Winter 2023 – From the Eagles Nest Newsletter

From the Eagle’s Nest

Winter 2023

We finished the year with conferences in the Alaska and Northeast Region, entered into new partnerships, and expanded membership benefits. Now we are looking forward to 2023.

Moose in Anchorage, AK.

Featured Articles

Message from the President
Message from the Executive Director
Indigenous Dialogues for Territorial Protection
2022 Winter Regional Conferences
Native American Fish & Wildlife Society Members Receive Access To U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Conservation Library
Throwe Environmental, Native American Fish & Wildlife Society, & American Society Of Adaptation Professionals Named National Coastal Resilience Fund Field Liaisons
Tribes Need Congress To Pass Wildlife Bill Now
NAFWS Welcomes New Invasive Species Coordinator
Tribal Highlight: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Game And Fish Program Partners With USFWS To Release Black Footed Ferrets
NAFWS Says Goodbye to April Richards, Public Information Officer
Education Updates
Upcoming Events
Fish & Wildlife News: Invasive Species, Wildlife Disease, and Endangered Species
NAFWS in the News

Message from the President

Happy New Year! Another year has come and gone. The Society has grown with funding and staff, and we’ve done a lot to benefit the members. We’ve worked hard to get information out to the members via our website and social media. This has shown to be very successful as we’ve seen increases in trainings, webinars and expansion of services.

Our 2021 audit was completed on time with no major findings. This is great news for the Society and for our funding agents, who are increasing. All staff and Board members have been educated on the budgets and funding and understand the importance of accountability.

As I look out my work window, it’s great to see snow on the mountains. We are in a severe drought here in northwestern Nevada and desperately need the snow. I know many are experiencing extremely cold weather; I pray that you all survive the snow, sleet, cold and icy roads.

We ended the year with news that the Recovering Americas Wildlife Act (RAWA) did not pass-through Congress; our last-ditch effort was for it to be included in the Omnibus Bill and it was not. We will continue to work for funding for fish, wildlife and conservation for Tribes.

In order for us to be a successful membership organization, we need all of YOU to be involved. Many of you have been presenters during the Professional Development series that’s been offered. Many of you have been involved with the RAWA issue and have travelled to Washington DC to educate Congressman and Senators about the inequities of funding for conservation. Many of you have presented at your regional conferences; you are the experts and sharing your knowledge is appreciated. This needs to continue.

It’s important for all of us to share our knowledge with young people on our reservations and tribal lands. They are the ones who will carry our work forward. Make a commitment to teach the children about what you’re doing. Take them hunting, fishing, gathering….make sure they know your lands and waterways. Be sure and share those pictures with us.

Take care of your families and elders during these winter months.

Start planning for the national conference that will be held in Anchorage in April. Alaska is a beautiful place to visit. It will be a great place to network and visit some beautiful country.

Elveda Martinez
President & SW Regional Director

Message from the Executive Director

Greetings NAFWS members, partners, and friends.  As I write this, we have just received 20 inches of snow and now the temperature is 10 below zero.  This makes me realize how tough our ancestors were!  Their preparation, adaptability and perseverance are all strengths that we continue to carry as Native people.

We continued to see growth in the last quarter of 2022 as we welcomed Mitzi Reed as our Invasive Species Coordinator.  Many of you know Mitzi and the wonderful work she did for her Tribe and for NAFWS as a SE Regional Director.  We also celebrated two successful Regional Conferences in October for our Alaska and Northeast Regions and welcomed two new Board members, Hope Roberts (AK) and Benjamin Simpson (NE).  We are excited to have completed a regional event in all our 7 regions in 2022.  While in Alaska we began planning for our 40th Annual National Conference to be held April 24-27, 2023 in Anchorage, AK.  Please watch our website and social media for more information.

In November, I accompanied a team of some of the top Tribal fish and wildlife professionals for a fly-in on the importance of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act for Tribes.  Unfortunately, we learned in December that Recovering was not included in the omnibus bill.  While we are extremely disappointed, I am once again reminded of our ancestors and their strength and perseverance.  We will continue to stress the importance of Tribes’ need for base funding for fish and wildlife and seek out other opportunities.

We were encouraged to see $26.7 million awarded to Tribes through the America the Beautiful Challenge Grants.  The overall request of $326 M further highlights the need for dedicated, annual funding for Tribal fish and wildlife programs. NAFWS received funding through the BIA Tribal Climate Resilience grant program to support participant travel to the Southwest and National Conferences and to continue climate work in the Alaska region.

We ended our year with a staff retreat/work week the last week of November and our annual Board of Director’s meeting December 2-3 in Denver, CO.  It’s amazing to see how much has changed in the past three years and I’m so proud of the team we have built and the work they all do.

NAFWS staff in 2022 and 2019.

We continue to grow as an organization and look for way to better serve our membership with the conservation, enhancement and preservation of Tribal fish and wildlife resources. As always, if you have ideas for the NAFWS, please contact me or your regional director(s).

Pilamaye ye,

Julie Thorstenson, PhD (Lakota)
Executive Director

Indigenous Dialogues for Territorial Protection

Maranhão, Brazil | November 8-13, 2022

The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) participated in an Indigenous Knowledge Exchange & Capacity Building Project in Maranhão, Brazil from November 8-13, 2022. The gathering, entitled “Indigenous Dialogues for Territorial Protection,” took place at the Penxwyi Hempejxà Teaching and Research Center in Carolina, Maranhão, Brazil and focused on sharing knowledge and experience of the challenges and strategies of land management and resource protection of Indigenous peoples from the United States and Brazil.

The event was sponsored and coordinated by the U.S. Department of Interior (Fish and Wildlife Service and International Technical Assistance Program), U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, NAFWS, and the Brazilian organizations of Indigenous Work Center – CTI, Wyty Catë Association of the Timbira of Maranhão and Tocantins Communities, Coordination of Organizations and Articulations of the Indigenous Peoples of Maranhão – COAPIMA, Articulation Maranhão Indigenous Women – AMIMA, and Institute of Society Population and Nature – ISPN.

First Bi-National Indigenous Exchange

The Indigenous Dialogues for Territorial Protection event was the first gathering of this type in Brazil. Sixty-five representatives from 14 different Indigenous communities from the states of Maranhão and Tocantins attended the event and the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society organized six Tribal fish and wildlife experts from across the U.S. to attend.

NAFWS participants included representatives from the Huslia Tribe (AK), Quapaw Nation (OK), Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (MI), Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation (CA) and the Pueblo of Laguna (NM). Among Brazil’s representatives were the Timbira peoples (Krahô, Apinayé, Krikati, Gavião Pyhcop Catiji, Apanjekrá – Canela, Memortumré – Kanela) and Guajajara-Tenetehara.

NAFWS Representatives from left to right – Jessica Koski, Caleb Hickman, Robert Romero, Buddy Shapp, Rosa Laucci and Orville Huntington.

Indigenous Dialogues

Throughout the week, each community presented on their individual natural resource protection strategies. Presenters included Timbira tribal leaders, environmental agents, fire brigade members, Guardians of the Forest and Warriors of the Forest, and academia, researchers, and advocates of Indigenous rights all of whom spoke with an intense passion of their missions to protect and sustain their people’s cultures and ways of life. Each community represented discussed issues surrounding the impacts of exploitation of their Indigenous territories through illegal logging and mining operations, agri-business, livestock trespass, and wildlife poaching.

Throughout the sessions at the training center, all participants engaged in open dialogue during and after presentations, as everyone was genuinely interested in learning more about the information that was shared through a presentation or during an informal discussion amongst attendees.

The following are presentation highlights:

Opening remarks at the Penxwyi Hempejxà Teaching and Research Center

Groundwater Concerns

Water loss due to climate change and surrounding agri-businesses is a primary concern for many as there are direct impacts to community resources for drinking water. Extensive farming practices on adjoining lands requires heavy water consumption for irrigation, and the application of herbicides and pesticides may be contaminating existing water resources through runoff or leaching. Efforts to document current headwater conditions and compare them with historical levels have been initiated by environmental agents using input from village elders who orally and physically described previous levels.

Indigenous Dialogues for Territorial Protection presenters describing land designations and field work with presentation support from CTI.

Fighting and Utilizing Fire

Fire brigade staff not only fight wildland fires that are ignited by illegal deforestation activities, but also use fire as a management tool for the health of their existing forests. Brigades have also implemented forest regeneration programs by raising seedlings in greenhouses for replanting projects all with the involvement of community youth.

Fire Brigade members presenting fire management practices including reforestation

Warriors and Guardians of the Forest

Women Warriors of the Forest have established themselves to support their male counterparts, the Guardians of the Forest, to combat illegal deforestation in some of the last contiguous rainforests in Maranhão. The Women Warriors operate in many territories and have developed an environmental education program to teach primarily to youth of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and instill the importance of Tribal cultures. All guardians routinely patrol respective territories, share intelligence of illegal activities, and tactfully address violators in high-risk, life or death situations. With limited resources, they collect evidence of crimes and provide it to the Federal Police of Brazil for prosecution; however, the majority of the cases are never litigated.  For the Guajajara people of the Caru Territory, they alone have had seven men killed or assassinated by non-Indigenous invaders during encounters to protect their homelands and its resources.

Woman Warrior and Guardian of the Forest discussing daily challenges and the need to maintain their resiliency to combat exploitation

Sharing a Similar History

Marine Biologist Rosa Laucci of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation felt both inspired and devastated during the experience. She stated, “I was personally inspired by all the strong, amazing, fearless women that spoke so passionately about what they do, who they are, and how they are protecting their territories,” but it’s “devastating to realize that the indigenous communities of Brazil are dying trying to protect their land and are experiencing what Native American’s went through, with western expansion and land grabs, 200 years ago – knowing that is happening in today’s world is heartbreaking and infuriating.”

Each of the representatives of the NAFWS also provided individual presentations during the exchange that provided some historical information about Native Americans, conflict and relationships with the Federal government, Treaty rights and sovereignty. The establishment, structure, and mission of the NAFWS was described along with program priorities. The remaining presentations focused on sharing information relative to Tribal land management that involved numerous challenges/conflict and strategies with a successful outcome.

Environmental Manager Buddy Shapp of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma stated, “The trip was a learning, moving, and rewarding experience. It was eye opening to hear from the various Indigenous peoples from across the States of Maranhão and Tocantins. In many ways, the Indigenous people of Brazil are being treated by the Brazilian government, the way Native Americans were being treated 100-150 years ago.”  Shapp further added, “Hopefully the six of us from the U. S. were able to impart a small amount of information to help the Indigenous Brazilians and the organizations that support them, such as CTI and ISPN, in their plight.”

NAFWS representatives previously mentioned with USFWS Investigator Ygor Buslik (second from right)

“The gathering in Brazil was extremely meaningful to me, and the words and sharing of cultures by all was something I rarely experience. At the gathering I felt there was a deep spirituality and lifting each other to a place of hope and a better future for the Tribes in Brazil. Each of and every one of us brought something special to the gathering and there are no words to express it. Such a critical time for those Indigenous Tribes in the south, and we were so grateful to provide aid to them and add them to our family of Indigenous Tribes as one across the Americas. Our work is not done, and we have started on a sacred sharing that will and should continue,” said NAFWS Alaska Regional Director Orville Huntington.

Visit to Capitão do Campo

NAFWS representatives, along with our Federal and Brazilian colleagues, visited Capitão do Campo in Terra Indigena Krahôlandia, a remote Indigenous community in the state of Tocantins. We received a warm welcome and shared open dialogue with village leaders who spoke of their desires to sustain their traditional culture despite modern day influences. We experienced and were invited to participate in traditional games and dances, which enhanced our overwhelming respect for their community.

Photos of trip to Capitão do Campo and a village leader

Returning Home in Solidarity

At the conclusion of the gathering, representatives from the organizing organizations reflected on the triumphs of the event and began preliminary discussion on the possibilities of hosting a similar exchange with all the participants in the future. NAFWS representatives collectively identified items to present to the Board of Directors that may potentially benefit the Indigenous communities of Brazil, including, a Letter of Support that can be used for current litigation relative to land designation and/or recognition, possible consideration of “Sister City” program with a U.S. Tribe, exchange for Fire and Crime Scene Investigation Training to address the exploitation issues and potential support for specialized equipment.

The future of Capitão do Campo.

“This exchange between Native Americans and the Indigenous people of Brazil was a very incredible, yet humbling experience. All of our NAFWS representatives gained an abundance of knowledge of the challenges and capacity deficiencies faced by Indigenous Brazilians – much like our ancestors experienced in the not so distant past,” said NAFWS Conservation Law Enforcement Officer Consultant Robert Romero.  “I am grateful to have had an opportunity to represent the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society at such a sensational event, and I look forward to future collaboration with our South American partners.”

Robert Romero
Native American Fish & Wildlife Society
Conservation Law Enforcement Officer Coordinator

2022 Winter Regional Conferences 

As NAFWS expands outreach efforts in Alaska and the Northeast Region, we hosted an Alaska Regional Conference and Northeast Regional Business Meeting electing new directors, providing updates, and discussing regional priorities

2022 Alaska Regional Conferences

The 2022 Alaska Regional Conference was hosted by Alaska Village Initiatives in Anchorage, AK on October 19, 2022. The conference was attended by 42 participants representing 18 Tribes. We started the day with an Invocation from Crystal Leonetti, the Alaska Native Affairs Specialist for the USFWS who has done tremendous work with rebuilding the USFWS relationship with Alaska Natives.

Throughout the day, we heard from organizations doing work in Alaska, from Tribal Leaders to nonprofits. Some of the most well received presentations were from Jonathan Samuelson with the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Willow Hetrick with the Chugach Regional Resources Commission and Anthony Lindoff with the Tlingit and Haida Food Security Program who provided regional updates and overviews of ongoing projects.

Event Highlights: We held the third Climate Resiliency & Justice40 Workshop and Discussion sponsored by First Nations Development Institute led by Jeremy Littell and the Alaska Tribal Resilience Learning Network. They were also joined by Vi Waghiyi, Environmental Health & Justice Program Director for the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, discussed the Justice40 Initiative, the history of environmental injustice in Alaska, and her role on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Lastly, a Jocelyn Fenton, the Program Director for the Denali Commission, presented about the programs and funding that the Denali Commission provides for Alaska Tribes. The conference concluded with a roundtable discussion.

Election Results: We are happy to welcome the new Alaska Regional Director, Hope Roberts Upicksoun, Indigenous advocate and Captain/Owner of Surreel Saltwaters deep sea fishing charters.  She is Tlingit-Gwich’in-Koyukon Athabascan from Fairbanks, Alaska and resides in Suacit (Valdez). The new Alternate, Mary Hostetter, is from Igiugig and is Yup’ik. She is a Tamamta graduate fellow at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is a Tribal Steward for the Igiugig Village Council.

2022 Northeast Regional Business Meeting

October 18, 2022, NAFWS hosted the Northeast Regional Business meeting in Bar Harbor, ME in congruence with the Fall 2022 EPA Region 1 Conference. Sixty-eight attendees representing four Tribal Nations gathered for dinner, NAFWS National & Regional Updates, elections and a Climate Resilience/Justice40 Discussion. This meeting and the EPA Region 1 conference were excellent opportunities to learn about the issues faced by NE Region Tribes and make connections.

Election Results:  Ben Simpson from Penobscot Nation will join Dinalyn Spears to represent the Northeast Region on the Board of Directors. Jason Mitchell of Penobscot Nation and Dale Oakley Jr. from Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe were elected as Alternates.

Native American Fish & Wildlife Society Members Receive Access To U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Conservation Library

Members and Member Tribes will receive access to thousands of scientific journals

December 14, 2022

(Image: Kaitlyn Demoski)

December 14, 2022 – Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society (NAFWS) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service), NAFWS Members and Member Tribes will now have access to more than 20,000 professional and scientific journals, a growing collection of 9,000 books and eBooks, and the Service’s gray literature.

In January, NAFWS entered into an MOU with the Service with the goal of increasing Tribal access to conservation resources available through the Service’s National Conservation Training Center (NCTC). We are excited to announce that beginning in early January 2023, NAFWS members will receive access to the NCTC Conservation Library.

“Access to scientific literature is an obstacle for many Tribal fish and wildlife professionals,” said Julie Thorstenson, NAFWS Executive Director. “This agreement reduces financial barriers to the most recent and relevant research available and will assist Tribes in making management decisions.”

The Conservation Library is home to an extensive collection of electronic resources including databases, journals, and eBooks, as well as a robust physical collection of conservation literature available through interlibrary loan. Additionally, there are a digital media collections housed in the National Digital Library, where thousands of copyright free images documenting species and habitats can be found.

These resources will now be available to active NAFWS Members and Member Tribes.

Introduction Webinar

On January 18, 2023 at 1:00PM Mountain Time, NAFWS is hosting an introductory webinar on NAFWS, our MOU with NCTC, and how to access the Conservation Library through NAFWS Membership.

Register here:

The webinar will be recorded and available to members on the NAFWS Member Resources website page. Members must be logged in to their NAFWS account to access these resources.

Download Press Release

For more information:
Contact: Sean Cross
NAFWS Fish & Wildlife Biologist

Throwe Environmental, Native American Fish & Wildlife Society, & American Society Of Adaptation Professionals Named National Coastal Resilience Fund Field Liaisons

Throwe Environmental renews nationwide role, expands partnership to include NAFWS and ASAP

November 28, 2022

BRISTOL, RI (November 28, 2022) – Throwe Environmental, LLC has been selected as technical Field Liaisons for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund (NCRF).

Throwe will renew its role as national Field Liaisons, expanding its services to include new partnerships with the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) and the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP). Throwe has served as the sole NCRF Field Liaisons since February 2021.

Throwe responded to a Request for Qualifications for technical field liaison support for coastal resilience, including NCRF, in April 2022. After a thorough review process, the expanded Field Liaison team was selected in October 2022.

As Field Liaisons, Throwe, NAFWS, and ASAP will conduct direct outreach, host conversations with potential applicants to develop project ideas, and troubleshoot with previous applicants as they consider reapplying for funding. The Field Liaisons will also host virtual and in-person peer-to-peer learning event(s) throughout 2023.

“I’m thrilled that our team will continue to support communities across the country as they look to become more resilient to the effects of climate change and coastal hazards,” shared Joanne Throwe, President of Throwe Environmental. “Our team has developed strong relationships with community leaders over the last year and a half. But we’re just getting started. I’m grateful for the opportunity to build on that success.”

“I’m most excited, though, about our new partners on this contract,” noted Throwe. “NAFWS brings unparalleled experience advancing the natural resource goals of indigenous communities. ASAP operates an expansive network of climate adaptation leaders, with a deep library of training tools and resources to draw on.”

“Native American and Alaska Native Tribes are on the frontlines of climate change, however, there are barriers that prevent them from accessing many funding opportunities. NAFWS is encouraged by this collaboration to help remove barriers for Tribes to access NCRF funding and NAFWS is ready to offer assistance to Tribes in this new capacity. This is a much needed step toward increasing equitable funding and coastal resilience on Tribal lands,” said NAFWS Executive Director Julie Thorstenson.

“ASAP excels at bridging gaps between sectors, scales, and geographies in the climate adaptation space,” offered ASAP Acting Director Rachel Jacobson. “Getting projects funded is the number one challenge practitioners share with us. That’s why we use the power of our network  to help communities navigate the complex worlds of climate resilience funding and finance. I look forward to bringing that power to NCRF and helping increase the climate resilience of coastal communities across the US.”

Over the next year, the Field Liaison team will support new and past applicants as they apply for NCRF funding. The Field Liaison team is available for virtual and in-person events and presentations, as well as one-on-one project conversations. The awards for the 2022 round of NCRF funding is currently being finalized. The next funding cycle is expected to open in March 2023. Interested applicants are encouraged to reach out to the Field Liaison team ([email protected]) at their earliest convenience to begin exploring potential NCRF opportunities.

Download NCRF Field Liaison Joint Press Release

Throwe Environmental, LLC assists communities and organizations across the United States in identifying, implementing, and sustainably financing action to address the impacts of climate change. Through outreach, technical assistance, and institutional development, Throwe helps its clients address environmental challenges through resilient, sustainable, and practical methods. For more information, please visit

The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) is a non-profit 501(c)3 intertribal organization founded in 1983 by a group of Tribal fish and wildlife professionals to “assist Native American and Alaska Native Tribes with the conservation, protection, and enhancement of their fish and wildlife resources.” NAFWS is the only national Tribal organization with a specific focus on Tribal fish and wildlife resources. Membership includes 227 Support Member Tribes in 7 regions. NAFWS hosts  conferences, trainings, webinars, youth education and provides technical assistance to the 574 federally recognized Tribes in the US and fish and wildlife professionals working in Indian Country. For more information, please visit

The American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP) helps its members strengthen their professional network, exchange best practices, and accelerate innovation, all leading to more equitable and effective climate adaptation practices. ASAP works across North America, with a network composed of 1,000 individuals and 40 organizations, and a digital network of more than 4,000. Over the past six years, ASAP has hosted multiple workshops on how to secure funding and financing for climate adaptation and resilience projects. This work has taken the form of in-person training, virtual events, and the publication of white papers. For more information, please visit

Tribes Need Congress To Pass Wildlife Bill Now

Tribal Fish & Wildlife Leaders Visit DC to Urge Congress to Invest in Tribal Conservation through Passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

November 23, 2022Capitol Hill. Photo credit: Ken Sandusky

Washington, DC – Leaders in Tribal fish and wildlife management visited the Capitol last week to meet with congress about the importance of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act for Tribal Nations. If passed, the bipartisan bill will provide $97.5 million to Tribes and $1.3 billion to states and territories each year for on the ground conservation.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) was developed in response to findings that 12,000 species in the United States are considered “at greatest conservation need.” Through allocating funding to on the ground conservation projects, this historic bill aims to proactively prevent species from becoming endangered. RAWA is monumental legislation for another reason as well, it would provide the first dedicated annual funding to support Tribal fish and wildlife conservation.

“We were never included,” said Gloria Tom, Director of the Navajo Nation Fish & Wildlife Department, “Until now.”

Tribes have fought for decades to be included in mainstream conservation funding but have been left out of programs such as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration Acts. This Tribal delegation continues to advocate for funding equity by asking Congress to prioritize passing RAWA this year.

Demonstrated Management Success Despite Challenges

Don Reiter, Julie Thorstenson, PhD, and Ken Sandusky in front of the Capital Building. Photo credit: Ken Sandusky.

Tribes manage or influence the management of nearly 140 million acres of land and waters that are home to more than 500 threatened or endangered species. And Tribes manage these lands successfully. According to the Native Lands Information System, while Tribal lands make up 2.6% of the United States, they overlap with 12% of Key Biological Areas.

Repeatedly, Tribes demonstrate successes in fish and wildlife management. For example, the restoration efforts of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and their partners kept the sicklefin redhorse, a culturally important species found only in western North Carolina, off the Endangered Species List.

Despite their achievements, Tribal natural resource departments face challenges, many of which stem from a lack of funding.

Inequities in funding for Tribal fish and wildlife programs are probably one of the most obvious issues in conservation but least talked about,” stated Executive Director of the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society, Julie Thorstenson, PhD.

Without a consistent funding base, Tribes often experience understaffing and high turn-over rates. The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin has the largest reservation east of the Mississippi River with 235,000 acres, but for 32 years, Don Reiter has been the Tribe’s only Wildlife Biologist. While the Tribe has done outstanding work, including managing black bears for 30 years, Reiter says, “We are asked to do more with less.”

Lack of funding can also impact a Tribe’s capacity to collaborate with other agencies and across boundaries. It can be difficult for Tribes or states alone to achieve conservation successes like the sicklefin redhorse. However, RAWA is an opportunity to build Tribal capacity to hire and retain staff, expand fish and wildlife programs, and build partnerships.

Supporting Tribal Conservation and Economies

RAWA will not just protect species of ecological, cultural, and economic importance, it is an investment in Tribes and local economies. When funding does make it to Tribes, they can be relied on to support local economies as they purchase supplies and services from local providers and hire local community members at a rate equal to or exceeding other organizations.

According to Modoc Nation Resource and Development Director Ken Sandusky, the Modoc Nation has invested more than a million dollars in the last two years on their Homelands Initiative, nearly all of it spent within their Northern California and Southern Oregon Traditional Homelands.

Fueling local economies and creating jobs, dollars spent in Indian Country stay in Indian Country, often serving the most underserved communities. RAWA is an investment in Tribal conservation, communities, and economies.

Dr. Julie Thorstenson, citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, stands in front of South Dakota Tribal flags in Senator Rounds’ office. Photo credit: Ken Sandusky.

Time to Invest in Tribes

Passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will aid Tribes in their unique position to lead efforts to conserve wildlife with a long history of stewardship, traditional ecological perspectives, and some of the most innovative and successful natural resource programs in the country. Additionally, investments in Indian Country come back tenfold with innovative conservation management and contributions to local economies.

With only a few weeks left in the legislative session, time is running out. Now is the time to invest in Tribes.

Learn more: NAFWS National Initiative – Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Related article(s): Doing More With Less: Inequities In Tribal Fish & Wildlife Funding

Download Press Release


NAFWS Welcomes New Invasive Species Coordinator

In October, we welcomed Mitzi Reed as our new Invasive Species Coordinator, read her bio:

Mitzi Reed served as the Director of Choctaw Wildlife and Parks Department for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI), where she also served as the Tribal Biologist. She has worked for 22 years for the MBCI in the Environmental (6 years) and Wildlife Programs (16 years). She received her bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of West Alabama. She is passionate about natural resources conservation and works diligently to ensure the integrity of these resources for future generations. She has served on numerous boards and committees, including the NAFWS Board of Directors over her career. She is a strong advocate of educating youth in the fields of conservation and has coordinated the Choctaw Youth Conservation Corps since 2016. As an amateur wildlife photographer, avid bass fisherman and hunting enthusiast, she has found a niche that fits her interests and love for the outdoors. With her love for snakes, it is not a surprise to find her with a snake in hand while she is talking about conservation.

Tribal Highlight:

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Game And Fish Program Partners With USFWS To Release Black Footed Ferrets

October 31, 2022

On Wednesday October 26, 2022, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Game and Fish Program partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release 13 pairs (male and female) of Black Footed Ferrets on the reservation.

Amity Bass holds still, she has seen Ferrets latch on with their carnivorous razor sharp teeth when intimidated.

Amity Bass, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Field Supervisor with the North and South Dakota Ecological Services from Pierre, South Dakota described how innocent-looking but vicious the Black Footed Ferret can be. “Working towards rehabilitating the species has been a lot of work but it is a rewarding experience. We will come back in one year during the night because they are nocturnal animals, and survey how well they are doing”.

Councilman Demery and biologist John Hughes releasing the first female Black Footed Ferret in October 2022

Kenel District Councilman, Delray Demery, was given the opportunity to release the first Black Footed Ferret, a female, into the wild, stating, “It was very exciting to actually take part in something of this magnitude, helping with both the prairie dog population and providing a natural home for an endangered species. Hopefully this method of (prairie dog) control is a long-term way to balance the natural environment.  I think that it was an experience of something important to take part in, since the ferret is considered an endangered species and to handle an endangered species was an honor.  I saw photos of them before, and a stuffed one but this was the first time I have seen one alive and up close.  When I released it, it actually really startled me. It screeched and barked at me but it was exhilarating to release one to go do what they do. The biologist said it (prairie dog) was their main diet. If the balance of prairie dogs is achieved, and if the ferret population is a success, I can actually say I took part in it, something important to our natural environment.”

Jeff Kelly, SRST Game and Fish Director releasing the Black Footed Ferret

Standing Rock Game and Fish Director, Jeff Kelly, stated, “This is the second release of Black Footed Ferrets on Standing Rock. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service releases 400 every year and of that, Standing Rock received 26. Our hope is that the 13 pairs of breeding mates released will repopulate and thrive in their new environment. Working with the Fish and Wildlife Service on this is an honor, and testament that our last release of ferrets was successful, having another release done this year.”

“The natural predator of the Black Footed Ferrets are birds of prey/raptors (eagles, hawks, owls), coyotes, and badgers”, stated Amity Bass, Fish and Field Supervisor for the North and South Dakota Ecological Services from Pierre, SD.  She also stated that though the Ferrets are known to help control the prairie dog population, they do not wipe out the (prairie dog) colonies.

John Hughes and Justin Chauvin, Wildlife Biologists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Black Footed Ferret Recovery Program in Carr, Colorado explained the process of readying the Ferrets for integration into the wild. Justin stated, “We prepare them by preconditioning them using various methods similar to what they might experience in the wild. They are also vaccinated and marked with a tracker, similar to microchips place in dogs and cats. So far, this process has been a success and I’m hopeful that this bunch of Ferrets will do well here”.

Black Footed Ferrets were originally thought to have gone extinct in 1967, due to both a major eradication in their primary diet source, the Prairie Dog, from poisoning and plague. Since that time, a group of the Black Footed Ferrets were captured and used as the foundation of a conservancy project that has since been vital to their continued gradual growth and existence.

SRST Game and Fish SRO, Gary Weasel preparing for a successful release.

Though the Black Footed Ferrets are still considered an endangered species, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help the Black Footed Ferret make its way off the endangered species list. When the Chairwoman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was asked what she thought about the release of the Ferret, she responded, “I am so happy and congratulate Jeff Kelly and our Game and Fish Department with their partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to integrate this little relative of ours. I love that this integration and introduction is to complete the circle of life in a good way, without poison, which hurts not only the prairie dog, but all the predators that rely on the prairie dog for their survival. Balance is the ultimate goal”.

By Kerry M Libby, External Affairs Director
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
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NAFWS Says Goodbye to April Richards, Public Information Officer

It is with a heavy heart that I announce my departure from the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society. During the past year and a half at NAFWS I have learned more and made more connections than I could have ever imagined. It has been an honor to support such an influential network of Tribal fish and wildlife professionals, students, and partners. I look forward to seeing you all again someday.

April Richards

NAFWS Education Update

Happy New Year! Winter is still hitting the Rockies – I am enjoying hot cocoa as we continue to plan for 2022 NAFWS education programs.

In October 2021, I attended the American Indian in Science/Engineering Society annual national conference in Palm Springs, CA and part of Alaska Federations of Natives in Anchorage, AK. These trips were both quick and super productive as well as sunny and cold! I made a lot of new connections and networking opportunities. These networking events definitely aid in recruitment and awareness for NAFWS programs. I hope to submit a session proposal with NAFWS members/staff for the 2023 AISES conference!

In November, the U.S. Forest Service released a feature story on the 2022 National SYP! It is definitely a great read and it provides a sneak peek of the great week we had. Read article, Catching Poachers and Zapping Fish: preparing the next generation of Native natural resource managers

Some of NAFWS staff had the opportunity/privilege to contribute to the Tribal Wildlife Management textbook in partnership with Kalliopeia Foundation and Johns Hopkins University Press. NAFWS Executive Director, Dr. Julie Thorstenson and I are coauthors to a chapter within the textbook as well as our 2021 NAFWS Interns! The Wildlife Society annual national conference held a session Tribal Stewardship on Tribal Lands that gather the textbook authors and contributors to discuss the textbook. I had the opportunity to speak about the chapter that Dr. Thorstenson, Dr. Hoagland, Mr. Albert, Dr. Hickman and myself worked on. The textbook is scheduled to be published in Spring 2023 and all proceeds will go towards the NAFWS!

Lastly, we are seeking members for the NAFWS Research/Publication Committee. Sign up at

Keep your ears up and eyes wide for our upcoming youth programming!

Ashley Mueller, Education Coordinator


Upcoming events include two webinar series that will be ongoing throughout the year. First, the new One Health Webinar Series hosted by Dr. Tolani Francisco, DVM MPH explores the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. Join us to learn about potential impacts to you, your Tribe, and receive updates for your region. Second, we are continuing our Professional Development Webinar Series hosted by Education Coordinator Ashley Mueller. The first webinar will be hosted January 12, 2023 at 2PM Mountain Time.

We are excited to announce that through the MOU between the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NAFWS members and member Tribes will now have access to the National Conservation Library. Join us January 18, 2023 for an introductory webinar about how you can access the library through your NAFWS membership. Register at


NAFWS will be celebrating our 40th Annual National Conference on April 24-27, 2023 in Anchorage, AK. The conference will be hosted by the Chugach Regional Resource Commission. We look forward to seeing everyone there! Abstracts are due February 10, 2023.

Fish & Wildlife News: Invasive Species, Wildlife Health, and Endangered Species

This issue of fish and wildlife updates include NAFWS’ plan to develop an invasive species program, an introduction to our next One Health Webinar – More than Marijuana, and news about the role of Klamath River Basin Tribes in the largest dam removal project in history.

Invasives are a Target for NAFWS

Mitzi Reed, Invasive Species Coordinator

The significant threat of invasive species to the ecological, cultural, and economic integrity of lands, waters, and communities can be detrimental for Tribes. Many of these species may not be a consideration until they become problematic, and the complexity of control can be challenging due to lack of knowledge in these species, the extreme establishment abilities of these species, limitations of program capacities, and other uncertainties as they related to invasive species expansions. Invasive species are not new to the world of fish and wildlife conservation; however, they are often not a focused consideration for Tribes until their encroachment begins to threaten native species by overtaking or outcompeting them.

With the hiring of an Invasive Species Coordinator, the NAFWS will target these species with a program geared towards assisting Tribes through technical assistance and training opportunities to help build tribal capacity in addressing issues resulting from the spread of invasive species. The NAFWS Invasive Species Program will provide a collaborative opportunity to aid Tribes in building capacity in the prevention, management, and control of invasive species through partnerships and training with the goal of promoting long-term supervision of their respective tribal natural resources. NAFWS is excited for what objectives are set for the upcoming year.

More than Marijuana

Dr. Tolani Francisco, NAFWS Zoonotic Disease Expert

Our next One Health webinar is scheduled for 1 February 2023, which will be More than Marijuana.  To help set the stage, let us first discuss the differences between Hemp (Cannabis sativa) and Marijuana (Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica).  The first major difference in these two plants is the concentration of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the psychoactive ingredient which causes the “high” people get from marijuana.  One University of Michigan professor explained it in a very eloquent way.  He stated “It is like a Chihuahua and a Great Dane; both are dogs but very different.”  Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC while marijuana has greater than 0.3% with some strains having much higher concentrations.

Why is there so much interest in Hemp and Marijuana?  Many states have legalized the medical and recreational use of Marijuana; however, federally, it is still illegal.  What does that mean?  It means on any federal land: tribal trust, USDA Forest Service, DOI and DOD lands, it is illegal to possess or grow marijuana.  Many tribes have interest in commercial hemp farming as hemp is used in the production of textiles for clothing, fiber, the oil for lotions and creams and of course, CBD (cannabidiol). There has been some indication hemp can be a feedstuff for animals as well.  Many people have stopped using the name Marijuana and simply refer to both as Cannabis.

It has been well documented there are numerous illegal growing operations occurring on federal lands across the US.  Law enforcement does all they can to stop this activity, but it continues to be a lucrative industry. What does it take to grow cannabis?  Like any other plant, nutrient rich soil, water and abundant light are the main factors needed.  Cannabis is a very rapidly growing plant, so it can be planted in early spring or late winter and by fall is ready for harvest.  The flower is often the most highly used portion of the plant as that is where the concentrations of THC are the highest.  The leaves and stems also contain THC, just in lesser quantities.

In discussions with Law enforcement officials, many have explained the finding of growing operations in remote areas, often with water being diverted to the acreage and abundant use (often over use) of chemical fertilizers.  These chemicals can often be toxic or dangerous if mixed improperly (remember the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994).  These grow sites are also often littered with other illegal drugs, guns and ammunition.  Many times, the perimeter is “booby-trapped” to prevent people or animals from intruding.  The encampments the people stay in while growing the illegal cannabis are areas where there is abundant trash and human waste which all are potential zoonotic health hazards.  Wildlife can become infected with diseases and parasites from consuming browse and graze which are in these contaminated sites.

Please join us on February 1, 2023 at 1 PM MDT for our next One Health Webinar which will be discussing many of the potential health threats associated with illegal or legal growing of cannabis.

The Klamath River Basin Tribes and the Klamath Dam Removal

Christine Longjohn, NAFWS Fish & Wildlife Biologist

Tribes in the Klamath River Basin played an important role over decades in the recently announced Klamath Dam Removal. The Yurok tribe has worked years with Government to Government relations to establish policies and laws for their cultural practices to be returned. With further strategies, having including, buying back their lands and investing in carbon offset programs to help pay for these lands. These programs have been key to Tribes being able to afford and pay for lands that were once theirs. Increasing tribal management and limiting the fragmented landscape. Additionally, the Karuk Tribe has advocated for the protection of culturally important fish species for decades. These monumental efforts have come together to help with the removal of four dams along the Klamath River, starting in 2023. Giving access to Salmon, and other endangered fish species like the Lost River and Short Nose Suckers. One of the highest salmon die-offs (68,000) occurred in the Klamath Basin which was recorded in 2002, with drastic water use from irrigation rights. The local extinction of pink and chum salmon species occurred there after. Tribes in the region and others are welcoming what will be the largest river restoration effort in history giving access of up too 400 miles of riverine habitat necessary for Salmon recovery.

NAFWS in the News

Catching poachers and zapping fish: preparing the next generation of Native natural resource managers
Ten Tribal Youth embark on an educational adventure in natural resources management through the NAFWS Summer Youth Practicum.

Northern Plains tribes bring back their wild ‘relatives’
Tribes in the Great Plains region work to reestablish black-footed ferrets and swift foxes.

Leaders in Tribal Fish and Wildlife Management Visit D.C.
Tribal Fish & Wildlife leaders visit DC to urge congress to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

The Bureau of Land Management Directs State Offices to “Explicitly Consider Habitat Connectivity” in Land Management Planning
The BLM to look towards states and Tribal leaders for new habitat connectivity policy.

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In Recognition of Their Support

The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society would like to thank those organizations that provided us with support over the years. With them we grew an effective national communications network for the exchange of information and management techniques related to self-determined tribal fish and wildlife management.

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