Winter 2021- Native American Fish and Wildlife Society


 Elveda Martinez, NAFWS Southwest Region


      Happy New Year Members: I know that we all thought that entering into a new year it would some how take all of our troubles away and we’d see nothing but sunshine and rainbows, but that is not the case. I’m sitting here today with tears in my eyes as I just heard about the second person dying within the past two days from our Southwest Region.

      My fellow regional director Darren Talayumptewa notified me that a very respected man from the Hopi Nation, Mr. Clayton Honyumptewa, Director of the Hopi Department of Natural Resources passed on today (January 14th). I was always glad to see him at all of our regional conferences; he was always willing to share a prayer with us and take time to offer his guidance on what was important.


      On January 12th we were saddened to hear of the passing of Eddie Benally, one of our past Conservation Officers of the Year; he earned that award twice. There is additional information on him in this Eagles Nest. He had many friends in law enforcement that respected his work and his friendship. The following was shared by Charles Mahkewa of the Hopi Nation:

      “I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our good friend, colleague, mentor and brother in Law Enforcement. There are many things to say about Eddie Benally. Many times during the year he and I would meet on the boundary line of Hopi and Navajo and talk about the issues we faced as Law Enforcement and as Patrons of our Respective Nations. Always a hug between friends and always encouraging words to support each other. Eddie never talked about how things were not going to be accomplished, only of how we were going to remedy and fix our issues at hand. Eddie always offered his hand to assist and help.

      I remember my first meeting of Eddie was at the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society Conference in Parker Arizona, some years ago. At that conference during the sessions I developed a great connection to Eddie. His experience as a Narcotic OPS detective and a regular Patrol Officer provided the inspiration and admiration that fueled my interest in Law Enforcement. Hearing all the stories of the “near death” events and his experiences of the outdoors on patrol, painted a clear picture of what I visioned of a true Conservation Officer. Eddies stories and his appearance on a few episodes of “Navajo Cops” proved his love of the outdoors as a Conservation Officer. All his work with all the respective LE Agencies will not be forgotten.

      Eddie was a great asset to the LE community. His commitment to his homeland and his pride as a Law Enforcement Officer was paramount with anything he did in his professional career.

      Eddie had a bazar sense of humor as well. His notorious ten-gallon cowboy hat and dark glasses were his immediate identifying traits that were unique of Eddie Benally. His of love of seafood was many times confirmed with his dining habits. I recall not so long ago during the Traditional Feast in Rhode Island, Eddie must have eaten 5 whole lobsters! And still took 2 back to his room! He was a character that’s for sure. Many great times and memories we all had with Eddie Benally.

      Eddie Benally was truly a pioneer in the realms of Wildlife Conservation. His success in the field and in the courtroom is an accomplishment few can match or follow. His legacy will “always” be with us.  

      I am honored to have known Eddie as a colleague, a mentor, a friend and most cherished is our brotherhood in Law Enforcement. We will miss him, however, I know he is resting peacefully probably gearing up to cast that fly line out somewhere in a better place.

      Rest easy my friend…… Thank you for all you have done for all of our people. Kwa kwai….

      When I think of these two men, I think of “Respect”. I respected them for the people they were, the way they treated people and animals and the way they respected fellow employees, but mainly the respect they exemplified for the betterment of their tribal nations.

      I offer my sincere condolences to their families, friends and tribes.

With that, please stay safe and healthy out there in Indian country. We’ve all been personally impacted in some way by this pandemic and I just have to pray that we all see better times this year.


Elveda Martinez, President & SW Regional Director


Julie Thorstenson, Ph.D, NAFWS Executive Director

      Happy New Year!  I was so eager to close the door on 2020.  Although 2020 was not the year we hoped for, I think we all learned a lot.  The NAFWS learned how to offer and continue to support our membership in a virtual world.  I know that will help us in the future and I am excited to watch NAFWS grow in 2021.  

      The last quarter of 2020 was a busy time for NAFWS, as we increased our virtual presence and membership services.  I stayed busy with speaking engagements and was thankful for the interest and opportunities to discuss NAFWS and Tribal fish and wildlife programs.  In October, Elveda Martinez, Gloria Tom, Dr. Serra Hoagland, Ashley Carlisle, and I served on a panel for the NWF Women in Conservation Leadership Summit for 360 virtual participants.  In November I had the pleasure of participating in a Tribal Natural Resource Management webinar series sponsored by the University of Georgia and the Southern Regional Extension Forestry.  I presented to over 200 virtual participants on “Introduction to Tribal Lands and their Management”  In December I presented to the Idaho Bird Conservation Partnership on Tribal engagement for State Wildlife Action Plans.  Overall, I presented to over 1,000 virtual participants in 2020.

     Staff worked very hard the last quarter to increase our virtual membership services.  In November and December, we offered a NEPA training on the CEQ changes and how they impact Tribes to 35 participants.  Our Fish and Wildlife Biologists, Corey Lucero and Sean Cross put together a webinar series on Invasive Species and Wildlife Diseases; the recordings will be available on our website at later date.  Robert Romero, NAFWS CLEO consultant, coordinated several trainings for conservation officers.  Karen Lynch, Public Information Officer, Heidi McCann, Office Manager/Membership Coordinator and Ashley Carlisle, Education Coordinator kept our social media active with Throw Back Thursday pictures and contests and education and early career opportunities.

      The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (Recovering) remained a priority for NAFWS throughout 2020.  We are encouraged by the 185 bi-partisan cosponsors HR 3742 received and its inclusion in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’s landmark report.  We ended 2020 with 49 Tribal letters of support representing 80 Tribes in 19 States.  The Alliance and Tribal Coalition are working hard to support Recovering in the 117th Congress.  Continued bipartisan support for Recovering and a Senate bill are very important.  We remain optimistic that Tribes will finally see dedicated, annual funding for their fish and wildlife programs. We will be hosting an informational webinar on Recovering America’s Wildlife Act on January 27, 2021 at 2:00 pm MST.  Please watch your emails, and our Facebook for the Zoom link:

      We took the opportunity of more office time to work on building our infrastructure.  We hired a consultant to revise and improve our Financial Management Policy, which will help with our accountability.  Ashley Carlisle developed a Scholarship Policy to help streamline the process and increase our scholarship opportunities.  Both policies were reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors at their December meeting.  Staff met prior to the Board meeting and developed a Strategic Operations Plan (SOP) for 2021.  The SOP guides staff on implementation of activities based on three different delivery methods, virtual, hybrid and in person.  This was presented to the Board at their December meeting and approved.  The Board of Directors also approved the following as the NAFWS 2021 National Initiatives:

• 30 x 30 Initiative

• Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

• Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act

• Tribal Engagement/Involvement in State Wildlife Action Plans

• Climate Change

• Hydro-power Reform Coalition

      In the spirit of “New Year, New Me”, NAFWS is getting a website facelift.  We began work with a contractor for a total website redesign in December and plan for a late March 2021 launch.  Our new website will improve our membership services, especially in a virtual world.  

      Another exciting project we are working on is the first official volume on Tribal Wildlife Management.  Steve Albert and Dr. Serra Hoagland (Pueblo of Laguna) have teamed up as co-editors for the volume and are anticipating first drafts from over 30 contributors in April 2021.  NAFWS is partnering with Albert and Hoagland in developing topics, identifying authors as well as providing resources for elders and other cultural practitioners who are contributing material.  The textbook is slated for publication by John Hopkins University Press in 2023.  NAFWS will receive all proceeds from the book sales for three years.  If you would like more information or see the call for papers, please email [email protected] or [email protected].

      We are looking forward to an exciting year for NAFWS as we continue to focus on building our membership and adding value to the membership services.  While we were happy to offer many of our trainings free in 2020, please know that we will require a registration fee for our trainings if you or your Tribe is not a current member in 2021.  Please watch your email and mail for membership information or visit our website at: Pay your individual membership by April 1, 2021 and receive a limited time NAFWS facemask as a gift.

      Due to the continued uncertainty, the Board of Directors approved a change in location for our 2021 National Annual NAFWS Conference.  We are tentatively planning for an in-person conference to be held in the Pacific Northwest Region in the Fall of 2021.  We WILL have a National Conference in 2021; the decision on in person or virtual will be made July 1, 2021.

      I am reminded of something an elder once told me, that there is a reason your car’s front window is so much larger than its rear-view mirror.  We are supposed to spend more time looking forward than backward.  With that, we will look forward to a better 2021.  As always, if you have ideas for the NAFWS, please contact me or your regional director(s).

My thoughts and prayers to all,

Julie Thorstenson, PhD

Executive Director




By: Dale Becker, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

‍      Interest in and concern about with wildlife by tribal people who preceded today’s members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has existed as long as the individual tribes.  Prior to the arrival of Europeans, tribal people survived through the utilization of their natural resources.  Wildlife was one of the most important resources for the provision of food, clothing, tools and raw materials used to fill a variety of basic needs.  With the acquisition of horses, the tribes were able to range over a larger area, hunting and gathering as they moved.  During this period, they often moved throughout Montana to hunt buffalo and other wildlife.

      The Flathead Indian Reservation was established under provisions of the Hellgate Treaty of 1855, the Flathead Indian Reservation was established as the homeland for the Kootenai, Salish and Pend Oreille Tribes (CSKT).  Article Three of the Treaty provided the Tribes the exclusive right to hunt and fish on the Reservation, as well as the right to hunt, fish and gather on traditional open and unclaimed lands outside the reservation boundaries.  Subsequent legal proceedings have re-enforced the Tribes’ hunting rights on the Reservation and aboriginal lands in western Montana.

      During the early 1900s, Indian lands were taken by the U. S. Government for creation of the National Bison Range, a major irrigation project, town sites, power sites, agency administration purposes, and land allotments to individual Indians.  All lands not so allotted were then opened to homesteading by non-Indians.  

      In 1921, Ninepipe and Pablo National Wildlife Refuges were created with the request from the Tribes to protect migratory birds.  Those refuges are currently managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Additional wildlife management lands on the reservation are administered by the tribes, as well as Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  

      The CSKT have always been very progressive and proactive in the management and protective of their incredible lands and wildlife resources,  Tribal Council actions have resulted in the establishment of the 90,000 acre Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness Area, the first tribal wilderness area.  They have also created a Wilderness buffer zone and two Tribal Primitive Areas, as well as thousands of acres of Tribal Fish and Wildlife Habitat Management Areas, as well as special management areas for grizzly bears, elk and bighorn sheep.  In addition, the CSKT has been very proactive in protecting the clean air and waters of their reservation.

      Today, the Tribes own or control approximately 60% of the 1.38 million acre land base of the reservation.  Wildlife habitat under Tribal management ranges from semi-arid sagebrush-dominated grassland to glaciated wetlands to high elevation subalpine habitat.   Much of the valleys on the Reservation are dominated by tilled agricultural lands and grazing lands.  In addition, those areas also contain many areas of wetlands and riparian zones.

      Contemporary tribal wildlife management activities began in the 1930s and continue today under direction of the Tribal Council.  Contracted from the Bureau of Indain Affairs in 1988 under public Law 638, the Tribal Wildlife Management Program (TWMP) was established and functions under three programmatic components – population baseline data collection and monitoring, integration of wildlife issues into resource management decisions, program administration to enhance efficiency and effectiveness and public information and education.  The TWMP currently employs a staff of one Wildlife Program Manager, five Wildlife Biologists, one Wildlife Habitat Restoration Biologist, two wildlife biologist trainees and one Wildlife Technician. 

      Since its inception, the Tribal Wildlife Management Program’s Programmatic vision focused on the restoration and enhancement of the biological diversity of the ecosystems of the Flathead Indian Reservation and aboriginal lands by working jointly with other tribal programs and other natural resource management agencies.  The TWMP staff works to provide the best management of all terrestrial wildlife and habitat resources possible, while simultaneously realizing the importance of traditional and cultural factors.

      The TWMP has focused many of its efforts on the restoration of degraded wildlife habitats and the restoration of healthy populations of endangered, threatened and extirpated species of native wildlife.  To date, tribal wildlife biologists have been very active in recovery of federally-listed wildlife species including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, northern gray wolves, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, trumpeter swans and northern leopard frogs.  Reintroduction of peregrine falcons, trumpeter swans and northern leopard frogs has assisted in the current increasing populations of each species on the reservation.  

      Proactive population inventory and management programs have also been undertaken for the six species of native ungulates – elk, moose, bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain goats, white-tailed deer and mule deer, as well as for black bears, mountain lions, and bobcats and other native carnivores.  Tribal wildlife biologists have regularly surveyed several species of nongame birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. 

      Wildlife managers are tasked with working with a wide variety of issues related to conflicts between wildlife and people.  Those conflicts often involve the killing of livestock and poultry by bears, wolves, raptors and other predators and damage to agricultural crops by deer and elk, bears and waterfowl.  Tribal wildlife biologists spend a lot of time attempting to inform the public about techniques and practices to minimize the potential for conflicts.  When the conflicts do arise, the response to investigate complaints quickly and work with affected people to solve the conflicts, often by using fencing, electric fencing, scare devices and other methods.  Even with a large amount of effort aimed at prevention of conflicts, the arrival of new residents requires constant reiteration of methods to avoid conflicts. 

      The Tribes have acquired approximately 11,000 acres of wetland, riparian and grassland habitats for wildlife habitat mitigation lands as part of a mitigation settlement for SKQ Dam, a major hydroelectric facility located on the Reservation.  These lands, some of which have been restored for wetland and riparian values, are managed specifically for wildlife habitat values, and they produce large numbers of both game and nongame wildlife species.

      Given the historic ecological, cultural and spiritual relationships between the people of tribes and bison, tribal wildlife biologists and other staff have also been active co-managers of bison at Yellowstone National Park as a member of the Interagency Bison Management Team.  As a result, tribal representatives annually coordinate management actions and treaty-based hunting of bison that leave the park with other state and federal natural resource management agencies, providing a reconnection with the bison resource there and tribal members.

      The CSKT has also been an active player in bison management.  Tribal members brought some of the last remaining bison from the northern Great Plains to the Reservation and carefully grew a substantial herd of bison, only to be forced to sell the animals due to the opening of the Reservation to non-Indian homesteading in the early 1990s.  At that time, President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Bison Range on an approximately 18,000 acre tract on the Reservation – land that had been taken from the Tribes’ control and ownership.  In late 2020, as part of the Montana Water Rights Act settlement with the CSKT, the refuge land was transferred to Trust ownership by the BIA for the benefit of the CSKT.  Plans are currently underway for the future management of the Bison Range and the wildlife there by tribal managers.

      In recent years, western Montana, including the Flathead Indian Reservation, has experienced phenomenal growth of the local human population, seemingly becoming a destination for retirees, recreationists, tourists and relocating Americans.  This growth and the related activities has resulted in substantially increased subdivision and related traffic on U. S. Highway 993, the main public thoroughfare through the Reservation.  This increased traffic has also resulted in human and wildlife safety concerns, as wildlife collisions and habitat fragmentation has increased.  

      After several years of disagreements, in 2000, the CKST, Montana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highways Administration signed a unique Memorandum of Agreement that centered upon a concept of the Spirit of Place and how unique the Flathead Indian Reservation is.  The agreement also included special wildlife mitigation features for the design of the highway, including a wildlife overpass, 41 wildlife underpasses, wildlife fencing and jump out structures and wetland mitigation stipulations. 

      Most of the highway has been reconstructed, but a significant ecologically important segment is yet to be completed.  Tribal wildlife biologists worked with closely with biologists from the Western Transportation Institute to monitor wildlife use of these structures and analyze their reduction of animal-vehicle collisions.  To date, tribal wildlife biologists have hosted visitors from several states, as well as China, Myanmar, Mongolia, Canada, Slovenia and other nations and discussed the structures with them.

     With the current and changing human demography living on the Reservation and the ever-changing public attitudes about wildlife, the TWMP constantly refines its public outreach efforts and methodologies to reach out to the public about critical wildlife and habitat issues and general wildlife topics of interest.  Many of those efforts involve working with school children to help foster a better understanding and appreciation of the special are in which we live and the unique assemblage of wildlife species that we share it with.  An example is the tribes’ annual Flathead River Honoring, an event to inform local elementary school children about wildlife and other natural resource topics.  Other efforts involve close work with local teachers.  Outreach efforts are also aided by the development of a CSKT Wildlife Management Program Facbook site and a section of the Tribal Natural Resources Department website (

      Although the CSKT have weathered significant difficulties and challenges down through the years, the people have always cherished and protected the wildlife of the Flathead Indian Reservation and their off-Reservation aboriginal lands.  That tradition continues today, with strong cultural support for wildlife and habitats by the two Culture Committees and Elders, as well as the strong support of the Tribal Council and tribal people.

Photos: (L – R) – Blackbear using a highway wildlife crossing; Flathead River Honoring; and Reintroduced Trumpeter Swans.

Photos: (L-R) – Highway wildlife overcrossing; tribal wildlife biologists with trumpeter swans; and, tribal wildlife biologists tagging a grizzly bear.

Photos: (L – R) – Tribal and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologists working with bighorn sheep; and Wetland Restoration area.

(Above): Wildlife and Conservation and Management Areas on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Dale M. Becker, Tribal Wildlife Program Manager  

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

P. O. Box 278

Pablo, Montana 59855

[email protected]



By: David Vales, Wildlife Biologist, Muckleshoot Tribe

      The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe (MIT) in western Washington is unique because it is recognized as a signatory of two treaties: the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, and the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek. This large treaty area is available for Tribal members to hunt and gather on open and unclaimed lands from south of Mount Rainier, north to the Canadian border. Within this large area the Tribe has purchased over 100,000 acres of commercial forestland. This ensures that Tribal members have perpetual access to resources they need close to the reservation. Tribal fisheries are limited to sites within the Tribe’s Usual and Accustomed Area. Some information on Muckleshoot Fisheries can be found at: Here we will only describe the Tribe’s Wildlife Program.

      When the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) finally recognized tribal treaty rights to hunt off-reservation in the late 1980’s tribes became more responsible for their game management, however, most tribes did not have the technical staff to develop regulations, manage hunters, and manage wildlife resources. In the early 1990’s MIT developed a Wildlife Policy Committee of MIT tribal members, and contracted with a lawyer to help guide them in this new process. The WDFW, however, still attempted to guide regulations and force tribes to be overly conservative without recognizing the ceremonial and subsistence nature of tribal hunting.  Without technical staff, it was hard for MIT to counter the state’s arguments.

      In 1995, two Tribal Council members were able to acquire funding from the Tribe to develop a Wildlife Program. In 1996, the Wildlife Program hired an administrative assistant and wildlife biologist to begin managing big-game animals for the Tribe. The Program’s goals were to manage for sustainable game populations in the Tribe’s treaty and traditional hunting areas, as well as to have a technical voice at the table with WDFW and other co-managers. In 1997 the Wildlife Program started it’s law enforcement program to ensure that Tribal hunters were safe, following regulations, and that hunters committing violations would be under Tribal court jurisdiction, rather than state jurisdiction. Through the years the Wildlife Program has expanded its staff to include a Director, who is a Tribal member and a wildlife biologist, three additional staff wildlife biologists, a Tribal member wildlife technician, two commissioned enforcement officers, three field monitors, and an administrative assistant. Also, the Wildlife Program is working with Tribal members to attend school to obtain a wildlife biology degree so that they can work for the Wildlife Program in the future.

      The focus of the program since 1996 has been on big game. Local elk populations had declined precipitously which was affecting the ability of Tribal members to meet their subsistence and ceremonial needs. In 1998 MIT wildlife biologists began radio-marking cow and calf elk to learn about their rates and causes of mortality. Later cougar and black-tailed deer were collared to have a better understanding of predator-prey-habitat relationships in areas most heavily hunted by MIT members. Since then the Tribe has worked on various research projects looking at topics such as black-tailed deer and elk habitat selection and survival, elk translocations, black bear density and habitat use, mountain goat habitat use, translocation and survival, and mule deer survival and migration.  In addition, the Program has provided emergency winter feeding for elk, created and maintained permanent ungulate forage areas, and treated noxious weeds.


      To conduct these studies the Tribe has relied heavily on collaring and survey efforts, and has collared nearly 2,000 big game animals since 1998. The MIT has been co-author on two Wildlife Monographs specific to elk, co-authored the WDFW North Rainier Elk Herd Plan, published the results of our goat work, and published a management plan for the Tribe’s forest in the Journal of Forestry. The program also teaches hunter education to assist Tribal youth in carrying on the tradition of hunting that is so engrained in the Muckleshoot way of life. Policy and staff work with local landowners and co-management authorities to develop suitable habitat and harvest management guidelines. It is a challenge to understand and balance the effects of 12 independent treaty tribes and state hunters on game populations within the two treaty areas, but the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is committed to taking on the challenge.

      Most Tribal members now embrace the data driven management that occurs in the MIT Wildlife Program, as many have seen the benefits in the form of increased elk populations and respect from co-management authorities. Tribal hunting regulations are approved annually, hunters must return their tags regardless of harvest which has resulted in a 96% reporting rate. Hunters are required to report their harvest and collect teeth from deer, elk, cougar, bear, and goats, and collect reproductive tracts for female elk and deer. Good data are the foundation of good management.

      The MIT is fortunate to have leaders who are concerned about managing game resources, advocate for responsible data-driven management, and encourage active research and monitoring data collection with management-oriented analyses. The Muckleshoot Wildlife Program looks forward to future interactions with the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society and to creating better partnerships and networking opportunities with other member tribes.


Photos: (L – R) – Muckleshoot Wildlife Committee member Frank “Hoppy” Jerry, Sr. preparing to release an ear-tagged elk calf for a survival study; Tribal member Leeroy Courville, Jr., preparing to net-gun deer from a helicopter for a survival and movement study; and, Muckleshoot Wildlife staff and tribal member Sam Hoffer collaring a large male brown-phase black bear for a population estimation and tree damage study.

‍Photos: (L – R) – Muckleshoot Wildlife Program staff radio-collaring a cougar for a predation rate and population estimation study; Muckleshoot Wildlife Program staff collaring a black bear for a population estimation and tree damage study.


By Ashley Carlisle, NAFWS Education Coordinator

Nizhónígo Nináánááhai Dooleeł (Happy New Year)!!! 

      Even though 2020 is over and we hope that all its problems went with it, that is not the case. We still have COVID-19 lurking, ongoing environmental issues, but what also carried over and will continue is our hard work, positivity, prayers, resilience, and passion for our Mother Earth. I give great credit to all of our members and staff for pushing through 2021, they have all worked hard, and helped in the growth of the NAFWS. Let’s continue to move forward, use the strength and wisdom we gained from last year and previous years to make this new year of 2021, a year of growth in strength, wisdom, environmental change, cultural resiliency and, of course, self-improvement and self-love.


     I have some big goals set for this new year for myself, personally, and for the NAFWS youth programs. Some of my NAFWS goals include kickstarting our mentor program through a pilot program, explore new and more funding opportunities, bring new ideas to the table, expand our youth engagement and broadening my network and wisdom of people, projects and work happening across Indian Country.


      I encourage you all to take a moment, if you have not already, to bundle up and travel to your favorite outdoor or any space with a notebook, pen, cup of coffee or tea, then take the time to take a breath, reflect, pray, bless yourself, give/write yourself some affirmations and write down your goals — work goals, personal goals, physical goals, spiritual goals, etc.. 

      Lastly, BREATHE OUT 2020 and with a smile, BREATHE IN 2021. 

Enjoy this New Year’s meme. 


By: Karen Lynch, NAFWS

      Ryan Gauthier took a longer route to reach the career he was always interested in but didn’t quite know it. From the  Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in northern Wisconsin, Ryan is serving his tribe as a conservation law enforcement officer. He is also a past participant for three summers when he was a high school student in 2000-2002 in the NAFWS Summer Youth Practicums (SYP).

     He said northern Wisconsin is a long way from Colorado where the SYP was held back then in 2000 – 2002.

     The NAFWS SYP was called the NAFWS Environmental Awareness Summer Youth Practicum. It was held at the Mt. Evans Outdoor Laboratory in Evergreen, CO.  

      “Back then I almost backed-out of going to Colorado for the practicum,” said Ryan. “I started getting cold feet because I had never left home before on my own.

      “Thinking back, I may have already had an interest in natural resources because as a sophomore I was working in the summer months with our tribe’s water resources program.  I heard about the NAFWS SYP through a tribal newspaper or maybe it was the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission newspaper. My dad noticed it in the newspaper and we thought this could be a good opportunity to see Colorado so I just applied and was accepted.”

      At the time in 2000, the NAFWS SYP Coordinator was Sally Carufel-Williams who is now retired and served for 18 years in this position. She said their process for selecting the students to the practicum was based on applications, essays, and recommendations. We had a selection committee that consisted of SYP instructors and at one time we used the Native community from Denver. “But we always had a good group to help us select students.”

      Contacting the parents was very important said Sally.  We let the parents know that we would take good care of their child. “I would say that Ryan’s father may have been influential in his decision to attend and that’s what we like. We relied more so on the recommendations. At first we required the recommendations to be from school counselors but then we realized that they didn’t know the students that well. So we started to allow community members to submit student recommendations. Student GPAs were not a deciding factor. Our primary emphasis was the student’s desire to attend the program and to learn about the field of natural resources.”

       Although Ryan was apprehensive of going at first he said after the first summer he couldn’t wait to go back. He attended the practicum for three years. He is now 36 years old.

      “What I most remember about being in Colorado is that I met many different people from around the country.  I liked seeing how similar everybody was even though we were from different areas of the country and the relationships we developed.  I still keep in touch with some of the people to this day.”

      Another part of the practicum that was important were those who held it together. The counselors and the instructors. Ryan said he felt the support and positive reinforcement from them and “what they actually did for us, kind of showing us what we can do.  And even though we are coming from a smaller community or whatever.”

      One of the things that the leaders of the program wanted to teach was the concept called the 5 R’s which at that time were: Respect, Relationships, Reciprocity, Reason, and Responsibility. Ryan said he only remembered Respect but later on he remembered Relationships which were all the connections and friends he made and had kept in contact with through the years. 

      “Another thing I liked is that the practicum was not book-based learning.  It was informal and interactive and much of the activities were outdoors which I enjoyed and we were involved with improvised learning and speaking in front of others. That helped me to get out of my shell and reserved nature which has really helped me in law enforcement where we deal with people all the time.”

      After graduating from high school Ryan said he bounced around for two years. “Initially I thought about going into biology, then I went into the area of corrections, and then into marketing.” He said after moving back to his home area, he took a career assessment and it showed that he was interested in military or law enforcement related careers. He attended classes at a local technical college in the criminal justice program and before he completed with the program he got hired by his tribe’s police department. 

      “I worked at the police department for nine years and then a position opened up with our conservation law enforcement department just four years ago and it was like perfect timing. It was like an ideal opportunity to come back full circle.

      “It is what I initially wanted to do which was to protect and serve. I have no regrets and I couldn’t be happier.”

      Ryan has recently qualified to be on the Great Lakes shoot team which each year compete (or have competed) in the NAFWS National Shoot Competition held at the national conferences. The team was supposed to have competed last year in 2020 but did not because of the restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He looks forward to the Great Lakes Regional conferences which are “kinda like the practicums he said, “with the relationships that you build.”

      As the interim Chief Warden with his tribal conservation law enforcement department, Ryan says even though he wished he could have gone into conservation law enforcement 14 years ago, he is still glad that he was able to finish the school portion first. “I’m glad I did what I did because I got to stay in my home community which is the place I want to be.”

      As the SYP coordinator for 18 years, Sally Carufel-Williams said it made her proud when one of her past SYP students goes well beyond the careers that we wanted initially. “It’s like we were on the right track. 

      She added, “Even though there may not be too many of our past students are not in the natural resources field, I think mainly it was because of the shortage of jobs in tribal natural resources back then. With our more than 400 students that have attended for 18 years of the program, the majority are working and taking care of their families and are caretakers of the Earth, and this makes me proud.”

      Ryan said he hopes that students having such an opportunity to participate in a program such as the practicum, they should just do it. “Don’t be afraid, it’s kind of like home away from home. And everybody else is going to be pretty much just like you, coming from a community and we are all the same.”

Photos: (left) Ryan in 2002 as a SYP student in Colorado; and on the (right), Ryan as he is today, a Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa conservation law enforcement officer. 



‍By: Lee Jones, Wildlife Biologist, Natural Resource Program Center’s Wildlife Health Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


       Biosafety and biosecurity are an essential part of working with wildlife, but these topics are often overlooked until we really need them.  It’s easy to forget how big of an impact disease can make, but with the world currently struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in animals, this is the perfect time to adjust our thinking and our work practices when working with wildlife.  

      A variety of pathogens may cause disease, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and prions, which are a form of infectious protein.  These agents of disease affect the health of a host organism, and under certain circumstances cause disease.  Circumstances related to the susceptibility of a host to disease may include a variety of factors, of which one of the most important is the health of the environment.  Environmental health not only affects the susceptibility of the host through nutrition, energy expenditure, water quality and quantity, absence of toxins, but environmental health also affects the capability of the pathogen.  Climate change is shifting the geographic range of many pathogens, and environmental health plays a significant role in whether or not the host species is able to adapt.  While this arms race between pathogens and hosts always has, and always will continue to play a role in evolution, our human impacts on environmental health reduce wildlife resilience, such that the risk of local extirpation or even species-level extinction increases.

      Not only do we humans play a huge role in the relationship between pathogen and host in wildlife disease processes, those wildlife diseases often affect humans.  A disease that affects both animals and humans is called a zoonosis, and COVID-19 is the perfect example.  Not only did the virus arise in animals and then jump into humans, we now have several examples of humans spreading it back to animals, including mink, cats and great apes.  With more than 77% of emerging infectious disease in humans now coming from animals, the concept of “One Health” that embraces human health, animal health and environmental health as a more holistic way of addressing disease in any species.  

      So what role do biosafety and biosecurity play?  Biosafety is the concept of preventing yourself and your team from becoming infected with a disease, while biosecurity is the concept is preventing that disease from spreading.  Zoonotic diseases not only affect humans and wildlife, but they also affect companion animals and livestock, such that our food production and associated economies are also at risk.    Fortunately, the work practices that incorporate biosafety also largely overlap the work practices that promote biosecurity, and with a little preparation are easy to incorporate into daily routines while working in the field.

      As wildlife managers, we naturally want to understand the factors driving a disease outbreak in the species that we protect, so it’s important to conduct an investigation into mortality events that we may find.  By collecting and submitting specimens to a wildlife diagnostic laboratory, we enlist the help of a diverse group of experts in figuring out what disease is impacting our wildlife populations and most importantly, what we may be able to do to mitigate or even reverse those impacts.  Labs use a variety of techniques to identify pathogens and disease processes and the freshest samples are the most valuable.  While we won’t know what is causing a disease outbreak until we receive results from the lab, good use of biosafety and biosecurity practices will protect you, your co-workers, your pets, your family, your community and your area livestock.

      Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, boots and splash-resistant coveralls is the first thing that often comes to mind when thinking about biosafety.  This line of defense is certainly important, but even more important is the process of planning and preparation for disease investigation and response.  The first step is to sign up for a training class that covers risk assessment, planning and preparation.  Safely conducting a field mortality investigation starts in the office!  Once training has been completed, planning and preparation ensure that the right people with the right supplies and equipment are ready to respond when needed.  

      Once a wildlife mortality event is discovered, its time for the training to be put to work.  Assessing the risk of the disease outbreak, contacting and coordinating with laboratories, and selecting and using appropriate PPE, supplies and equipment all begin before you head out to the field.  Once in the field, establishing safe work zones is another essential concept to ensure that only those who are trained are working in the “hot zone”, with progressive zones outward through “warm” and into “cool” zones where PPE, supplies and equipment are controlled through cleaning, disinfection and disposal processes to keep the pathogens from leaving the area.  Documenting everything you can about that event can provide significant clues to solving the disease process puzzle.  Pay close attention to clinical signs of any animals remaining alive, and documenting what species are and aren’t affected.  Careful descriptions of the environment, including surrounding land uses, often help diagnostic laboratories focus on some diseases more than others, making the investigation more efficient and cost effective.  Collecting carcasses (or in the case of large animals from which we may collect samples with proper training) and shipping them to a wildlife diagnostic laboratory provides the lab with insight into the pathogens and processes involved in the disease outbreak.  

      After sample collection and field documentation has been completed, the process of cleaning, disinfection and/or disposal begin.  Often done later in the day, fatigue can reduce our attention to detail, so don’t forget that most human health disease exposure events occur during this portion of the process.  Saving enough time and energy to complete these steps properly is essential, and being trained and comfortable in the use of PPE – and especially including its limitations – can make all the difference.  

      Sample storage, packaging and shipping protocols need to be followed to ensure sample integrity, as well as the safety of couriers and other people who may be involved in that transportation process between the field and the lab.  Regulations may change, so keeping up to date through training and communication with the lab are key.  

      Once results are received from the lab, the next phase of wildlife management begins when we ask ourselves “What can we do differently to prevent this from happening again?”  With the right information, gathered from the field to the lab, we can support healthy wildlife, healthy people and healthy communities.  


By Heidi McCann, NAFWS Membership Coordinator

      Happy New Year!! 2021 is finally here and we can see the light at the end of this long dark tunnel of 2020. 

     This year, NAFWS will be offering free face masks to the first 50 Individual memberships of 2021. You can become a 2021 member by going to NAFWS Membership and sign up online or print out an application and mail it in along with your dues to our National Office. 

   We will be continuing with the #ThrowBackThursday photo contest and offering a free NAFWS t-shirt to the first person who identifies the week’s posted photo on our Facebook page. Check out our t-shirts by visiting the NAFWS Membership webpage. 

     We are planning conferences, trainings, and webinars for both virtual and/or in-person delivery. Check the NAFWS Facebook page or go the NAFWS webpage for updates throughout the year! 



      On August 25-26, 2020 and on September 2, 2020, our department personnel and myself participated in the webinar trainings entitled, “Verbal De-escalation for Conservation Law Enforcement: Surviving Verbal Conflict,” and “Implicit Bias.”  These trainings were highly informative and provided an extensive insight into the training subject matter.  I enjoyed participating in the classes and I would highly recommend all commissioned law enforcement officers and even civilian staff that work in any public safety or public service capacity to take these courses (especially with what this country is currently dealing with at this time in U.S. History) in which they can learn or refresh a great amount of valuable knowledge and skills that could easily save a person’s life.

      In law enforcement a vast sum of the skills, knowledge and techniques learned at the basic police academy level, and in the training in the years following is very perishable, especially when each individual has so many daily distractions all competing for their time and attention.  If law enforcement departments and agencies do not pursue and actively push their officers to maintain this knowledge it’s forgotten.  Thankfully, there are agencies like the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society and businesses and organizations like Calibre Press and Dolan Consulting Group that follow a mission to facilitate and provide the best available, valuable and applicable real-world training to law enforcement officers that produce results at both the command, field and community level.

      I just want to extend a person “thank you” from me, on behalf of the Navajo Nation Department of Resource Enforcement/Navajo Rangers to NAFWS for the invitation to our department and personnel to be given an opportunity to participate in these highly valuable trainings, both of which I will readily recommend to not only any and all law enforcement counter-parts, but to any organizations seeking to better prepare their employees and staff to deal with some of today’s most challenging, important and critical issues.


Stanley Milford Jr., Ranger Sergeant, Administration

Department of Resource Enforcement/Navajo Rangers

Division of Natural Resources

The Navajo Nation


ALBUQUERQUE, NM- On January 12, 2021 – two days before his 62nd birthday, Eddie Benally died peacefully with his loving wife, Kelly Willis-Benally at his bedside and his daughters Andrea Marsh, Raelle Hamilton, and Cheyanne Benally via Zoom at Lovelace Hospital. Given the current public health orders regarding gatherings in New Mexico, no physical memorial service will be held. Please go to for more information, to see a photo album, and share your memories with the family in an online guest book. An outdoor memorial service is being planned in Michigan in the Spring.

Eddie was born January 14, 1958 in Rehoboth, New Mexico into the Todichinii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Kinlichiinii (Red House Clan), the Tachii’nii (Red Running into the Water Clan) and Haltsooi (Meadow People).

Eddie devoted his life to the preservation, protection and conservation of wildlife. He was in law enforcement for 38 years as a Police Officer and a Wildlife Conservation Officer. He was instrumental in bringing attention to wildlife crimes and getting successful prosecutions. He convinced the U.S. District Attorney to take a case for prosecuting eagle poaching which led to the first prosecution in the U.S. of eagle poaching, thanks to Eddie’s investigatory work and persistence.

He worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service throughout the country and was known as “Boss” because he got things done – no matter how hard. Much of his work was done undercover. He also worked with the undercover narcotic task force in Gallup for 15 years.

Eddie was key in starting the Navajo Nation Annual Youth Hunt after a Navajo boy in Sheep Springs approached him with questions about the Fish and Wildlife Seal on his vehicle. The boy then told Eddie he wanted to learn to hunt but no one in his family knew how. As a result, in 2005 the first mentored youth hunt was held which has been held every year since, except in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Eddie loved fly fishing and enjoyed traveling. He had his own style of loving and loved his family deeply. When he loved you, you knew it. Eddie is survived by his wife, Kelly Willis-Benally; sons Tracey Benally and Myron Benally; daughters Andrea Marsh, Raelle Hamilton, and Cheyanne Benally; brothers Howard Benally, Albert Benally, and James Benally; sisters Annie Tom, Julie Carlton, and Judy Buffalohead, and 6 grandchildren. Eddie is preceded in death by his parents, Mike Benally, Sr., and Sadie Benally; and his brothers Mike Benally, Jr. and Herbert Benally. Per Eddie’s wishes he will be laid to rest in Charlevoix Michigan, near his wife and children. Donations for transportation and the memorial service are appreciated – EddieBenally

‍*Note – Eddie Benally received the Conservation Law Officer of the Year Award two times, in 2003 and 2015. 


February 18, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. (MST) – ONLINE WILDLIFE DISEASE, BIOSECURITY & BIOSAFETY TRAINING presented U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Health Office, Bozeman, MT. Participants must register with the NAFWS. Certificates will be issued following the training. Failure to register will result in the loss of credited hours towards a participant’s annual training requirement. Deadline to register: February 17, 2021 or when a maximum of 25 participants is reached.  To Register for the training at:

Chuckie Green, a former NAFWS Board Director that served from the Northeast Region is retiring. He join the Society in 2008 and became board of director in the Northeast Region from 2014 through 2016.

He is retiring as Director of Natural Resources for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. He has worked in Natural Resources for 14 years, and three years as Board Director for the tribe and three years as Vice President. Congratulations Chuckie!


January: Developing a Great Plains Tribal Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force, NAFWS will be working with Global Wildlife Resources to schedule a Chemical Capture course in 2021.

January/February: NAFWS biologists attending Alaska Native Peoples training courses, Invasive Species trainings, Submitting funding request for Chronic Wasting Disease support to Tribal NRD’s,

January 27th: Monthly webinar – Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

February 24th: Monthly webinar – Whirling Disease Status Report

March 24th: Monthly webinar – Endangered Species updates, plants and animals

April 28th: Monthly webinar – Endangered Species of Plants and Animals affected by Invasive Species.

All Webinars will be starting at 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

For more information and contacts: Corey Lucero and Sean Cross

© 2021 NAFWS 

Native American Fish & Wildlife Society


10465 Melody Dr., Ste. 307


Northglenn, CO 80234



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