of this project, Robert will be involved in the development of a comprehensive conservation law enforcement training program and recommend updates to the shoot manual for the NAFWS.

     Robert graduated from New Mexico State University in the field of wildlife science in 1991.  He then began a career with the FWS as a Refuge Manager where he accepted a position as a collateral law enforcement officer and completed law enforcement training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Glynco, GA in 1992.  He began his career as a FWS Special Agent in 1995 and conducted numerous criminal and civil wildlife investigations until his retirement in December 2018.


     Robert has more than 26 years experience in wildlife law enforcement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where he conducted high priority investigations in cooperation with tribal entities that surrounded sensitive cultural practices.  He has worked with many tribes throughout the U.S., and collaborated with tribal law enforcement to successfully prosecute investigations, namely in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest.  Additionally, Robert provided firearms and tactical training to colleagues and other local, State, Federal and Tribal officers for over 18 years during his career.  


     Robert is thankful for this opportunity and said he is looking forward to working with other NAFWS personnel to develop a more uniform conservation law enforcement training program that will benefit both the current and future workforce of tribal CLEOs.



Submiited by: Ashley Carlisle, Education Coordinator, NAFWS


     With the world currently in a state of fear, uncertainty and quarantine, we are all living adjusted lives. Our Native youth’s education has been placed online and some of their summer plans are postponed or completely cancelled. However, the NAFWS’ youth and pre-professional programs are still being continued as planned.

     The National Native American Environmental Awareness Summer Youth Practicum (SYP) will be during the summer week of July 20 – July 25, 2020 in beautiful Estes Park, CO. 

     The SYP is designed to provide Native American students (incoming 10th – 12th grade) an opportunity to gain hands-on and in-lecture experience in the interdisciplinary components of natural resource management and Indigenous knowledge. One of the goals of the NAFWS is to educate Native American youth to understand the importance of professional natural resource management and the interconnectedness to culture, as well as encourage them to continue their education and pursue careers in the natural resource fields. Student applications are due April 10, 2020 at 11:59 PM MST. 

     We hope to engage professionals as well during the SYP by filling our counselor roles. Being a counselor can help professionals communicate science to a youth audience, learn how to provide adequate support and guidance, share their experiences and gain experience as a mentor. Counselor applications are due April 27, 2020 at 11:59PM MST.

     Another summer opportunity the NAFWS is excited to plan is our internship program! We will be hiring two interns this summer, who will learn the behind-the-scenes workings of a non-profit organization and help with the SYP. We are excited to engage college or university Native students by helping them build their professional network and skills. Applications are due April 17, 2020 at 11:59 PM MST. 

     Other great news is that the NAFWS will be launching a pilot mentor program this upcoming school year. We hope that this will allow Native students to have role models that are Native and in their field! Working in the field of natural resources poses many challenges, perspectives, communities and policies that are especially unique within Indian Country, so allowing mentors to connect with emerging professionals will provide guidance, support, professional development and encouragement. More information to follow in the upcoming weeks. 

     I am praying for you all – your safety, health, jobs and communities. I encourage you all to use this time for prayer, setting goals, communicating with friends and family, exercising, helping others, and/or start a new hobby or restart an old one! Let’s continue to be positive, remember, we all come from a background and an ancestral line of incredible and strong resilience. 

     For more information about the youth and pre-professional programs, feel free to contact Ashley 


     Cynthia Dale, sensitive species coordinator with the White Mountain Apache Tribe Game and Fish (WMAT) was recognized for her leadership in conserving the Mexican wolf, as well as numerous other threatened, endangered and sensitive species important to the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

     The tribe has been an instrumental partner in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, supporting the Service’s decision to establish a sustainable population on the Fort Apache Reservation. Less than six months after 11 captive-bred wolves were released into the Arizona wilderness in 1998, individuals began occupying eastern portions of the reservation.


     There are now at least 130 Mexican wolves occurring throughout Arizona and New Mexico.  Under Dale’s direction, the Tribal Game and Fish Department’s Sensitive Species staff conduct wolf monitoring, management and outreach, significantly contributing to endangered Mexican wolf recovery.

White Mountain Apache Tribe, Sensitive Species staff: Front row left to right: Manuelita Kessay, Mariah Clark, Cynthia Dale.  Second row left to right: Theo Guy, Deon Hinton, and Joseph Perez. 


     The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society thank Sally and Rick Williams for their generous donation. Sally, a retired NAFWS employee and Rick Williams (consultant), recently donated $1000 during the winter board of directors meeting held in Denver, CO.

 The Society accepts donations for any of its programs such as the summer youth programs. Sally, who served as the Education Coordinator with the NAFWS for more than 23 years is familiar with the work involved with coordinating a summer youth practicum. Something that requires more than making ends meet she said.
 “Back then it was an entire family donation to the program. Then we had to seek out in-kind donations and this was because our budget kept getting cut. So we had to seek agreements with other sources so we could get needed things such as paid interns. We worked with many agencies such as the USFWS, NRCS, Forest Service, USEPA, USDA-APHIS, and the BIA for pro bono instructors, classes, just to name a few.


     “We have always supported the Society, not just as my place of employment, but because of our tremendous respect for the important work the people have done and are still doing to protect fish & wildlife and the natural world.  We are impressed with the current leadership and were honored when we were approached by the new ED and BOD President to share what we know.  Wasn’t that how the organization began?”


     Sally and Rick were instrumental in the development of the NAFWS summer youth practicums and have shared teaching at the practicums and developed the 7-Rs as a teaching model used at the practicums.


      “The good folks of the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society became Relatives.  And all those Relatives do such good work (Responsibility )and are “Native to Now” said Sally. “We saw many times when those Relatives took the knowledge of the past, applied it strongly to Now and needless to say, have been planning for the future.”


  Sally said that planning for 7 Generations is more than something to say.  “It’s a way of life and our Relatives have and still do use their Natural Native Intelligence (Reason) to make sound and wise decisions for the good.  The Folks are always considering the best for all, Reciprocity. And the Relatives never have given up.  Now that’s Resilience.  We’ve been fortunate to raise our family in the Society and as parents, totally loved it when I asked about Revolution, his response was, “Revolution is rotation, the Circle of Life, where there is constant motion.  Revolution prompts action, creates motion, and is the force that establishes balance. 


     “The wheel cannot move if it’s not in rotation or revolution. Resourcefulness and resilience are essentially being tough and smart.  We establish an integrity in the wheel, and the ability to adapt…even though the Red Road has a lot of pot holes.

“Society folks demonstrate these principles and we know that our strong relationship with all these good folks made us stronger people.” 


     Last year, a member of the Lakota Nation, James Rattling Leaf was one of the first Native Americans to participate in the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Ministerial Summit held in Canberra, Australia, or GEO Week 2019, held on November 4-8, 2019. 


     The Group on Earth Observations is an intergovernmental partnership of member governments and organizations, businesses, and individuals focused at increasing the access and use of Earth observations for a more sustainable planet. The summit participation includes more than 100 countries that are partners with more than 100 national governments.


     As a U.S. delegate, James said he considered it an honor to go to Australia to represent his tribe the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and as a Native American with the U.S. delegation.  It came as a surprise to him that he was invited. “It was through my network that perhaps I could speak about tribal issues in the field of geo-technology,” James said.

     One reason that James decided to attend the summit is that this was the first time that global indigenous representatives from different countries were participating in the Earth Observations and the World’s Indigenous Peoples portion of the summit. 


     The field of geotechnology refers to the application of science and technology in order to utilize the earth’s natural resources and includes remote sensing, GPS, GIS, and including drones for data useage. 


     An important topic for tribes involved traditional knowledge (TK) and how indigenous people are approaching technology in this area and its use which complements geo-technology work said James. 

     An outcome from the event on Earth Observations and the World’s indigenous peoples is the agreement to form an alliance which will be called the GEO Indigenous Alliance. The alliance is developing a vision statement and a mission which will be shared with indigenous people throughout the world. 


     “Even though I had worked with geo-technology in the past I felt that we could build something positive to help tribes here in the U.S., especially to address problems, concerns, and how it could be used to address planning in cities, rural areas, monitoring agriculture, water resources and natural resource management.”

     For more information about the GEO Indigenous Alliance, contact: j[email protected]

PHOTOS – Left: GEO indigenous group pose with James (fourth from the left). Right photo – panel of 5-6 indigenous speakers gave presentations. The indigenous panelists were invited to present about their views of EO (earth observations) for natural resource management. 


     The Alabama Fire College (AFC) offers free training to people who may work around others during the current pandemic. The novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease (called COVID-19) has spread rapidly through the United States and even threatens Indian Country.

On April 14, the Indian Health Services reported that over 12,000 IHS patients had been tested and over 1,100 of them had positive results. The virus spreads from person-to-person by contact and respiratory pathways and often before someone knows they have the disease. You have no doubt heard of the social-distancing and other efforts to reduce the spread of the disease by limiting the contact between people in public. But life must go on and no one can completely avoid other people.

     As part of AFC’s response in our own state of Alabama, we developed a short online training course to prepare people who work as volunteers to help the public, such as foodbanks and homeless shelters. This course has information about the virus and how it spreads as well as ways that you can protect yourself. It includes some data and information that relates to Birmingham, Alabama, but most of the training would be helpful to tribal members in their activities anywhere in Indian Country. We would like to share access to the course with any tribe or nation that would benefit from information about preventing the disease.

     Anyone can take the course by clicking on this link: or typing it into your web browser to go to AFC’s Online Learning Center. You will need to click the “Create new account” button and follow the directions to set up an account. This will let you print a certificate after the training and help us count trainees for the grant that provided funding. Please enter “Native American” in the required “Organization you are training for” field at the bottom of the form. Then you can click the “COVID-19 Volunteer Safety Training” link to go to the course. After taking the training, you can take a short quiz and then you can print a certificate to show you completed the course.

     We hope this training will be helpful to anyone wanting to protect themselves while helping others. If you have questions, feel free to contact Kenny Oldfield at AFC ([email protected]).


2020 NAFWS Summer Youth Practicum is taking applications for Native American high school students interested in natural resources. For more information about the program, contact: Ashley or visit the NAFWS website.


2020 NAFWS Southwest Region Conference is scheduled for August 17-20, 2020, Santa Ana Star Casino, Santa Ana, NM. For more information, contact:

[email protected]

Next Eagle’s Nest will be coming out mid-July 2020.

© 2020 NAFWS

Native American Fish & Wildlife Society


10465 Melody Dr., Ste. 307


Northglenn, CO 80234



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